Review: Open Up the Pit for Soul Glo, Zulu, and Playytime at The Howard, 9/29

I went into this show knowing I would feel a bit like a fish out of water. As much as I like the music all three bands make, I am not the kind of person that can be found in the middle of the pit at a hardcore show (and I probably would have lacked the energy anyway, I had been up for a while after my radio show, which you should tune in for if you’re awake, at 7:30 a.m.). Despite my nonparticipation, there was still a good number of 20-somethings who, without much instruction needed from the bands, let loose in the middle of the floor at each deafening riff, proving the crowd’s energy as a whole was up to the four-act show.

Four-act because local DC rapper WiFiGawd was a surprise opener. With the theater still far from filling up, WiFiGawd casually walked out onto the stage with his laptop, plugged it into a cord, and hit play on his first song. As it started, he called out on the mic for everyone in the building to get down to the floor, amassing a crowd at the middle of the barricade. WiFiGawd kept an impromptu air throughout the set, often switching songs halfway through, pausing to say something, or, once, restarting because he needed the crowd to get more lit than they did the first time around. His lack of seriousness drew in a devoted portion of the concertgoers, as he spent more time making sure that they were having fun and dancing than rapping over his songs. Near the end of his set, a kid at the barricade requested a song, and WiFiGawd took him up on stage to rap the chorus.

Playytime on stage

Playytime, an Atlanta based group, were the first act up, jumping straight into ear-piercing metal-infused riffs that their lead singer Obi, shirtless and increasingly sweaty, screamed to, raising the energy. Playytime, despite being the first band of the three to play, was by far the loudest. The explosion on stage definitely took many people by surprise since the crowd was mostly unfamiliar with the band, but they quickly got up to speed and the place became hectic. Rows of sardine-packed moshers pressed against the barricade moved in time to waves of body-shaking chords and drum hits. Between songs, Obi would give directions to the crowd, telling them to separate to the wings of the floor or having the edges of the pit start circling slowly before a mosh, but the only other respite he gave was to give a little background on Playytime. Each band took breaks to talk about social issues that mattered to them. Playytime being from Atlanta, Obi spoke about cop city, the under-construction police training facility in the forested outskirts of the city that has sparked ongoing protests and retaliatory police violence. After their last song, Playytime teased a forthcoming album in the new year, their first since 2020.

The second band up was Zulu, a LA based hardcore group, playing songs from their recent debut album A New Tomorrow. Zulu’s sound was a bit more diverse, incorporating jazz movements, funk rhythms, and hip-hop beats that framed each song’s heavy, fast-paced riffs and aggressive vocal delivery. Primed by Playytime, the mosh was now in full swing, with several people trying to crowd-surf up to the barricade, and a few hopping the barricade onto the platform to rage before diving back into the crowd out of the reach of the security guard. Before leaving the stage at the end of their set, the members took a moment to address the many young crowd members. They emphasized the importance of communities built around scenes like the hardcore one, where free expression and unity are artistically and politically productive and have the power to enact real social change.

Zulu on stage

Soul Glo was last up. The band members took their time on stage to warm up their instruments against long drones of feedback, provided by guitarist GG Guerra. As the band launched into its set, lead singer Pierce Jordan’s shrill vocals, delivered at times like rap lyrics, cut through the spitfire drums and guitar riffs. After only one song, Jordan stepped off stage and up against the barricade, offering lyrics directly to the moshing, frenetic crowd. At this point in the night,  though, much energy had already been spent. More of the crowd was content to stand back and let the soul-shaking noise inundate them, but Soul Glo didn’t let up. They kept delivering feverish song after feverish song. Before the last song, Jordan took an extended break to address the crowd. First, he shouted out his family, who were in attendance on one wing of the stage. He thanked his parents for the support they’d given him through all the years, and his sister, also in attendance, for introducing him to punk music. Jordan pointed out that each person had to make their own story, speaking especially to the POC artists in the crowd as he urged them to tell their stories and emphasized that no one else will tell them on their behalf. Soul Glo ended on the opening track from their album Diaspora Problems, “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)” and, during the breakdown, switched around instruments with Guerra taking the mic and howling out the final lines, “Can I live?” over and over. Looping layers of bursting guitar and bass feedback slowly died out as each band member put down their instruments and walked off stage, except Jordan, who stayed at the mic to give one final address to the crowd, “I want to thank you for sharing my time with me and being a part of my story, I will be there when it’s time for you to share yours.”

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