Tankcrimes Brainsqueeze II, Oakland, CA, 18/04 - 20/04/2014

Squeeze my brain, till the juice pours out my skull...

For those of you who aren't knowin', Tankcrimes is a homegrown label oozing from Oakland. Home to all manner of punk, crust, grind, death, and other assorted dealers of heavy, Tankcrimes took it upon themselves to take over their home city for three nights of bands, booze, and chronic whiplash. What was this strange happening, you might ask? This was Brainsqueeze. Following warmed-over on the heels of its 2010 inauguration (I kid, I kid!), this year's event was slated to squeeze brains even harder than the first time. And that it did. Boasting an official line-up of fourteen bands, with a few surprise guests thrown in for good measure, there was something on offer for every little cretin. 

Things kicked off at perennial locus of all things dirty and scowling, the Oakland Metro Operahouse. Iron Reagan brought the goods in the form of an improbably long set list delivered in record time. Frenetic crossover hardcore at its absolute funnest. On the punk end of things, crusty doomsayers Final Conflict whipped 'em up to a froth with their own brand of apocalyptic hardcore, while Fucktard had some fun with such choice tracks as Fist Fuck the Pope. BAT, meanwhile, charged through some punkified rock-n'-roll, and came through with one of the most gleefully cool band logos in some time. Ending the night with style, the one-two combo of Cannabis Corpse and Ghoul provided an air of down-n'-smoky theatre to the whole affair, which more or less carried through the entirety of the 'Squeeze. Makes sense that these guys just shared a split on Tankcrimes, aptly titled SplatterHash. For serious, guys, if you've never watched Cannabis Corpse rip through a set of their bongwater-filtered take on death and thrash - well, as the internet sez, yer doin' it wrong. Meanwhile, the Burlap'd Ones in Ghoul provided a raucous and ghastly night cap.

For those who hadn't had enough on night one (or were too dazed by the onslaught to know any better), Night Two was a more than adequate sequel. Conquest for Death warmed the cockles of many a listener with boots firmly planted in both metal and punk, with a trans-Pacific membership that showed the cross-cultural bonds that so often form around angry music. Kicker was up next, with some truly snotty Oi! punk that proved that age ain't nuthin' but… well, you get the picture. The Shrine, meanwhile, blessed off to Rifflandia and, from where I was standing, made a few new female fans that night. And Impaled! I think there's a blast-beat quota that I need to meet each week to remain a functional human, and boy did these guys bring it. And with Ross Sewage's comedic running commentary, to boot. Lifelong art-punk kids Fucked Up provided a worthy opener for hardcore forebears Negative Approach, themselves led by the indefatigable force of screamer John Bannon. Neon thrashers Municipal Waste, put the kiddies to bed, and from a cursory glance at the t-shirts in the audience, took its rightful place as the closer for the night.

On Sunday, April 20, Tankcrimes posed a simple question: "MORE?!?" To which a legion of musically addicted fans responded with a spirited "GURGLE!" At this point, let's be honest, most of us were sipping on chamomile tea to numb the vocal chords we'd shredded in the two nights preceding. So there, gathered in the storied blues-roadhouse environs of Eli's Mile High Club, on the hallowed day of all things Weedian, we saw this thing through. Connoisseur, self-proclaimed bringers of the Oaksterdam Stonerviolence, worked up a brooding cloud of short-n-sour grindcore, with unmistakeable elements of hotboxed doom thrown in for good measure. Next up was Deny the Cross, a supergroup of sorts with a simply stated purpose: "We are Deny the Cross. We play powerviolence." Noted, sirs. The shout-out to Pushead was a nice touch, too. And, I suppose, when a brain's been squeezed long enough, it needs some lubrication other than shitty beer, right? That's where Brainoil stepped in. (Yes, I worked very hard for that segue). With unapologetic inspiration squarely in the Eyehategod camp, the Oilers took to the stage and ripped the place a new one. Finally, FINALLY sated, I limped back to my train station and headed home. I hear there may have been a surprise guest at the end of this final evening, but a man has to sleep sometime. I settle for the co-opted adage, "Sleep when you're half-dead," and I did just that. Still de-compressing from the squeeze now.