Negative Approach are one of the earliest and most influential bands in the history of hardcore. On January 30th, they returned to the very neighborhood they cut their teeth on in Detroit way back in 1981.
This was a free show that took place at Jack White’s Third Man Records in the Cass Corridor of Detroit to kick off Third Man’s live music series. The bill consisted of the aforementioned Negative Approach, and local country act, the Craig Brown Band.
The Craig Brown Band kicked off the show to a relatively lukewarm response. This is not necessarily attributed to their talent, which they definitely had, but rather to the awkwardness of the band existing in a very different world. While they fit the brand of Third Man Records with their bluesy/country rock sound, they definitely did not fit the aesthetic or sound of Negative Approach, which the crowd was unanimously there for. I’m all for mixing genres and broadening horizons, but there was an extremely limited amount of crossover appeal between NA and Craig Brown, if there was any at all There were a couple hecklers, but the crowd was generally polite, albeit a little bit bored. The band was playfully self aware of the circumstances and I applaud them for having some fun with it. Their set was still genuinely well played, but as someone that is not too well versed in country music, it was hard for me to get into them.
Time to get down to business, there were 250 people, young and old, packed like sardines into this record store to see Negative Approach play a hometown gig to remind everyone what Detroit hardcore is all about.
From the moment they took the stage, it was clear that Negative Approach are not just a legacy act, but still a force to be reckoned with in hardcore. This was the kind of show that all hardcore shows should aspire to be: rough, rowdy, and brotherly. The band powered through a good amount of their discography and the crowd was receptive to all of it. Everyone shouted along, and the most pit wouldn’t quit.
Vocalist John Brennan came through with the banter that made every fan feel right at home amidst his trademarked “Check it out,” declarations and reminding everyone just where they were when he said “I don’t know what this Midtown bullshit is, this the fucking Cass Corridor and always has been, man. Cass Corridor: learn it, love it, live it.”
The interesting spin to NA’s set was the inclusion of not just their original drummer, but all 3 drummers that ever played with the band. While it did break up the momentum of the hard, fast-paced set that was going on up until then, it was still a really cool event that was a great way to celebrate the legacy of the band.
Like I said, this set was rough, rowdy, and brotherly. I’d like to point out that the venue did not get destroyed (as some expected) and no one got hurt. It was great that the show was able to be as rowdy as it got – and believe me, I still have bruises and my ears are still ringing – but everyone took care of each other to ensure that the wild good time wasn’t ruined. That is what hardcore is about, protecting your own while still maintaining a level of wilding out to air out your grievances of your everyday life.
If you ever get the chance to see Negative Approach, whether in Detroit, or anywhere they play, make sure you do. Check it out, these dudes are the architects of almost any hardcore band that’s worth hearing today. Take some time to really appreciate a true classic in these hardcore legends. Thanks to Third Man Records as well. I’ll admit I was skeptical about the venue, but I appreciate the props they gave to have the band perform where they started and for being cool to the fans that came out to get a little wild. (Johnny Athey)