Ho99o9 has to be the most aggressive Black punk band since Bad Brains, and I wanted to see them again in action since I witnessed them trashing the Echoplex to a level of fury rarely seen, years ago. They are back on tour with a new album, “Skin,” and their signature mix of hardcore, hip hop, metal, industrial, and much more. Last night, they were playing at the Echoplex once again and gave us another incendiary show.
The Echoplex now belongs to Live Nation, and if it was relatively easy to get a photo pass when it was still an independent venue, it has become a hassle. They didn’t even let women enter the place with a small purse and I had to go back to my car twice to deposit everything they do not allow anymore (almost everything): I attended the concert only carrying my phone and a tiny camera, with my car keys in my pocket … I don’t understand why the pandemic changed the rules so dramatically but there was no possible negotiation.
Synth punk N8NOFACE opened the show with his electronic table, while constantly gesticulating in front of his mic. The vibe of his unique act vibe is quite similar to Ho99o9’s (they even have collaborated on music) and his set was one non-stop punk headbanger, that started an early mosh pit. His bullet-like short songs were brutal, sounding like an abrupt rap yelled in everyone’s face along with infectious rhythms. One or two songs were calmer, as there is a great variety in his hardcore style, but it was overall delivered in full assault mode, punctuated by a lot of horror screams, with full participation from the crowd. His joker shirt was saying it all, fun on the surface, very dark in-depth… if you managed to listen to the lyrics: his violent storytelling seemed to come from pain and true life experience, from jail and suicide stories to Mexican drug cartel’s bloody ballads, ready for a Breaking Bad soundtrack.
Needless to say, shooting Ho99o9 (with a semi-professional camera or a just point and shoot) is a challenge: they always play in the dark or are bathed in violent red and green lights and they are obviously restless from start to finish. They came on stage in front of a packed Echoplex, and the entire show was a wild ride with large participation from the audience: many people jumped on stage to crowd surf above our heads as we are now used to during a punk performance, I even noticed a lot of participation from the women. Purses must be more a hazard than stage diving since risking breaking your neck over an excited and mask-free crowd is still allowed in these post-pandemic times.
For an hour and a half, people in the first row (where I was) were pushed against the stage to the point of rib damage, while a large mosh pit started behind our backs. It was an electrifying performance, and it would just have been the ordinary chaos of a punk show if it wasn’t for two essential things: the presence of theOGM and Eaddy (the Ho99o9 duo) muddying the lines between punk, metal, and hip hop, and the crowd, way more diverse than usual with a good representation of the Black and Latino punk community.
The tone of the night was dark, raging, and blood pumping. TheOGM stayed a large part of the time behind a shiny statue of a dripping skeleton holding a riffle, cooking some electronic carnage, while Eaddy was shaking his dreadlocks or jumping on the crowd at the sound of frenetic drumming. They often erupted on stage together, bouncing all over the place at a breakneck pace, like two electrified Jacks-in-the-box.
It was so loud and so distorted that, without the setlist, I would not have been able to identify more than 2 or 3 songs, although I am a bit familiar with their first album “United States of Horror.” They obviously played plenty of songs off their very abrasive sophomore album “Skin,” for the audience’s delight. The creepy aggression of “Bite My Face,” the static saturation of “Battery Not included,” or “Nuge Snight,” and the hardcore theme of “Skinhead” were often abruptly shifting into serene moments working like a peaceful oasis in this ocean of death metal aggression, while unexpected musical short interludes were played between songs such as “Mr. Sandman, ”Tyler the Creator’s “AU79,” Sham 69’s “If the Kids are United,” or Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Radio snippets were heard all over the show, increasing the sonic confusion.
The Ho99o9 duo is definitively punk – their menacing demonstration last night would tend to let us they want to be the new pioneers of the genre – however, they constantly blurred the lines between genres on each occasion, at the image of the CRASS logo on the back Eaddy’s jacket, and his Cannibal Corpse sweatshirt. They are at ease at the intersection between genres and their boundary-breaking approach to music was more than appreciated last night.
Contrary to Sinatra or Tyler, it is probably safe to say that Ho99o9 will never go mainstream, they will probably not be the new Slipknot either, even though their song “Bite My Face” features the shrieks of Corey Taylor on their album. “Street Power” could work as a perfect fists-in-the-air punk anthem, but overall, they are too unclassifiable, too all-over-the-place to find a musical niche. Their fans know that and that’s precisely why they love the New Jersey duo so much.
The World, the Flesh, the Devil (Skin)
Bite my Face (Skin)
Atari teenage riot
Dead or Asleep? (Skin)
Protect my Bitch (Skin)
Street Power (USOH)
Au79 Tyler interlude
Fire Fly Family
Mega City Nine (Cyber Cop)
Forest Fires (Cyber Cop)
Delete My Browser History
Lower than Scum (Skin)
Leader of Pain (Cyber Cop)
Frank Sinatra (interlude)
City Rejects (USOH)
Kids are united interlude
Battery Not included (Skin)
Crystal waters interlude
Deep inside interlude
Sub Zer0 (USOH)
Suge Knight/Nuge Snight (Skin)
…Speak of the Devil (Skin)
F.O.G. (Cyber Warfare)
A whimsical and wonderful folk tune
a godawful reworking of “Juicy”
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