Cro-Mags Present No Mercy! | Excessive Instances


It was nowhere close to present time, and it was readily obvious that hassle was brewing. An Instagram put up made by Harley Flanagan, founding father of Cro-Mags, inarguably the forefathers of American hardcore, prompt that he had simply entered the pungent ole brown eye of cultural division in the USA of America, touchdown smack dab in a gasoline station the place hen livers and accomplice flags are such scorching items of redneck commerce that they usually obtain prime billing. It’s not day-after-day that New Yorkers get slapped within the face with racism on the retail degree, one as unapologetic and greasy because the fowl organ fare these joints are frying up within the again. Most of us lingering anyplace close to the hemorrhoidal itch of the South are, at instances, callused to those passive-aggressive tokens of imbecility, however not this multi-racial band from the East coast. If there was an underlying sentiment oozing from Flanagan’s fingertips it was, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Sheeeeiiiit! Battle was within the air. I may odor it. One mistaken transfer from the chaw-spitting locals and Flannagan, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, would certainly snap one in every of their limbs—a leg maybe—and have them crying for his or her mommy in a puddle of urine and axle grease. I simply knew by the point they received to Evansville, Indiana to play their present at StageTwo, that bald bastard can be carrying round some hillbilly’s foot on a keychain. The one doable redemption surging from this southern cesspool serving up chitlins to the typical fowl-eating fascist, no less than judging from the photographs Flanagan included within the put up, was a Ramones and Led Zeppelin flag flying subsequent to a few dreamcatchers close to the money register. Maybe it was an indication that America’s divisiveness was starting to slender, and Flanagan and crew would arrive to their present with out incident. It was possibly even nearly as promising an omen this nation has seen shortly suggesting that we, as a collective folks, would possibly simply get alongside in the long run. Positive, the specter of unlicensed band merch wasn’t precisely the hallmark of equality, but it surely was a begin. 

Cro-Mags, I used to be sure, may deal with themselves. I, alternatively, had issues of my very own. On the similar time Flanagan was staring down a line of ethnocentric wares in one in every of Tennessee’s seediest pump and dumps, I used to be in the course of a pre-show assembly with my photographer and associate, Holly, ensuring that she had the whole lot she wanted to correctly shoot the band’s efficiency later that evening. The dialog, as a lot of them are inclined to occur, entailed one in every of my incessant, borderline lunatic ramblings of logistics and the way we wanted to enter a transcendental mindset the place hack jobs be damned! In the meantime, Netflix was passively taking part in within the background. I’ve a principle that Holly likes to maintain some type of noise on always simply to tune me out in the course of the paranoid insanity that rendezvouses on the eleventh hour. It’s once I’m most inclined to rag anybody’s nerves—even those that love me. Operating interference this time round was YOU—the sequence about an obsessive bookselling serial killer doing his greatest to carve out, and fairly actually, some semblance of an American household. I wouldn’t even point out such an unimportant element of what occurs within the hours previous to attending a present for the aim of penning just a few phrases, if not for trying up at one level throughout our dialogue and seeing the prolonged member of a corpse dangling on the goddamned TV.  

“What the fu…”

The lifeless dick rapidly caught my consideration, not due to the sheer measurement of it underneath morgue-frigid situations, however as a result of it wasn’t in any respect practical. “That’s not what a lifeless dick seems like,” I declared. My spontaneous revelation concerning the continuity of the corpse cock was welcomed with utter disregard. Holly didn’t bat a watch. It appears not even my darkish information of human anatomy may detour her focus of the enterprise at hand. What would, nonetheless, I might later discover out, is her pre-teen and his borderline legal aversion to doing homework. Though we have been scheduled to satisfy at 7 p.m. to journey to the venue collectively—after I, after all, received myself into the suitable mindset to mingle with just a few IPAs and a pull or two of Blue Dream—a lacking science project would take a look at the permanence of our professionalism. “You’re going to must go with out me,” she texted at 7:30, figuring out rattling nicely that such a brief discover change of plans, one fairly presumably leaving me with out a photographer, may trigger me to undergo an aneurysm and go away me for lifeless. “I’ll meet you there, later, although,” learn a second textual content, giving me no less than some reassurance that I wouldn’t must resort to capturing the rattling factor with my iPhone. 

Photograph by Holly Crolley

Having no different selection however to suck it up and go it alone, for some time anyway, I summoned an Uber and made my approach, ever-so-anxiously, to the venue with out a lensman. No approach I used to be risking the possibility of lacking a second of the Cro-Mags. This present, for me, was an vital one.

Scan the archives of punk rock historical past and Harley Flanagan, now 56, is there. He’s fucking all over the place. 

