Going to a hardcore show nowadays is an interesting, if not slightly disturbing, thing. Upon walking in, almost immediately, you are greeted by the sight of legions of hardcore kids; close shaved hair cuts, Nike Air Maxes (or similar shoes), camo shorts, and a shirt from one of the same three 80’s/90’s hardcore bands (Trapped Under Ice, Madball, or Youth of Today). And, more importantly than how they look – standing there in their get ups, arms folded across their chest or firmly bringing a cigarette to their lips – is the attitude they exert; one of hostility and, somewhat oddly given hardcore’s basic principles, of conformity. These people are unflinching, devoted to whatever character they are playing and seemingly unable to take a joke at the expense of hardcore or deviate much from their standard genre listening beyond hardcore.
This intro, while admiringly highly slanderous, does serve a purpose, as when walking into one of the last Weekend Nachos shows recently in Philadelphia, a different sight was to be seen than the legions of scowling hardcore kids. To be fair, this was partially due to the massive amount of grindcore fans, greasy crust punks and skinny kids in Infest shirts desperately hoping Chris Dodge might be there. But Weekend Nachos is still fairly popular in the more “normal” hardcore scene, and so, there was a moderate amount of hardcore kids. However, instead of attending the show with the normal stone face, arms crossed approach, a true statistical anomaly occurred, and hardcore kids were seen smiling. It was bizarre as well as somewhat unsettling, but the tone was different than normal hardcore shows; lighter, as if everyone was there truly just to have fun. As if somehow, a band with a name like “Weekend Nachos” brought out their lighter side, forcing them to acknowledge that maybe hardcore wasn’t as serious as they would all like to believe it is.
Of course, upon seeing the guys in Weekend Nachos enter the stage, it sort of all makes sense. They wore tie dye head bands and, realistically, look a bit like grown up versions of cliche high school movie nerds. Adding to their ever menacing presence, they all smiled the entire time, encouraged crowd involvement and, most importantly, thanked everyone excessively and sincerely for being there. Weekend Nachos is a band who simply loves playing, and their energy is contagious, pulsating through the crowd and causing that once stiff, brooding group of hardcore kids to actually smile for once in their lives at a show, taking a bit of joke at hardcore’s expense, and getting just as excited as the die hard grind fans when they played as stupid of a song as “Snowball Fight”.
This all, of course, seems completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of a review. After all, how, exactly, does a band’s ability to make hardcore kids smile factor into the overall strength of their record? And, honestly, for most other bands, it would barely affect their record at all. But Weekend Nachos is not like other bands, and that becomes important to understand in the grand scheme of listening to them. It is their energy, almost like a shot of crystal clear cocaine, that gives the band their strength, and that is exactly where the former paragraphs of seemingly pointless set-up become relevant. Because after over ten years as a band, Weekend Nachos has still kept their same level of unrelenting, infectious energy. Without knowing the true purity of their music, the passion that drives it all, the overall enthusiasm for it, an album like Apology loses so much context, which is truly unforgivable considering it is their swan song and, therefore, deserves as much attention as it can possibly get. But while you read the actual meat of this review, please keep in mind that without the heart WN put into it, it is all for naught.
Upon their inception – just as many other powerviolence bands before them – Weekend Nachos was, at best, a very good Infest rip off band. They understood the mechanics of powerviolence, when to screech, when to do blast beats and when to bring the sludgy, slightly groovy breakdowns. But realistically, WN had little to set them apart from the competition. However, by the time 2009 rolled around, Weekend Nachos had established a new formula, one which could be heard in full on their Relapse Records debut, Unforgivable. Their attack was a bit more refined, in the sense that instead of the classic powerviolence style of throwing blast beats at the listener until the song stops, they had begun to develop a noticeably more metallic leaning, a decision that helped to flush out their sound and make it ultimately chunkier. Along with this, Weekend Nachos added a nod to other styles of hardcore outside of their particular powerviolence subgenre, most interestingly borrowing the groovy, mosh oriented breakdowns of youth crew, as well as stealing the affinity for gang vocals. With all of this, Weekend Nachos escaped the plight of being just another Infest worship band and instead became a standard powerviolence entry point for many, as their sound was abrasive enough to be outside the norm for hardcore, but still welcoming enough to draw in hardcore fans looking for a less punishing experience than say Man Is The Bastard.
Over time, this formula continued to ferment, helping them to grow to the juggernauts of the hardcore scene they are today, a title which becomes much clearer upon hearing Apology. Overall, while the record has some far more “pure” powerviolence moments than initially expected given their recent output, the hardcore influence is noticeably played up, even abandoning blast beats in some tracks. Take, for example, the opening track on the record, “2015”. The song moves at a fairly moderate pace, never poking into d-beat territory, but never exactly falling into the “down tempo” trend of some modern hardcore bands. To put it simply, it is a fairly straightforward hardcore song, falling more into their punk elements than their grindcore or powerviolence ones, and even going as far as to ditch the blast beats entirely. It is a somewhat odd way to start off a record for a band who began their career never excluding blast beats from a song,. But by the time the breakdown hits, then re-engages around the three minute mark, the lack of blast beats is fairly easy to ignore, as you can only think of the endless mosh possibilities this song opens up.
However, Weekend Nachos does not just stop there with excluding blast beats, but continues on into song two, “Dust,” without them as well. Upon first listen of the record, it is easy to fall into the trap of panicking and believing there will be no blast beats on the rest of the record. It seems like such a stupid, trivial thing to worry about, as blast beats should not determine the overall quality of a record, but c’mon, it’s Weekend Nachos, and there better be some fucking blast beats. Luckily, by the time song three rolls around, the listener is once again warmly embraced by their old friend the blast beat, and is then subsequently pummeled by them in true powerviolence style. However, as if to prove the powerviolence elitists right, Weekend Nachos is not happy simply following the formula of blast beat attacks with no end and instead opts to end “Fake Political Song” with a catchy, gang-vocal oriented breakdown just to keep the hardcore kids happy.
However, this “delicate” balance of two separate, pummeling styles of music is exactly what makes, and has always made, Weekend Nachos so interesting. As mentioned above, they have always been rooted primarily in powerviolence, a genre developed to be the antithesis of other hardcore originating around the same time. However, instead of living in true powerviolence style and endlessly ragging on the grooves and hooks of other hardcore bands, Weekend Nachos willingly accepts it and then runs with it. It is a bit odd, sort of like a toddler forcing their peas into their mashed potatoes. And, while a bit odd, it also gives Weekend Nachos a bit more creative freedom as they defy the traditional genre restrictions of both hardcore and powerviolence and allow themselves to explore a more full range of extreme music.
Perhaps this is best displayed on a track such as “Dog Shit Slave” where, while still essentially a straightforward punk song, incorporates a groovy riff in the chorus that almost seems southern in origin. It’s as if the band was toying with the idea of writing an almost Eyehategod-esque song and, while it seems out of place in the context of their general song writing, the risk pays off extremely well for the song, making it instantly memorable. As well as the song itself being memorable, it also helps to show just how much Weekend Nachos has grown in learning how to pace themselves and vary song structure for an overall more dynamic, interesting listening. Where as formerly their records came off as sort of “FASTFASTFASTFAST slooooooow song,” Apology feels more organic, as if there was never a conscious thought of “OK, time to slow it down a bit,” but instead grew naturally. This isn’t necessarily a rag on any of their past efforts, but when a record feels more concise and natural as Apology does, it makes for an overall more comfortable listen.
And perhaps that is the best place to leave off on Apology, as it truly says almost all there is to say about Weekend Nachos at this point in time. The band has matured exponentially, not only musically but lyrically and thematically as well (though I will always love “Snowball Fight”). Apology is a fitting swan song for a band with such a lengthy (in powerviolence terms) career, and is bound to serve as an entry point into the genre for new fans for years to come. While it is sad to see them go, in the very least, it is refreshing and satisfying to know that they never lost their spark, and that their magnum opus truly lives up to their legacy.
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Weekend Nachos – Apology gets…