Washington D.C.’s Howard Theatre isn’t your typical punk-rock concert venue, but Thursday night, the extravagant interior that looked as though it should host a classical orchestra shook at the mercy of relentless drumming, vicious guitars and the rowdiest crowd I have ever witnessed.
Three-piece garage punk-rock band from San Diego, The Frights, kicked the night off by turning up the volume to get the crowd going. Pausing during the middle of their energetic set, frontman Mikey Carnevale, took a moment to express his deepest sympathies to the D.C. crowd, telling them, “Sorry to hear about your new neighbor.”
A little more than 48 hours removed from what can only be described as a national tragedy, the diverse crowd united in that moment and the tone was set for the rest of the night. Ending their set with a cover of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” The Frights left the stage to raucous applause from a crowd still brimming with energy.
Coming out to set up for the second act of the night, SWMRS lead vocalist and guitar player Cole Becker donned a plain white t-shirt with the words, “F*** Trump” painted by hand. Moments later, the crowd turned those two words into a rousing chant, which Becker proceeded to encourage by pumping his arm enthusiastically.
Once SWMRS began to play, the crowd resumed their playfully violent moshing. Taking a second to talk to the crowd, Cole Becker admitted, “Guys, I think this might be the first time I’ve felt happy in the past two days.” The passionate crowd immediately responded with everyone’s favorite two-word chant again.
Shaking the building with hit after hit off their 2016 album Drive North, SWMRS had the audience’s full attention when Becker paused again to speak candidly with the crowd.
“This next song’s title is very relevant right now. I just want to be uncool, because now we are the resistance!”
Hit single “Miley” may very well have caused minor Earth tremors as the entire crowd bounced up and down, some even choosing to climb on stage and dive into the ocean of energy. When a security guard appeared on stage for a moment, guitarist Max Becker quickly ushered him away and later encouraged the crowd by saying, “Hey they can’t kick everyone out. Just have fun and do whatever you want.”
Before their final song, Cole Becker took another moment to get real with the crowd, saying, “Hey I just wanna say something. There are a lot of people in this place tonight who are going through some pain and fear that many of us will never understand. But tonight, this is a safe place for everyone.”
Ending with the title song off their new album, “Drive North,” the band improvised by replacing the “I hate L.A.” chorus with “I hate misogyny, I hate hatred, I hate Donald Trump.” With that, the band exited having provided a music message of love.
Finally, it was time for the four-piece, garage-punk rock band everyone had come to see: FIDLAR. Kicking it off with a cover of the Beastie Boys classic “Sabotage,” FIDLAR seemed to bring a whole new level of volume and energy to the stage. The mosh pit that had once been restricted to the front and center portion of the crowd had now spread throughout, like a virus within the theater.
By the second song, “Cheap Beer,” lead vocalist Zac Carper was already sliding across the stage on his back while shredding on his guitar. The fast paced anthem and biggest hit “No Waves” set the crowd over the top. The moshing intensified, the crowd sang along more passionately than ever, and person after person began to climb onto the stage and dive onto the sea of people below.
During “40oz. On Repeat,” the biggest hit off their 2015 album, Too, Carper asked the crowd to part down the middle as the song began to build. When the song finally came to a climax, the crowd rushed back together in a whirlwind of energy.
Playing through both their albums, Too and FIDLAR, the band kept feeding the seemingly tireless crowd with jams like “West Coast,” “5 to 9,” “Punks,” “LDA” and “Bad Habits.” Asking the crowd if they wanted to, “get weird,” with him, Carper proceeded to ask the entire audience to take a seat, while he and the other two guitarists laid on the ground and jammed out to an intended instrumental for “Cocaine.”
The screaming vocals, shredding guitars and rowdy moshing that you would expect from a punk rock crowd were all there in spectacular fashion. Yet, it was the swelling sense of unity and determination that seemed to take hold of The Howard Theatre on this particular evening. This theater, opened in 1910, was the first legitimate theater in the country open to African-Americans, which ultimately helped make Washington, D.C. the early cultural capital of black America.
It is only through the love that was on full display in the theater that this cultural capital can be preserved. Now more than ever, we need to love and protect one another.
Featured Photo Credit: There wasn’t a single person in the room who wasn’t dancing during Fidlar’s lively set. (Miranda Rosen/Bloc Reporter)
Tommy Diehl is a freshman architecture major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.