HR & Human Rights: The New Gospel @ Pourhouse Of Norfolk, OR…

The Miracle On Granby Street? OR...

Is PMA In Jeopardy For Christmas? Can Hardcore Norfolk And Friends Save The Tour? OR...

HR’s Tour is “Wrecked” - Girl Power and Hardcore Norfolk to the Rescue?

hr-pourhouse-flyer-crop.jpg

A post from HR’s Facebook page announced the harrowing, van-totaling crash.

Not sure how to title this show review. Usually it’s the band and the venue but this one almost didn’t happen, again. Unfortunately for us, the last time HR was scheduled to play here he fell ill and the show was canceled. I doubt there are more than a handful of artists that have influenced as many generations of musicians as HR with Bad Brains, the iconic group out of DC. I would also argue that no other band exists that has bridged more genres and perceived racial divides or stereotypes. I have been messaging Lori (HR’s Manager/Wife) leading up to the show to possibly get an interview or some questions answered (last minute, very unprofessional). She informed me sadly that they wouldn’t have much time before the show, but they could answer a question or two and then go from there the night of the show. I settled on asking just one, what was HR’s favorite memory of Norfolk or even their favorite memory as a couple here. She responded that she had never visited Norfolk before, but HR specifically mentioned he “...remembered the people of Norfolk being very kind to the underprivileged.” I found that reassuring but interesting. Then last Friday, they were involved in a van-totaling accident while in route to Reggie’s in Wilmington, NC. They were certainly going to have a hard time making the final stop here in Norfolk the next night.

Well the spirit of Jah, Christmas, Hardcore or all three were strong that day as the universe itself decided it wasn’t going to go down like that... not this time.

HR’s Facebook confirms: Local music fans to the rescue.

So, the show at Reggie’s in Wilmington had to be canceled. When Angela Yeagher, drummer for the Zodiac Panthers (who were supposed to be opening for HR in Wilmington) and previously a Va. Beach resident, became aware there was a final show scheduled here in Norfolk the following night, she got to thinking. Girl #1, activated. One name popped into her head: Debra Persons from Hardcore Norfolk. Those of us that know Debra take her superpowers for granted by now, saving the day here, saving the day there. Girl #2 activated. You see where I’m going with this.

Safely in Norfolk with co-rescuer Jeff. Photo by Erin.

Debra, in turn, puts it back into the ether on a Facebook post that HR was stranded. Erin, reggae fan, Hardcore Norfolk member, mother of 2, answers the call. Girl #3! Erin told me basically that she inquired of Deb about HR’s situation after Deb sent her a message and found out that if the show were to happen on schedule HR and the band would need some quick help. Having a family size vehicle, she agreed to drive there, pick them up and try to make the show on time. She fueled up the Suburban, grabbed her friend Jeff and they hit the road. Long story short, they had a quiet drive to Wilmington, met at the hotel, exchanged greetings and after some packing and seating issues were solved, had a quiet, possibly restful trip back to Norfolk. They made it a few minutes early, unloaded the gear only, as Erin insisted on getting them and their things to the hotel safely without them changing cars again after the set. Hats off to Erin for coming to the rescue!

This was my first time at the Pourhouse of Norfolk. Very nice staff, definitely an intimate show no matter who is on the small stage. They played a great mix of punk and metal over the house system between sets and I understand that is the norm so I will be back to check out the lunch menu. They consistently book Hardcore/alternative bands and unique acts. Decor is, let’s just say, dark yet welcoming. I didn’t sample any adult beverages as I was driving but I saw people eating and drinking and nobody died.

