Published Feb 23, 2015Winnipeg was dealt a relatively short but undeniably heavy dose of hardcore on the coldest Sunday night (so far) of the year. Crossover legends Cro-Mags, with original singer John Joseph fronting the group, made their return to the heart of the continent for the first time in nearly 30 years.
For an evening when the windchill pulled the cold night down around the -40C range, the Park Theatre was packed to the brim with sweaty, dark clad, heavily tattooed patrons. From the select few handful of bangers who'd been at the last Cro-Mags performance (including the guy who first brought the band to Winnipeg back in the '80s, Mike Lambert) to the full crop of fresh-faced floor-punchers, Winnipeg's hardcore scene — and those lurking on the periphery — represented themselves well.
Withdrawal, a band who've been pummelling their way up through the local scene for the past eight years or so, displayed an impressive command over audience and stage. Their hard-hitting pit-stirrers hit home on every volley. Clearly a homegrown hardcore institution at this point, Withdrawal had a pit raging, and a varying gang of wayward youth chanting along with them, for the duration of their set.
But when the headliners, New York hardcore pioneers Cro-Mags, hit the stage, the packed Park Theatre collectively lost their shit. Despite the fact that a large portion of the crowd were at their youthful peak the last time the Cro-Mags hit town (or somewhere shortly thereafter), the energy in the respectable sized venue was bursting from the first rumbling chord to the final cymbal blast.
"It's fuckin' fitting we end our tour back here in fuckin' Winnipeg," Joseph told the teeming crowd. "Even if it took us 30 fuckin' years."
Drawing heavily from their blistering debut LP The Age of Quarrel and other Jacobs-helmed material, Cro-Mags gave the few hundred folks packed into the Park a reason to be hurting come Monday morning. As if they needed to endear themselves to the locals any further, Jacobs sent shout-outs to homegrown hardcore purveyors Propagandhi and Comeback Kid.
Without taking into consideration the middle-agedness of the headliners, the performance was a rip-roaring set of headbangers. When you take into account the band are all pushing 50, the performance was nothing short of inspiring. If Jacobs and company can fuckin' hammer out "Street Justice," "World Peace" or "Don't Tread on Me" with even more conviction on a stage in Winnipeg in 2015 than when they first laid them down back in '86, then frankly, we're dealing with an otherworldly assemblage of individuals.
For the encore, Cro-Mags ripped "Hard Times" to shreds. Everyone paying attention at the Park Theatre, from the greying, middle-aged dad to the sweaty young headbanger, was left with a fire burning for the way things used to be, or even the way things may yet become, in the world of hardcore punk rock.