From a few feet back, the mosh pit seems lively enough – but apparently not from the stage of the tiny Windmill. “Get the fuck up here and prove yourself, goddamit,” insists Soul Glo frontman Pierce Jordan. The Philadelphia hardcore quartet, making their UK debut in the wake of their stellar debut Diaspora Problems, evidently want to make a mark. And that they do – certainly in heat. Within two songs, the air is heavy with moisture, and drummer TJ Stevenson has stripped to the waist. “Do you think I’m sweating?” he asks the crowd.
“Those are tears,” counters Jordan. “We’re crying from every pore of our bodies.”
Diaspora Problems is a remarkable record for several reasons – for giving voice to Black anger in an overwhelmingly white genre, but also for stepping outside the restrictions of hardcore punk without ever sacrificing its right to be hardcore.
Live, inevitably, the subtleties are flattened. There are no guest raps, Jordan’s words are largely indecipherable, and the whole set – which is only a fraction over half an hour – passes in a blur of reckless energy. The only concessions to the record’s diversity are triggered samples of electronic noise and fragments of speech between songs.
Still, the show thrills. Jordan and guitarist Gianmarco “GG” Guerra are captivating presences. Jordan is part haranguer, part orator, part participant. He stands on top of monitors, a stagediver’s feet in his face, not flinching; he sits at the lip of the stage, daring the moshers to disrespect his space. And his words are ferocious – Soul Glo don’t go in for simple chants; they are a prolix band by anyone’s standards.
The whole thing is utterly compelling – the band are masters of dynamics, and even within the constraints of a two-minute song, they can cycle through different sections and textures and paces, all anchored by foundation-shuddering riffs and Stevenson’s hugely inventive drumming. By the time they finish with a brutal Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?), Soul Glo have done more than enough to suggest they deserve their acclaim.