Friday, September 16, 2005

From Blackout Matt: R.I.P. Al of Hate

From Blackout Matt:

Like anyone else that ever met him or saw him perform, I was very sad to learn of Al of Hate’s death.

The first thing that I noticed when I saw Eyes of Hate for the first time was that their singer didn’t stand on the stage. Al stood in front of the stage, among the fans. I’ve seen them about a half a dozen times, not including the two shows they played with Blackout Shoppers, and every time Al was down in front of the stage.

Al was the lead singer and therefore the band’s most visible member, but he did away with the barrier between band and audience and refused the pedestal of the stage. He was a powerful and charismatic front man who insisted that the fans be in the spotlight with him. While he prowled back and forth and commanded the room, Al never denied anyone a chance to sing along.

The first time Blackout Shoppers played with them, Eyes of Hate had one of their fans join them on stage and play bass for several songs. While she was getting situated, Antonio the guitar player and Jay the drummer launched into an impromptu version of Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood.’ It rocked, but Al wasn’t about to be distracted from giving one of his fans a chance to play with her favorite band and he cut them off. Few bands are as trustworthy and as caring about their fans as that.

The second time we played with Eyes of Hate was earlier this year at Grand Central Bar in Brooklyn. Due to some bands canceling at the last minute, we scrambled to help fill the open slots on the bill. Eyes of Hate was one of the bands to accept our invitation only about a week before the show. They ended up bringing the largest number of fans and making the show one of the best we’ve ever played.

That show they played with us was one of three that they played that day. Talking to Al outside the bar, I marveled at how they could do that. Al didn’t complain about how tired he was or anything, but just shrugged it off. It’s what you have to do if you’re in a band, he explained to me. You have to work. He gave me encouragement and said that if we wanted to travel more we need to invest in getting a van. Playing three shows in one day just wouldn’t be possible for them without their van, he said.

Al personified and voiced both the thrills and frustrations of living in New York, most notably in an Eyes of Hate song ‘Sweet Home New York City,’ done in the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ He sang a song in Spanish and at one point had been studying Korean to better communicate with some of his neighbors.

He was a hardcore punk through and through and made aggressive music that had people moshing up a storm, but refused to cater to Neanderthals and thugs intent on meaningless violence. He sang about the importance of questioning authority and his political lyrics were not based on blind adherence to ideology but to a deep and abiding respect for New York and America’s beleaguered working class.

After Al died, I learned more about him as the Internet lit up with stories and condolences. Al would use his van to take people to shows, would pay for those too broke to attend or sneak people into shows that were underage. Cutie Calamity from the band S.M.U.T. told of how once Al booked a show just for her at the Knitting Factory when she really needed cheering up. Cutie is now busy booking shows to pay tribute to Al of Hate and I’m sure has more bands wanting to play than she could ever book.

At his funeral five days after his death, family, fans and friends filled the chapel where his funeral service was held. As the service got under way, a crush of punk rockers, many wearing Eyes of Hate t-shirts, packed into the chapel until there was no place left to sit. The spectacle of conservatively dressed family members turning around in their seats to witness the mob of punks filling the room was one I’m sure Al would enjoy.

Eyes of Hate bass player Tommy was the first person to speak at the funeral. He marveled at the band’s progress and his times with Al. One day he met Al at a show and before he knew it they were making music and traveling the country together.

I can’t help but feel a deep sense of regret. Regret I didn’t get to know Al as well, regret we didn’t get to play more shows with him, but most of all regret for what the punk rock world and New York City has lost.

Blackout Matt

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

heh heh heh heh heh .... Gotta love roanoke memorial hospital