From the time he was barely sufficiently old to wipe his personal ass, Flanagan was rubbing elbows with the elite of New York’s wild and bizarre. Look, there he’s with Andy Warhol and Joe Strummer. Wait, there he’s now with Debbie Harry. Flanagan virtually ensured his place within the well-chronicled narrative of New York punk, a scene many people solely received to witness due to shutterbug documentarians like Bob Gruen, simply by refusing to depart. In numerous methods, his story of hanging out in widespread NYC haunts from CBGB’s to Max’s Kansas Metropolis at 12-years-old taking part in drums for his band The Stimulators reads just like the script for Forrest Gump. As outsiders, we’re all simply that candy, previous girl sitting on the park bench, listening intently, but skeptical of whether or not he truly shook fingers with President Kennedy or if he’s simply making that shit up. 

But, in Flanagan’s case, it’s all actual, each final story. He was fucking there. Though he’ll be the primary to let you know that all of it looks like a dream. Albeit one the place a few of his heroes have been there to information the way in which. “Not solely did [The Clash] play a number of the greatest reside exhibits I ever noticed but it surely’s the rationale why I all the time attempt to give a second to each fan I meet,” Flanagan informed Excessive Instances. “As a result of I understand how a lot it means to be a younger fan and to satisfy any individual that issues to you. And that’s the distinction between them treating you with respect, like a human or them being a complete rockstar asshole and fucking you off. [The Clash] have been so good to me, and I all the time attempt to pay that ahead. It meant so much, they have been actually cool guys, and I’ll all the time respect them.”

Yep, there from the times when the primary technology of New York punk was captured in black and white, making the transition to the colour snapshots of the 80s and 90s, exhibiting up alongside legends reminiscent of Henry Rollins, Jeff Hanneman, and halle-fucking-lujah, God himself—Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead. Maybe a part of Flanagan’s longevity over the course of rock ‘n roll historical past may be credited, no less than partially, to his skill to concede to the trumpets once they begin to roar. “One time I requested Lemmy how he retains going with the quantity of bullshit you must eat on this enterprise,” Flanagan recollects. “His response was ‘would you somewhat be slicing bacon for a dwelling?’ which I keep in mind on a regular basis once I’m not feeling it. The kicker is that he knew I used to be a vegetarian as nicely, so it was like ‘would you somewhat be doing one thing you actually hate to outlive?’”

Forgive me if I keep in mind this mistaken.

The primary time I noticed something about Flanagan and Cro-Mags I feel I had simply hit puberty. As a younger turd rising up in a kind of diminutive hen liver-slinging cities of Southern Indiana, I, like most snot-nose adolescents simply studying to jerk off, was nonetheless listening to stuff like AC-DC, Hank Williams Jr. and Quiet Riot. Wait, Hank? Yep, even us younger metalheads had just a little shitkicker in us! We didn’t have any actual file shops close by, so if Okay-Mart didn’t carry an album of their restricted music division, I didn’t have it in my assortment. I did, nonetheless, often loiter within the journal aisle at my native grocery retailer, flipping by way of the most recent problems with Hit Parader, Circus, and each different now-defunct music publication looking for new, up-and-coming bands to devour. Within the again pages of 1, amidst the standard options on the Motley’s and Ozzie’s, that’s the place I first noticed Flanagan. I’d by no means seen something like him. Branded with an enormous tattoo of a gnarly, fire-breathing Satan throughout the entire of his chest, his head shaved, scowling like a methed-out madman in entrance of his less-intimidating bandmates, Flanagan appeared like Charles Manson’s youthful, meaner brother who had simply killed 40 folks busting out of a psychological establishment to start out a band. He wasn’t the standard malnourished rockstar that often appeared in these pages—scrawny with no muscle definition in anyway, but posing like they might whup some severe ass. This dude appeared match and legitimately unhinged sufficient to again it up. Whereas the remainder of these spandex-wearing wusses have been busy cleansing out their dad or mum’s retirement financial savings making an attempt to make it with their shitty band, Flanagan’s perspective resonated a sure gutter authenticity—ravenous but all the time wired up sufficient to take it on—no matter which may be. “Holy shit,” I stated to a pal of mine who was with me on the time. “Take a look at this dude.” 

The band’s inclusion, if reminiscence serves me accurately, was roughly a blurb concerning the rise of New York hardcore, and there was no extra becoming of a poster baby for the motion than Flanagan, I used to be positive of it. I had no thought what hardcore was on the time. I’d by no means even heard of Cro-Mags or every other band for that matter, the place the buzz-cut, military-style hairstyle was a part of the official garb. I’m not saying they began bald membership, however Cro-Mags was the primary band in my purview the place they skinned it on again. All of the dudes in Metallica, the heaviest, angriest band I had discovered (and unapologetically worshiped), had unkempt pompadours practically right down to their ass, and to me, a pastoral pipsqueak from Indiana with possibly three pubes swinging from his nuts, they appeared just like the form of guys you’d need in your nook if the shit hit the fan. However the hyperbole of their winces and clenched fisted posture paled compared to the probity of Flanagan’s grit and machismo. 

