We played this bar…and I think there were about five people there at the most…It made me mad, but I played anyway. After the show [Chuck] Dukowski took me out to the parking lot and straightened me out on a few things. He told me that even though there were only a few people, it didn’t matter. They were there to see us and that was good enough. He said that you never pull a bullshit attitude onstage and you always play your ass off or don’t play at all. –Henry Rollins, 5/10/82
I don’t know if the members of Holding On To Sound have actually read the preceding passage from Henry Rollins’s Black Flag tour journal, Get In The Van, but given their performance at North Las Vegas’s Area 702 Skatepark on September 19, it would appear that they inherently possess the principle.
Playing to a sparse (though attentive and enthusiastic) crowd in the early evening, Holding On To Sound were one of a handful of local openers for former Pennywise vocalist Jim Lindberg’s new band, The Black Pacific. As I watched the HOTS trio of Vanessa (drums), Zabi (bass/vocals), and Bennett (vocals/guitar) launch into their first song, “The Sea,” I began to lament that they should be playing to a crowd tallying a dozen at best. In spite of the early bill, I’d have expected a stronger showing from their burgeoning fan base — this is, after all, a band who were voted “Best Live Band” of 2009 by the Las Vegas Weekly. I would quickly learn why.
If the size of the crowd bothered the band in any way, one would’ve never known. “We’re going to pack as much rage into our 20-minute set as possible,” announced Bennett as the band went quickly into their second song of the night, “Pre Post,” from their 2007 self-titled debut. It was a rare moment of familiarity for the diehard attendees. Of the six songs the band performed, four were brand new as-of-yet unrecorded tracks.
Seamlessly blending hardcore with bits of ska and reggae, HOTS come off like a West Coast version of Avail; a driving, righteously pissed-off godchild of the New York and DC scenes of yesteryear, but also unabashedly influenced by Op Ivy, Sublime, and RX Bandits. Not afraid to abruptly switch gears between styles — often within the same song — and showcase their individual talents on their respective instruments (Vanessa’s offhand drum solo proved to be a surprising high point of the show), HOTS keep the punks, skankers, and closet Bob Marley fans happy…providing they don’t mind a liberal mix of styles.
HOTS ripped through three new tracks — “Tommy” (a nod to The Who?) and the morosely titled “Watery Grave” and “The Black Death” — before finishing with the sole track performed from their most recent album (Songs of Freedom, 2009), the exceptionally loud and furious “Waves.” As the song abruptly ended, I was left with a ringing in my ears that made the ensuing calm of the largely empty space seem all the more odd and inappropriate. That’s when the Rollins quote sprung to mind. But I leave you with another:
I thought we played good…I don’t care as long as I played better than last night. When I play bad, it’s all I think about until the next show. Playing is all that matters. –Henry Rollins, 1/30/83