This show may well go down as one of my all-time favorites. No exaggeration there at all. I am writing this review one day after the show in hopes of spreading the word about Session Eight, an Italian band currently touring the U.S. for the first time. Loyal Razorcake readers who get the chance to see this band should go if at all possible. I very nearly missed out myself. I'm not kidding when I say that this show is on a par with my getting to see the Adolescents for the first time two weeks ago in Atlanta. Prior to last night's show I had no prior knowledge of Session Eight's music, either.
The reason I almost missed them is due to my early-starting day job and the fact that most shows at The Milestone start around 9:30. I had planned to catch the first band, The Semantics, then go home in time to be in bed by midnight. I'm not as young as most punk rockers I know and as I've gotten older I find I need more than, say, four hours' sleep to get by at work. Today four hours had to suffice. Something told me to stick around to see Session Eight despite my already being tired from having been at this club the night before.
I can't objectively review The Semantics as they are good friends of mine. I can tell you that they're a long-running, Raleigh-based, old-school-sounding punk band who are really hitting their stride lately. Their new singer, Croxby, brings a lot to this already powerful and hard-hitting band. They played a great set just as they always do.
The next band, Break the Silence, is from Chicago and features ex-members of 88 Fingers Louie and Rise Against. I never got to hear 88 Fingers Louie and I like some early Rise Against, but this new band is the exact opposite of everything I want from a punk band. Of course, I'm sure that all of the members can outplay me in terms of musical skill, and their singer can certainly out-scream me any day , but they reeked of cold calculation. They drew too much from the new style of hardcore for my tastes and they came across as slick and show-boating. They will probably be huge with kids who don't have the same taste in punk rock that I have.
Finally, Session Eight's turn. I had met their singer, Laura, right before they played. When I found out that Session Eight was friends with another Italian band, The Popsters, who had played The Milestone a few months ago, I thought that, like The Popsters, this band may prove to be good but a little too close to every-song-sounding-like-mid-tempo Screeching Weasel to be really great. Happily, I was wrong. Although never approaching thrash, Session Eight were more energetic and rocking than The Popsters. Laura's stage presence made me think of Poly Styrene for some reason; maybe it was the combination of cuteness and sheer enthusiasm. Her voice is nothing like Poly's, though; it's slightly deeper and, while she can truly sing, her sheer exuberance keeps her well away from the death grip of slick professionalism. What a shock it was when they launched into a cover of Cock Sparrer's "Take 'Em All.". When I went to the band's website today and discovered that upon forming in 1998 they were called Titty Fuck, I realized how deep their punk roots run. The club was hardly packed as it was a Sunday night, but Session Eight definitely held everyone's attention and wound up playing two encores!
At one point during the first encore, one of their guitarists began speaking about someone who had meant a great deal to the band and who had died. By the words and the tone of his voice I was thinking he was about to mention some close friend. Instead, he invoked the name "Johnny Cash" and they proceeded to play a jaw-dropping, rousing "Ring of Fire." When they were brought back for a second encore, Laura said into the mic, "We can play all night, it just depends what the place wants us to do." Standing beside me was the club's booker, Philip, who yelled, "THE PLACE DOESN'T GIVE A FUCK!!!" Philip then went to the bar and returned with five PBR tallboys for each Session Eight member. They played one more original song. Then the same guitarist who spoke about Johnny Cash asked, "Where is the guy with the Clash shirt?" The Clash t-shirt-wearing guy made his way up front. The guitarist asked, "You like beer, eh?" and proceeded to hand over his newly-delivered PBR to the guy. Session Eight then played their final song of the night, a powerful, emotional rendition of "Guns of Brixton." My friend Andy who had already told me that he had to leave even came back into the club from the parking lot once he heard the song they were playing.
It isn't often that I see a band that I'm completely unfamiliar with and walk away from the experience so profoundly blown away. I do think that sometimes another culture can see things about our own that we're blind to, the good and the bad. Hearing Laura make onstage remarks such as "We're so proud to be here" and "We're so excited" made me appreciate what I have a little more. It made me feel that connection to people I've never met through the universal language of punk rock and Johnny Cash. Don't miss your chance!