He was the true deal.

Photograph by Holly Crolley

My greatest evaluation of all this hardcore enterprise was that it meant truly having the cojones to again up no matter piss and vinegar was being sprayed from the stage. Don’t write a examine your lyrics can’t money. Are you going to bark all day little doggy or are you going to dive headfirst into the pit and take an elbow to the jaw? Not simply anybody may make the leap from passivity to pandemonium and make it out alive. Maybe it was a metaphor for the life that manifested this style. Possibly that’s how this seemingly deranged skinhead managed to slide by way of the editorial gatekeepers of a music rag usually catering to glam and arduous rock, and his mug, all intense, gnashing tooth, a person who’d inevitably eat your grandmother if she received too shut—soul, colostomy bag and all—got here to be burned into my impressionable, fool mind. The Bon Jovi’s and no matter different ineffectual cock rock crooners of the time have been perpetually doomed, for my part, and their pouty-lip regime was about to die. It was good riddance so far as I used to be involved.

Within the following weeks, I made each try and get The Age of Quarrel, the band’s debut file, however, as you may need guessed, it was to not be discovered amongst Okay-Mart’s inventory. None of my pals owned it both and even knew who the fuck Cro-Mags have been, so getting my fingers on a shoddy copy proved a frightening job. I even tried to persuade my mother, who had completely purchased in to the scripture in accordance with the PMRC’s satanic panic suicidal revival, to drive me to the closest metropolis to see if it might be procured from an actual file retailer, however she was hellbent on providing no additional contributions to my lifetime of degeneracy. It wasn’t till just a few years later (sure, years) that I bumped into this man, all decked out in black carrying a leather-based jacket with Ed Gein painted on one sleeve and Joey Ramone on the opposite, who occurred to have a duplicate in his in depth tape assortment. “Play this one, play this one,” I demanded. “Oh man, Cro-Mags is a scary band,” he replied. 

That’s exactly what I needed to listen to. 

From notice one, Cro-Mags was the antithesis of what I had come to know as rock ‘n roll, far totally different than what these heavy consuming, down-picking, chunk-chunkers from the Bay Space have been placing out. And the lyrics have been extra private, too, like an intimate warning scrawled on the shithouse partitions of a sleazy dive bar, letting all of these with piss on their zippers know that they’d higher not fuck round. “What does it take to show you have been a pretend. I assumed so anyway. Received’t present you no mercy right now!” Coming from a podunk city the place I by no means slot in, made to really feel, oftentimes, as if there was one thing mistaken with me for not subscribing to the livestock-porking lifetime of small-town America, this was deliverance. Not solely was the band staffed with an obvious ruffian, a dude who appeared a hell of so much like I felt, however the total message, in my eyes no less than, was one in every of energy, not taking shit from the feeble hierarchy of imperialistic pecker weeds, by no means bowing down, and all the time combating again, win or lose. Present no mercy in any respect! 

Flannagan, way back, infiltrated the systemics of a drug-addled rock ‘n roll lineage—one that usually claimed to be influenced by punk—respectfully punching his idols within the throat, if for no different motive than to show it wasn’t sufficient to get mad for the sake of politics, however you additionally wanted to select up a tire iron every now and then to get your level throughout. Cro-Mags was one of many first bands, alongside possibly Black Flag, to encourage a cult of younger born-losers to chop their hair, get off the sofa and combat—for one thing, something that wasn’t complacence. Those that purchased in turned harmful to the sheep-lapping from the societal trough. Anybody who didn’t present the child any respect again within the day would meet the ire of the person—they usually’d lose, actual fucking dangerous. 

Quick ahead to now and all of the pseudo robust guys to emerge from Flanagan’s affect within the realm of hardcore and heavy music, many now with beer guts, all bloated relics of a philosophy they have been by no means robust sufficient to uphold, received squishy. However Flanagan remains to be arduous as nails. He simply retains getting higher with age. When you’ve ever discovered your self asking why this man remains to be round, duking it out onstage evening after evening, it’s as a result of the true primogenitor stays the steeple of his church. And whereas Flanagan might have partaken in the identical narco-lunacy that downed many hags of heavy metallic in his youth, all this iconic monstrosity leans on now for levity is the informal beer and hashish. 

