Fight Amp Remember Their Five Craziest Shows
Beloved underground noise-rock powerhouse Fight Amp have decided to call it quits after 12 fruitful years of skull-decimation, so we asked bassist Jon DeHart to memorialize their five craziest shows in advance of their final eight-gig tour. It all comes to a head on November 12 at Brooklyn venue Sunnyvale (snatch up tickets here), where we expect nothing less than a chaotic swan song worthy of entry on this killer list. Read and marvel below, and send the boys out in style by picking up their final, excellent record, Constantly Off.
ACE OF MACE: West Philly, PA
Looking back on the early days of Fight Amp, it seems like we were playing a different West Philly basement every other week. It’s difficult to sort through the stew of stale beer and muddied instrument cables to pinpoint exactly who played when and where. Though there is one show that will always stand out from the rest.
We were two songs into our set, beer and bodies everywhere. I started to get this dry, ashen taste in my mouth. I figured it was probably just dust being kicked up from the ground, but when the song ended, I looked over at our drummer at the time, Scott [Hissem], and he was dumping beer into his hands and splashing it onto his eyes, saying, “I’ve been maced! Someone maced me!” Our guitarist, Mike [McGinnis], was on the other side of the drum set, seemingly unaffected and definitely confused, “Maced? There’s no way you were maced.”
Scott shot back, “THEN I’M LOSING MY MIND!!!” Turns out, he was quite sane. Amidst the confusion and chatter that was growing throughout the room, we found out that someone actually did sneak up and mace him point blank. Some people had the guy cornered upstairs and were ready to kick his ass, when someone ran down to inform us that the pepper sprayer was an extremely drunk friend of ours who thought it would be funny to partially blind his boy in the middle of playing a song. So, Mike sighs halfheartedly into the mic, "Please don't beat him up. We know the guy — he's just drunk." Which I doubt was much comfort to Scott, who was still doubled over behind the drums, slowly regaining his vision and overall sense of security. But shit — that’s what friends are for.
HOT WATER HEATER MUSIC: New Brunswick, NJ
New Brunswick basement show. Got super stoned before our set. When we tore into the first song, I remember thinking that it was the best we’d ever sounded. I had my head down, concentrating on the feeling of every chord resonating through my body. Out of the corner of my eye was a flurry of legs and feet. I could tell everyone in the room was feeling it, too. People were so excited about how great we were sounding that they started patting me on the back, grabbing me by the shoulders, already eager to congratulate us on our performance. A performance so stunning they couldn’t even wait for us to finish before showering us with praise.
Emboldened by our reception, I got the courage to look up and make eye contact with our adoring fans, only to see a look of absolute terror on everyone's faces. “STOP! YOU HAVE TO STOP!” They turned my attention to the ground, where a wave of water was heading right for us and our amps. Apparently, someone was knocked into the hot water heater that was strategically placed in the middle of the basement, and now it's spraying 40 gallons everywhere. With the help of some friends, we hoisted our pedals and amps off the ground as fast as we could and, luckily, managed to get everything to the backyard before anything could get damaged. Everyone hung out in the yard for a while, waiting for a verdict on whether or not things could continue. But you know what they say: “The show must go on!” Except in this case. In this case, the show was definitely cancelled.
WALKING SPAGHETTI: Somerdale, NJ
Back around ’06, we played a show with some local hardcore bands at an empty office-space-turned-venue. A few days earlier, our friend Jeff mentioned he’d been working on a one-man noise project called Walking Spanish, and asked if he could do a quick set in the back of the room as the first and second bands changed over. We tried to explain to him that it might not be the best place to debut it since even Fight Amp was regarded as a little odd with some of the tough-guy crowd, and we had actual songs with actual riffs! But he was insistent that it had to be THIS show. Okay, sure, why not?