The opening bands, each one of them in their own way, absolutely killed. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they were trying to impress us. First time for me seeing all three opening acts for some strange reason but it all made sense after seeing them on the same bill (that whole universe thing again). I’m not going to attempt describing them all, they were exactly why I showed up early, exactly what they were supposed to be, f’n punk or hardcore bands, doing what f’n punk or hardcore bands do... doing what I really needed them to do, take my mind on vacation for a couple hours, reset me. It reminded me once again that whenever I need it, I can go into Norfolk and find a stage with no barrier or stage security, and find music that makes sense to me, even if that stage isn’t big enough to hold the band. See them live, they were all great performances. They are:

Rosemilk: (VB punk alternative) https://rosemilk.bandcamp.com/releases
Rad Taco: (Norfolk punk rock) https://radtaco.bandcamp.com
Bato: (VB Hardcore Punk) https://batovb.bandcamp.com/releases

HR took the stage and delivered a surprisingly long set of beautiful music. I’ve never heard a better band behind HR while touring solo. Of course, his solo work is not punk or hardcore but his own version of reggae, mostly smooth and calming with plenty of wake-up calls and interesting turns. Reggae has historically been widely accepted and included in alternative lineups since Bad Brains basically invented the practice. Song after song of love, inspiration, and inclusion. I could only really equate it to a sort of religious experience, every eye in the house either closed over a smile or locked onto the man up front looking for further guidance. His voice and actions were calm and deliberate. Exquisite guitar work from Ezekiel Zagar just never ended. Josh Freshy on bass and Wesley Rast behind the drums complete a masterful live sound as Human Rights: The New Gospel.

I’ve included some photos and videos of the set below. HR himself seemed almost guarded from a distance, but when talking face to face, he was very warm, and gracious. What I mistook as guarded was just a calmness and he seemed happy and content - surprising considering all of the trouble they had getting to Norfolk.

Only twice in my life have things worked so perfectly for me on nights I really needed them to. One is personal. It involves my wife and the comedian Jim Norton...stop, it was beautiful, a story for another day maybe. The other time it was going to the FLAGIIII show, I met, filmed, talked a little with Keith, Chuck, Dez, Bill & Steven. It was a big night. Everything went perfectly. Tonight turned out to be one of those nights; it looked like it might not even happen but it ended up being great. I got a text that I was on the guest list and found parking directly in front of the venue on the street. Witnessed a living legend share more of his life, words, and spirit with us, accompanied by the peerless musicians he has surrounded himself with. Finally got to meet Lori in person. Met some cool, fun people at the show. So grateful for all involved and most importantly that there were no serious injuries to anyone or damage to their gear.

hr-random4.jpg

Back to Erin and Jeff for a minute. Jeff, by the way, is a life-long HR/Bad Brains fan, who I’m sure was beside himself to engage with HR, and he held out until timing allowed but did get a few minutes for some quiet Q & A and some photos. I understand Jeff helped a lot in this also. Thank you, Jeff. Erin strikes me to be the type that would do this for anybody; it just happened to be HR and her close friend “just happens” to be an HR Wiki-page? Come on! Are the planets all lined up or something?

They exchanged goodbyes and well wishes, like old friends it sounds like, having just met that day. HR has always told us about PMA (positive mental attitude), this is what it looks like.

About Brian: I am a 49-year-old child who refuses to grow up and put away his childish ways.  I have lived in the Tidewater/Hampton Roads/7-Cities/Coastal Virginia (wtf, decide on a name) area my entire life.  If I'm not in the Atlantic Ocean with one of my daughters, I'm listening to punk, metal, hardcore, or any hybrid of the three.  I still think I'll be the drummer in a killer band one day.  I'm really just a simple fan of truthful, brutal music, and happy if that's all I ever am.

So, the question answered itself. We realized, almost at the same time, that their favorite Norfolk memory will be getting here safely to finish the 2018 Winter Tour and the people that made it possible with their support and kindness.

Thank God, Praise Jah (hope I’m getting that right) and/or remember to appreciate and hug the Hardcore Girl in your life a little more often for a little longer...with expressed permission first, of course! haha.... especially Lori, Angela, Debra and literally the red/green/gold star of the evening, Erin.

Great job girls! Great job Norfolk!
Happy New Year!

Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald