Sick of It All @ Bottom of the Hill, 07 November, 2001

Sick of It All has held a special place in my heart ever since I first saw them at the Anthrax in Norwalk, Connecticut back in '88.

Sick of It All's fury-fueled hardcore appealed to me and a whole generation of pissed-off suburban kids. We'd been raised on bad metal and were looking for something better, something realer, something relevant. Cheesy metal bands were either singing about girls or swords and sorcery, and I had about as much experience with the former as I did with the latter. Enter New York Hardcore.

We could debate endlessly its lineage, whether it began with the Cro-Mags or Agnostic Front or somebody else, but it all began when someone took heavy metal chocolate and slammed it into punk rock peanut butter. Two great tastes, as it turned out, that taste great together.

The bands that followed, like Youth of Today, Warzone, Sick of It All, Raw Deal, Gorilla Biscuits and others, managed to combine punk-rock personal politics with metal-style crunch to amazing effect. I was hooked.

And 14 years later, SOIA are the last of that dying breed. Now I'll be the first to admit they haven't released a relevant album since 1995's near-perfect "Scratch the Surface," but they happen to be one of the best live acts ever. The collective effect of Armand's relentless drumming, the Koller brothers' unmatched intensity, and Craig Ahead's all-American charm make for a hell of a show. Lou Koller may also be my favorite frontman of all time; not only for his incredible vocals and stage presence, but also for his easy charisma and hilarious New Yawk sense of humor.

Last night, yet again, they delivered. Even after more than a dozen years, Sick of It All is as powerful as ever. So powerful, in fact, that I was compelled to get into the pit — something I haven't done in five years or more. Just like the old days back at the Anthrax, singing along, getting boots the head from stagedivers, and just getting generally pummeled.

The show was captured on tape for posterity, and for a forthcoming live album on Fat Wreck Chords. So if you get a chance to hear it, you may be able to hear me singing along on the choruses of "My Life" and "Scratch the Surface." Or maybe not. Either way, if the live album captures even a fraction of the force of a live Sick of It All show, it'll be well worth your 15 bucks.