Night of, Jeff got there early, hung a sheet in the back corner of the room that stretched from ceiling to floor, and proceeded to set up behind it in private. Eventually, the show starts, and as soon as the first band finishes their last song, "Walking Spanish" by Tom Waits starts blaring from a boombox in the back of the room. Everyone turns to see the hanging sheet, which is now backlit, revealing a silhouette of someone stalking back and forth with the music in slow, exaggerated motions. Then, the figure behind the curtain starts smashing something, and soon pieces of what appears to be a TV are being kicked out into the crowd.
I noticed that every person in the room had gathered around the spectacle at full attention. Kids who clearly weren’t expecting some weird performance art that night were at least giving it a chance. It warmed the heart. My hope for the future became brighter. I began to envision a musical utopia where straight-edge kids and acid freaks stood side by side, where it didn’t matter if someone wanted to interrupt a hardcore show by publicly working through what appears to be some deep psychological trauma set to the soundtrack of Tom Waits — all would be welcome.
Then the sheet dropped. There stood Jeff, wearing nothing but a gas mask and a Speedo, holding a giant bowl of cooked spaghetti. He just starts pelting everyone with big handfuls of it. Everyone tried to scatter, slipping cartoonishly on the spaghetti that was now caking itself into the soles of their shoes. He empties one bowl, then another, until two family-style servings of pasta covered the floor. People could barely keep balance as they picked the noodles from their clothes and hair. It was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen, but my laughter gave way to worry, as I could see how understandably pissed some people were getting. I worried that Jeff was gonna get beaten up — a fear born from the fact that everywhere I went, I could hear people talking about beating up Jeff — but by the time it was all over, he was nowhere to be found.
Eventually, things calmed down, us and the other bands played, and for the rest of the night, whenever someone got hyped for an incoming breakdown and went to karate mosh, they’d slip on some residual starch and drop to a knee, or stretch their arms up and back behind themselves to keep from fully going down, clearly cursing the asshole in the gas mask from earlier that night. The Walking Spanish set lasted a total of five minutes, but i’ll be damned if it didn’t steal the show.
WE’RE JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE: Austin, TX
In 2008, we went on our very first full U.S. tour to promote our debut LP, Hungry for Nothing. For the Austin show, we got to play a SXSW kickoff party with Naked Raygun, Municipal Waste, Iron Lung, Complete Control, Hex Dispensers, Shot Baker, Cancer Bats, Dub Trio and probably a couple more I’m forgetting. I’m including it here because it’s one of those shows I look back on and am still amazed at just how stacked the bill was. Plus, it was pretty great to play to that large of a crowd, considering the night before we probably played in a shed, or something equal in size. A definite highlight of the trip.
CHECK IT OUT, MY NAME IS GOD: Baltimore, MD
It wasn’t all pepper spray and weaponized spaghetti for Fight Amp. Over the years, we actually got to do a lot of the things we could only hope to do when we first started out, and a recent example is having Eyehategod take us on tour. We’ve been fans of theirs since before Fight Amp started, and have always cited them as a big influence, so it was really exciting to be able to join them on the two-week run. The Baltimore show was especially rad because Negative Approach was added to the bill. Negative Approach and singer John Brannon’s other band, Easy Action, are another longtime influence for us, and as it turned out, this show would be the first time EHG and NA had ever met in person or played a show together.
Sitting in the green room, we got to witness Brannon and EHG singer Mike Williams meet for the first time and exchange war stories — two legendary staples of two legendary bands who just barely missed crossing paths a thousand times over the years. It was one of the times I’d think to myself, “Damn, maybe we are doing something right.” After the show, everyone is packed up and saying their goodbyes, and John Brannon notices the Velvet Underground & Nico shirt I’m wearing and says, “Hey man, dig that shirt. I named my cat Nico.” I explained to him that the name “Fight Amputation” was derived from the Velvet Underground song "Rock & Roll,” and he goes, "That’s really cool — we gotta do what we can to get these kids into something weird.” Fuckin’ A we do.