Directly behind the bartenders, where many bars might have shelves or mirrors, the front bar at the Knitting Factory has remarkably sound proof panels of glass that overlook a packed venue. The bar is playing recorded music during the opening act, and it is not doing justice to what I am seeing, behind the glass a frenetic mosh pit is silently swaying as one kid clamors up on to the shoulders of those near, shaking his clinched fist in the air.
The energy is palpable as Joyce Manor take the stage and the ravenous crowd is in a frenzy from the first chords as the four piece rip though their, at times melodic if lyrically indiscernible, sub-2 minute songs. There was, of course, no need to discern the lyrics because the vast majority of the audience could belt out entire verses in unison, which they did several times throughout the set.
It was a security person’s nightmare. Have you ever seen a bouncer on stage obstruct a bass player from getting on mic in the middle of a song? Once the song was done the bass player quickly reported ‘I guess you guys can’t stage dive or crowd surf.’ This warning was not heeded. From that point on, the sell out crowd was nominally thinned as a steady stream of outlaws were removed for moshing or stage diving, and the parade of the bold and unfortunate was escorted one by one right past our position of relative safety near the back exit.
Dedicated and passionate fans packed this place and it was clear that Joyce Manor was delivering for them with a set that built from bouncing scream-o punk into a good-natured prison riot. It was very hard to separate what was happening on stage and what was happening in the crowd, but then, why would you want to?
By the end of the blistering 40-minute set nearly everyone (even many of those kicked out) left the Knitting Factory sweaty and smiling. After the show I approached guitarist/vocalist Barry Johnson for his thoughts on the crowd reaction, he responded, “Yeh, I’m too drunk to talk right now. Too drunk to talk.” He wasn’t, but he was enjoying himself after a gig that came off as a resounding victory for punk rock.