All Photos (except Drug Lust) & Text By Em DeMarco
Feb. 22, 2015
Drug Lust is coming to eat your souls. A ski-masked hardcore band with vocals that will claw at your ears and eyes and teeth and every bit of exposed skin.
Last Friday, they kicked off their tour in Pittsburgh, the band’s hometown. It was seven degrees below zero. Still, between 125 and 150 people came for the all-ages show at The Shop, a DIY space owned by Lauri Mancuso.
That night as bands haul gear into the space, Lauri tosses hunks of wood into an oven. Near the stove, I tell Akay, Killer of Sheep’s bassist, about the days when people warmed buildings by cramming pigs in their basements. “Pigs will eat anything,” Akay says. People, even. (For fact-checking readers, I realize while writing this I can’t find a single reference online about old timers using hogs for home heating.)
Derider begins the night. Billed as “not punk,” they are a new four-piece band from Pittsburgh. “They’re good,” someone next to me says. His band shares a practice space with Derider. He says he always knows when Derider is practicing because they’re the only band that sounds good. “Everything else is Jesus rock,” he says. Their sound is dark and lovely and mesmerizing. For now you’ll have to see them live, but an LP may be slated for release this year.
Rats Rest, of Kansas City. Before the set, Timmy, the bassist, points to a jug of whiskey on an amp. Timmy: “Is that yours?” Me: “No, it’s not mine.” Timmy: (Takes a swig.) Me: “You might get herpes.” Timmy: (Laughs, takes another drink.) Rats Rest is catchy punk. But it’s not sickly sweet, either. It’s a lollipop that’s been wedged between couch cushions, covered in filth and hair. With chainsaw vocals from guitarist, Cinque, they’re turning out music with teeth. Listen to “Hedonite.” Then listen to it again. And again.
Killer of Sheep. Killer of Sheep. Killer of Sheep. Crucial Pittsburgh hardcore. Get out of the way or they will stomp on your face while spreading the word of Truth. Before the set, Billy Pilgrim — aka Free, aka Rashad Jamaal, formerly of Mega-Def — is reading lyrics near the wood-burning stove. He is wearing what appears to be a blue bathrobe splattered with paint. Tonight will be his first performance as Killer of Sheep’s singer. I ask how he got hooked up with these guys. Billy Pilgrim looks at Oyo, the guitarist. “We’ve been brothers for a while,” Oyo says. “Me and him go way back, and Akay too,” Billy Pilgrim adds, nodding toward the bassist. Behind the mic he transforms into a manic, bathrobe-clad madman. (A delight.) Go see Killer of Sheep perform. Tell me that Oyo does not make the most epic facial expressions while murdering that guitar of his.
Scum, from Detroit. The ancient punk gods plucked a snake from a writhing mass of pus, raised a sword and hacked it to bits, tossing snakelets into the Great Lakes. What emerged from the dark waters was Scum. A hydra that will liquefy your eyeballs, filling the empty sockets with fire. They’ve brought a gritty, d-beat wonderland to The Shop — the kind of barrage of sound that makes me grind my teeth the entire time, and not care that I’ve lost a layer of my molars. Later I see a woman in the hallway holding her head. She says someone in the pit smashed her face, almost knocked her out. I ask if she’s ok. “Of course,” she says, smiling. She’s just waiting in line for the bathroom.
And then Drug Lust. B-horror movie idolatry comes alive. Under the red glow of the lights, the band members’ eyes are unnerving. Perhaps it’s not their eyes, but the weird cutout shapes in their knit masks that give me the creeps. Dave, the drummer — whose mask doesn’t have a ‘mouth’ — at one point lifts his mask to take a swig of beer, then another, which he sprays toward the pit. It goes remarkably far. (Later, a friend told me the pit was a good time, though she said there was too much unwanted man-groping that night.) My heart races at a hardcore show like this, and I usually find myself grinning like a fool. Luke’s vocals leave you feeling like your hand slipped while grating cheese, and oh shit, half of your finger is in ribbons. Now you’re just a raggedly bag of flesh.
Show’s over. Luke picks up a bunch of roses from the stage, which had been there since Derider’s set. Beer cans and grimy petals litter the space. It’s a surreal scene, watching him quietly hold the bouquet—the flowers dangling for just a moment before he drops them to the ground. That is Drug Lust. When they come through your town, stand close to the speakers and wallow in their nightmare.
Em DeMarco is seamstress-carpenter-baker turned journalist. Currently she is working on merging nonfiction storytelling with comics and illustration. You can reach her at emdemarco.tumblr.com.
All Drug Lust photos & video by Rick Mauck