Code Orange Kids at DC9

Code Orange Kids, the hardcore band from Pittsburgh, perform at DC9. Photo: Code Orange Kids

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2013 —At some point in the near future, the members of Code Orange Kids might actually regret choosing their band name. Right now, though, it feels like it’s on target. The main reason seems obvious after seeing their recent show at DC9 or even knowing a little about their history. The band, generally speaking, are still just kids at this point, being only a few years removed from their high school days. That fact works in their favor quite a bit.

If anyone happens to be curious as to what hardcore sounded like before the genre started adding in allegedly melodic elements in the early ‘00s, Code Orange Kids’ set is a close example of what that period was like. The band adds elements of metal – blackness, death, doom, whatever you want to call it – but their core musical thesis is that of a hardcore band. They’re able to capture the immediacy, urgency, and general brutality of hardcore back in the era when it first noticeably split from its original punk roots.

Youthful exuberance isn’t usually associated with acts that play hardcore with slight touches of darker metal. But then it’s that kind of spirit that allows Code Orange Kids to do what they do. It takes a surprising amount of energy to be a hardcore band of any type. Most hardcore bands have a few good years in them before they turn into something else. Either they burn out or turn into something different altogether. In either case, they stop bringing the same kind of intensity to their shows and music, losing a piece of themselves in the process.

This illustrates a couple of things. Most of these bands started playing around the same time in their lives as Code Orange Kids, but didn’t actually make a name for themselves until much later down the line, or at least not on the same scale. Code Orange Kids seem to have skipped the learning curve, moving directly to the sweet spot where they’re most likely to gain the advantage of their considerable on-stage energy.

They’ve already toured with some pretty big names in the punk/metal circuit. This tour in particular saw them playing with Anti Flag on their 20th Anniversary tour. At least in some part, that’s pure luck. But it also speak volumes as to how far along in their development they really are. It takes more than just talent to get noticed today. But the high-level competence Code Orange Kids show on stage makes it pretty easy to see why they’re getting this kind of attention.

Code Orange Kids’ set is an intense affair, and it gives the audience the impression that they’ve been playing together for a while now, despite their age. It’s not simply that they play hard and (for the most part) fast. It’s also because there is an actual purpose to what they’re playing as well. It’s one thing to play with skill. But that doesn’t a thing if a band has no idea where it’s trying to go. Code Orange Kids have a distinct agenda with each of their songs.

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Primarily, Code Orange Kids are downright economical in every aspect of their set. Their songs are like quick, intense bursts of skillfully crafted noise. At their best they blister the audience with bludgeoning riffs.

Added to this, the alternating vocals shifting among guitarists Reba Meyers, Eric Balderose, and drummer Jami Morgan constantly reshape the focus of their sonic assault. They even manage an occasional shift in gears, slowing down to showcase Joe Goldman on bass, chugging along with him before they pick things back up again. They even surprise the crowd, adding a sense of doom when they suddenly come to a nearly full stop, with only Meyers’ haunting, almost ghostly vocals floating through unnervingly quite breaks in the assault.

It’s somewhat surprising but altogether refreshing to see a young band like Code Orange Kids put together as confident a set as they did at DC9. With the kind of intensity they play with now, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them burn out like so many who have gone before them. But they seem to be proving now that they have the wherewithal to shine brightly for however long they choose to pursue their current level of originality and excellence.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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