“I don’t drink it day-after-day,” he informed me, when requested how he can nonetheless take pleasure in brew and keep his chiseled physique. “However [cannabis] helps me medicinally and in addition helps me just a little with my head, however I discover that smoking fucks my lungs up, so I do take breaks,” he added. “I feel the plant itself is superb. It has so many advantages and can be utilized in so some ways. I’m glad it’s being explored increasingly. And I’m glad that individuals are beginning to acknowledge its worth as extra than simply some stoner hippie drug. I do suppose an excessive amount of of something will not be factor. However I’m positively a fan. I used to develop. It’s an attractive plant. It needs to be revered not demonized.”

Photograph by Holly Crolley

On the present… 

“Look out!” I shouted, as some scrawny dude got here flying at us from the mosh pit over to the place we have been standing on an higher tier of the venue, knocking Holly, who was too busy adjusting the settings on her digital camera to see it coming, proper to the ground. I noticed the approaching collision simply seconds earlier than affect however there wasn’t something I may do about it. Given the modest job of holding Holly’s beer (so she may idiot with the digital camera) and two of my very own, nicely, my fingers have been too full to defend her a lot from the physique hurtling at full pace. Not with out the 2 of us carrying sufficient beer to finish up hyperthermal earlier than the tip of the evening. Not that it mattered in the long run. Smaaaaack! Because the three mushy boys in entrance of us went down on prime of her like a sack of potatoes, so did their beer. Though my photographer had lastly arrived it appeared that extra hassle was within the wings. The digital camera was now lined in brew, the lens smudged, possibly even scratched and Cro-Mags have been up subsequent. A weaker journalist would have packed it up, despatched a scathing message to his editor telling him to ‘fuck the fuck off’ and by no means spoke of this evening once more. Nevertheless, what’s that they are saying? The present should go on. Shit, and we wanted extra beer too! 

By the point Cro-Mags got here out, it appeared as if the celebrities of rock journalism had lastly aligned—in the event you consider in all that hippie-dippy, cosmotheistic crap. All I do know is the man-made digital camera was lastly in working order and my photographer, the trooper that she is, presumably sans concussion but reeking of overpriced beer, was within the thick of the efficiency and on a quest to doc no matter bushy hell might come. I couldn’t be bothered with logistics anymore, my job would come later. It was out of my fingers now—I’d already given it as much as no matter snaggletoothed goblin was haunting me from throughout the ether. Let that bastard type it out. 

The insurrection of my teen years, nonetheless, had been unleashed, left to swim in a nostalgic sea of testosterone with that new brute odor. Though I’d been steeped in societal contempt from a younger age, Flanagan’s presence prompt that I hadn’t throttled the system arduous sufficient in a very long time and, nicely, that was one thing that wanted to alter. I considered that as I watched him from the sidelines proudly owning the stage, belting out with extra conviction than any howling stripling twice his junior. Fuck the brand new heavy, the glam, trendy hardcore and each different style transferring within the path of the American pussification. It was nights like these, these harking back to a day much less delicate, once we every now and then received our noses damaged by our pals and laughed about it, that we should ask ourselves: Why can’t we take it again to once we frothed on the mouth like animals? Or was it too late for such sentimentalities? Was this gritting state of ruminatiation everybody’s swan track at this time limit, irrespective of how heavy the cross they bear?

Cro-Mags mowed by way of their hour-long set, full with fan favorites “Exhausting Instances” and “Apocalypse Now”, as if their pre-show ritual included gnawing on an electrical fence earlier than bitch slapping it with their wieners. As an official consultant of an getting old punk tradition, one left with solely a sequence of pale tattoos and a sure look in our eyes that tells the story of the so-called born-losers, those that’ve seen some shit and resolved a very long time in the past to taking no extra, this present was maybe one of the monumental I had witnessed in a few years. My technology, some fallen to the sag because the many years wane whereas others uncover a rebirth within the second act, is one consisting of diehard followers, and its devotion is worn on our sleeves. We had come up when music was the presence of energy, and now we, the identical as Flanagan, have been proof that not solely was previous man energy actual, however we have been going to want it too. Positive, it’s like Flanagan stated from the stage in the course of the present that evening, maybe getting trustworthy with the group as penance for a younger life gone, at instances, unpleasantly awry. We will’t change the previous, the violence, our despicable acts, however we will lead right now higher than the final, and do it with kindness and love. “Life is superb. It’s completely nice. I might’ve by no means guessed I might be alive this lengthy, by no means thoughts that I might be dwelling my greatest life, married to a tremendous lady, two grown sons, a killer band, and I’m feeling nice,” Flanagan informed me. “What else can I presumably need? Life is nice. I’m dwelling the dream and having fun with the journey. And whether or not I’m taking part in in entrance of some hundred folks, 50 folks or 100,000 or I’m coaching or no matter else it’s I’m doing, I’m loving each minute of it and giving it my all each single time. That’s how I reside my life.”

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