Golden West Café Dec. 2 at 10 p.m. with the Piltdown Men and Chernobyl Kids.
For more information visit goldenwestcafe.com.
A Daybreak show only took about 15 minutes. For three years, from 1997 to 2000, you could find the five-piece in various rock clubs, punk holes, and wherever in between making a kind of anti-music known as powerviolence: minute-and-a-half-songs of hyper-aggressive torched wailing, blast beats, and grinding guitar, all mixed up with some actual songcraft in a sense of music a civilian might recognize. Or at least music a listener steeped in the region’s more common screamo/hardcore strains or chain-wallet rock bands might recognize. Which is the company Daybreak mainly kept in its precarious lifetime; there wasn’t anything much like it, and maybe there still isn’t.
Most of the Daybreak membership went on afterward to occupy various places in local (and beyond) heavy-music-dom. Guitarist Blake Harrison plays electronics/power tools with Virginia grindcore titan Pig Destroyer; vocalist Tony Pence runs Baltimore’s punk and metal go-to record shop Celebrated Summer; drummer Eric Fauver and guitarist Chris Camden went on to indie-rock notable Liars Academy; Fauver currently does time in crust-metal band Final Conflict. (Bassist Keeve, who prefers to keep his last name omitted and now sports a doctorate and professional job in science work, is a perfect Daybreak odd man out.) Indeed, those 15-minute shows that paved the way for a lot of key sounds in Baltimore and beyond, creating a new heavy-music scene around them. At the same time, and maybe just as vitally, Daybreak got something very particular about combustibility in the land of punk dead-on.
Put another way, you don’t pursue a band like Daybreak as any sort of career or to “break out” or anything like that. It’s more a thing that happens, like a storm or grass fire. And then it’s over and everyone looks a bit shocked and cleans up. With the band members crowded around an office in a Remington recording studio recently, the question comes up as to whether there was ever a point in the band’s span that it seemed like maybe, just maybe, it could keep going forever, like, in the sense of a music career. “There was a time where I felt like I wanted to hold onto it,” Pence answers. “It was my first band [and] I wasn’t sure I would ever be in a band again. Ironically, I was the one that broke it up.”
Next week, after 10 years apart, Daybreak is playing a show again. It’s a benefit for a mutual friend battling cancer. “There’s never been a time [since Daybreak broke up] with all of us in the same room,” Pence laughs. “I would have seriously taken a photograph.” Harrison says he was surprised everyone agreed to do it, but band members, one after another, kept saying yes.
Talking to the different members of Daybreak, a sort of dissonance arises. “Three records, a little mini-tour. For a band that started as a joke outside of a Man or Astro-man show?” Pence asks with some incredulousness. Harrison and other members balk at the “joke” tag. “I wouldn’t say joke, just anti-everything—Hatebeak is a joke,” Harrison says, referring to his own more recent parrot-starring grindcore band. (Yes, a parrot is Hatebeak’s vocalist. Check it out. Said parrot’s also been known to pen album previews on Decibel magazine’s blog.)
“It wasn’t just getting up there and totally shitting out stupid noise,” Pence quickly concurs. Noisy, yes, but shat out or stupid, no. Local music back then didn’t really have a slot for grindcore, powerviolence, or what’s only recently come to be known as noisecore. The big names in heaviness were Meatjack, Compression, Next Step Up, and Torn Apart. “All those bands are either, like, straight-up hardcore bands or, like, Metallica-metal bands,” Pence says. Nothing quite like the full-on all-in-a-name powerviolence. Pence recalls, also somewhat incredulously, the band once getting paid $250 to play for eight minutes at Meatjack’s performance space/house.
The eventual end of Daybreak should be a classic story in the history of punk band implosions. Asked how it ended, everyone laughs at first, and the question falls to Pence. “Eric stole my girlfriend,” he says. “I hung in there for six to eight months—they lived together in the place we practiced. We were playing a show at the old Ottobar [on Davis Street], and I was just playing and I was just really feeling the hate. I took this beer bottle that was just sitting there, and I threw it as hard as I fucking could at Eric’s head.
“I missed, thankfully,” Pence continues. “It just shattered behind him. He didn’t even notice or care. [But] I realized at that point it was a bad idea to be in a band.” He notes also that the two have been close friends ever since, adding, “That band should have ended anyway.”