When it was announced that powerviolence pioneers, Infest, had finally been convinced to perform outside California’s borders, the cogs of the internet hype machine were immediately set in motion. The fact that the band was performing again and outside of California would have been a big enough deal to stir up some serious hype, but the fact that this historic performance was scheduled to take place in the musty bowels of a proper punk-rock club — our own Winston Churchill’s — made it that much more monumental.
The show drew fans from as far as the UK and the Netherlands to witness the legendary group turn Churchill’s inside out. While the impressive, seven-band supporting line-up no-doubt helped to soothe the pain caused by the expense of transatlantic airfare for the traveling fans, the show itself was obviously anything but a soothing experience. By the end of the night, we had witnessed Shitstorm vocalist, “Dub” Smith, in the throes of a post-set projectile vomit, more than a few steak-worthy black eyes exit the pit, and the passing of the Magrudergrind “blood guy” torch from local videographer, Joshua “Chip” Shomburg, to a man named Jimmy Fondren, who sustained a head wound during the band’s set that would require around 20 stitches to close — despite a valiant attempt by the intrepid Churchill’s medical team to seal the laceration in the man’s head with packing tape.
Miami’s own powerviolence and grindcore scene was well-represented by Shitstorm and Maruta. Shitstorm’s salvos of sludge-asphyxiated guitar and bass created a sonic shockwave through the early crowd that set the rhythm of the evening in motion. Bodies careened through the air and disappeared into the churning maw of the below during the opener’s set, and the gravity of the night was obviously not lost on the members of both Shitstorm and Maruta as both groups played with an intensity that reached far beyond that of their average sets. Words between songs were kept to a minimum: The night was about unbridled sonic chaos and to speak too much would surely derail everything.
Following Maruta’s caustic wall of hyperactive guitar chunk and barbed pinch-harmonics, Gainesville hardcore favorites, Asshole Parade, took the stage. The set was a sneering run through the more abrasive end of the punk-rock scale. The band peeled paint from the walls with its squalls of raging feedback, and humans continued to rain from the stage as the band kept the crackling energy in the room going.
Strong Intention featured now familiar face, Adam Jarvis, on drums. Jarvis recently performed in Miami with Pig Destroyer as well as Misery Index, and we believe plans have now been made to move the drummer into Roger Forbes’ condo. Strong Intention’s set was extremely well-received and the band certainly made a few new fans out of an audience that had in large part not heard of them before. The band ended its set with a 20 deep on-stage mosh melee.
Vaccine’s performance marked what is expected to be one of their final shows. From outside of the bar, the first chords of the band’s soundcheck called the masses inward for what was sure to be a small-scale riot, and that is exactly what unfolded from the minute the band launched into the breakneck tempos and visceral chugs of the set. The response from the crowd had the sort of energy that was kind of scary — even to veterans of aggressive shows. People swung from the speakers that hung above the stage, and the scene was like something from an ’80s thrash metal video. The sounds, however, were like a sonic root canal, and it’s most unfortunate that this band is planning to hang it up.
Magrudergrind was the ideal band to play directly before Infest. The trio’s sets are known to be a treacherous experience for band and audience alike, and this has earned it a place amongst the heaviest hitters in the genre. This also meant that the herd of moshers would be thinned as causalities were certain to be high, making the Infest set a little more comfortable. Magrudergrind uncaged a blast of primal feedback, a crunch of a guitar struck, and then the stage was rushed by a horde of crazed grindcore zombies. It was, without a doubt, the most intense reaction we’ve witnessed at Churchill’s in years. At one point in the set, someone did a standing back flip off the stage into the crowd, equipment was thrown around the stage with complete abandon, and a man was seen bleeding from a gaping gash in the top of his bald head — now ascended to the Magrudergrind “blood guy” throne.
Infest finally took the stage at 1:40 a.m. to a crowd of battered and bleeding individuals. However, the minute the band kicked into the face melting abrasion of “Mindless,” the pumping adrenal glands of the crowd immediately delivered the room back to the whirlpool of limbs and sound it had been for most of the night. The band was difficult to pick out from the crowd as people ebbed and flowed around vocalist Joe Denunzio — who stood at the front of the stage growling like a pissed-off grizzly into the mic and paid little attention to the chaotic scene around him. To watch Denunzio unleash the tension of these songs upon the energetic crowd was to witness a unique moment for the band — one that would have been hampered by the security and daylight of a festival date.
Infest played blast after blast of gut-rattling rage, and each 30-second tantrum felt more violent than the last. By the fourth song of the set, the stage was literally overcome with divers, moshers, and stage potatoes. “Break the Chain” proved a fever pitch of cathartic release for the band and crowd: Denunzio stood wide-eyed and drenched in sweat as he belted the pure anger of the number over the pummeling ballistic onslaught of apocalyptic guitar and bass heft. To the back of the stage, three fans had put together make shift score cards for stage dives and were holding up “10″ after “10″ for the ravenous audience members. The band’s set was comprised of 30 songs, however, it felt like it was over before it had even started. Stage banter was limited to the occasional line about a song’s background, but the intensity of the songs and performance rendered explanations unnecessary.
The night was an incredible celebration of an art form that serves as much as an emotional utility — a direct path to unfiltered inner rage — as it is just plain fun. It was a dangerous and explosive scene the would upset just about every attendees parents, but who would have it any other way? Infest’s music is more relevant now than ever, and it was an honor and a privilege to witness a live exhibition of the band’s groundbreaking work.
–By David von Bader