The 26th of June was, uh, awesome. Not only was Municipal Waste playing at Santos Party House, the New York City venue owned and operated by undisputed party-master Andrew WK, but they were also playing there on my birthday. Municipal Waste had been on my “to-watch” list ever since I first heard the opening chords of Hazardous Mutation – if they sounded that rip-roaring on record, thought I, their live show must be one huge orgiastic circle-pit with stagedivers abound! I don’t think I really need to enumerate just how high my expectations were for this show, but if I said Municipal Waste merely lived up to them, that would be a huge disservice. Along with supporting acts Black Tusk and 3 Inches of Blood, they somehow managed to completely surpass my expectations and leave them staring wide-eyed into the sky while the bands blazed into the stratos at Mach 3-billion. There wasn’t really anything that could have possibly prepared me for that night.
Birthed from the same Georgian sludge scene that gave us modern metal luminaries like Kylesa and Baroness (to say nothing of mainstream-courters Mastodon), Black Tusk plays a style of hardcore-infused sludge metal that could probably best be described as “barn-burning.” Where their contemporaries explore progressive arrangements and diverse instrumentation, Black Tusk is all about the riffs, and the riffs are solid. Their stripped-down, beefy sludge is aimed at rocking, first and foremost, and their thrashy tempos quickly whetted the crowd’s appetite. Their live sound is just as thick as on record, and they’re a band that really benefits from a live experience – if for nothing else, then for bassist Jonathan Athon’s ZZ Top-sized wizard beard being whipped around by the fans onstage. Rotary fans, though, not music fans. That’d be hella weird.
3 Inches of Blood, as a band, sounds almost completely indistinguishable from Painkiller-era Judas Priest. This is not a problem at all, and I’m sure the band members would take that as the highest compliment anyone could ever give them. The Halfordesque call-to-arms of the aptly-named vocalist Cam Pipes was nothing short of invigorating, and combined with the relentless battery of Ash Pearson and the dueling leads of Shane Clark and Justin Hagberg, the stage was set for a grand resurrection of NWOBHM stylings. The crowd was quickly whipped into a frenzy by their display, forming a massive circle pit with little direct provocation. Lyrical themes were nothing short of appropriate, centering on nothing but celebrations of beer, women, moshpit glories, and heavy metal. They even have a song called “Beer And Metal,” with the rousing chorus “BEER! AND! METALLLL!” You’re getting exactly what it says on the tin with these guys, and why would you want anything more? You got your beer, you got your metal; that’s all you really need for a good time. That night was proof of it.
But as rambunctiously enjoyable as 3 Inches of Blood’s set was, they couldn’t come close to Municipal Waste on stage. Then again, nobody can; I feel like I’ve spoiled every other concert I’ll ever go to. No other show I’ve ever seen has had an arsenal of confetti cannons, a circle pit whose diameter was just shy of the entire room’s width, a mass stagedive near the end complete with scowling security all around, a band whose between-song wisecracks were actually funny (choice quotes: “We don’t need a fog machine! We’re powered by your farts!!“) and a rabid crowd of fans who will always finish the chant “Municipal Waste is gonna FUCK YOU UP,” no matter who starts it. Oh, right, and the music was pretty good too. Those familiar with thrash metal, hardcore punk, and crossover know the basic modus operandi of their songs – short, controlled two-minute bursts of furious aggression headed by Tony Foresta’s snot-nosed endorsement of excessive drinking and grindhouse horror tropes – but in order to really get the full Municipal Waste experience, you’ve got to see them live. Anything else would be a criminal disservice. You need to climb up onto the stage and feel Tony’s lips on your cheek as he kicks you into the tempestuous crowd-ocean and leaves you at their mercy. If you haven’t Wasted live, then you haven’t really Wasted, bro. They tour almost constantly all across the globe, so be sure to hit up a Municipal Waste show for a good time once they visit your locale. If you’re lucky, they might play on your birthday too!
As magical and fantastical as this evening was, fulfilling all of my dearest hopes and dreams, I feel as if I’ve spoiled every other birthday I’ll ever have. I want Municipal Waste to play all of my birthdays, my graduation party, my wedding, my kids’ birthday parties, and on and on. I want them to travel back in time and play my bar mitzvah. Everyone on the planet should have the same experience I did, and then some. The only thing that could have possibly made it better would have been if they made me balloon animals, but I’m pretty happy with what I got.