On Sunday, February 16, 2020, fans gathered at the Theatre of Living Arts (TLA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for an explosive post-Valentine punk/hardcore filled double bill “Please Die! Nobody’s Got Style Like Us” American Nightmare’s 20th Anniversary Tour in celebration of the band’s seminal first American Nightmare EP and second The Sun Isn’t Getting Any Brighter EP. Additionally, the compilation of both EPs “Year One” was re-issued prior to the start of the tour as a release via Heartworm Press and Bridge Nine Records. The band is touring with Rohnert Park, California-based punk band Ceremony.
Fans started piling into the intimate South Street venue by packing the house as though it was more of an underground DIY hardcore punk show feel to get fans ready for Ceremony’s thrash and energy. Ceremony was electrifying on stage with lead vocalist Ross Farrar, clad in a torn Gorilla Biscuits t-shirt, went quickly into the crowd holding his microphone up to screaming fans indulging in his hardcore energy. Anthony Anzaldo played a Roland keytar adding more synth post-punk sonic waves into their set. Farrar moved as he grabbed his microphone and was ready to slam it to the stage and pounding his chest hard. Ceremony covered Washington D.C. Red C’s 1981 demo tape “Hit and Run Pressure’s On” as a nod to the East coast hardcore music scene. Mosh pits grew larger as fan favorites “Hysteria” and “Throwing Bricks” blistered like a cutting knife slicing its energy. As pits grew and fans moved onto others’ shoulders, climbing to the stage and surfing across, a few fans who brazenly took to the stage as Ceremony rocked and launched themselves into the crowd. Ceremony’s recent debut on Relapse Records, “In the Spirit World Now” debuted on the U.S. Heatseekers and U.S. Independent Albums on Billboard with a peak position at 21 and can be noted as their most accomplished sound to date. The Hardcore/Punk music scene was cutting into the East coast with noteworthy artists Gorilla Biscuits or Fugazi in the early 2000s.
American Nightmare (briefly Give Up the Ghost) from Boston, Massachusetts is currently signed with Rise Records. Lead vocalist Wesley Eishold (also noteworthy in the band Cold Cave) began booking DIY shows in
Portland, Maine in the year 2000. The band is credited with setting the precedent for the band’s DIY ethic, volatile musicianship, and bleeding-heart lyricism. The band broke up in 2004 and reunited in 2011 over the 20-year span. Eishold is a poet and author as well. American Nightmare’s lineup includes Wesley, bassist Josh Holden, guitarist Brian Masek and drummer Alex Garcia-Rivera (as well as touring guitarist Jim Carroll). Wesley screamed into the microphone and entered the crowd by jumping up and having fans scream into the microphone taking turns playing off its energy. Wesley had said to Philadelphia, “You guys must be pretty messed up people to like our music!”. Fans screamed back “Yeah, we are!”.
The band moved methodically by spanning an anniversary 18-song set including a doom metal band, Trouble, and recently reunited Archers of Loaf covers that included the encore in under 50-minute set. The band graciously showed appreciation by thanking Philadelphia’s fans for the love and support over the years. Fans smiled widely, screaming, headbanging and thrashing into mosh pits. It was a wild night that was memorable not just for Philadelphia, but for American Nightmare by finding the light into darkness.
Review by Brendan Maurice | Photos by Nick Scalera