It has been 14 years since Swedish hardcore punks, Refused played together, so it was no surprise when the announced a reunion tour, tickets sold out by the time most dialled the first three digits to place their order. The ones who seemed most surprised by the scramble was the band, whose bewilderment of the contrast to their former poor reception last gig in 1998, preformed to 45 people in a friend’s basement in Harrisonburg, Virginia seemed humbling in the face of waves of admiring hardcore kids.
Having been described as playing New York City hardcore by Swedish papers and drawn influence from the cities musical styling, regardless of lack of street smarts and their snappy dress in opposition to the tough guy look, it could be said that on this tour, NYC was the place they should be seen. Playing shows at Terminal 5 on the 22nd (with Cerebral Ballzy) and 23rd (with Ceremony), I was not only fortunate enough to be in town, but managed to snag a ticket from a friend for the 22nd.
Through a pilgrimage what felt like near torrential rains, not to mention standing in line outside Terminal 5 under the stream to gain entry even once Cerebral Ballzy was well underway, it was hard to tell by the end of the first track whether it was rain water or human sweat being swapped through the sandwiched layers of human torsos and pulsating peripheral extremities. Singer, Dennis Lyxzén was on that night; Dancing and throwing his body around to every corner of the stage. Making his way out into the crowd at one point brought the energy of to music into the pit with such a convergence that the friction of the moshing and the music may have ignited if you reached up to touch him. The entire band just lit up the stage with energy. Guitarist Jon Brännström and guitarist/bassist Kristofer Steen blew up the speakers as David Sandström’s radical drum beats veered the push to shove.
The entire show was short in comparison to your average line-up; only one opener, who started right on time (an unlikely virtue in punk music). No covers or encores; just a solid set with no pause to re-claim a standing space in the pit. I became accustomed to my disposition. Generally suspended on a slant or with my entire body hovering forward, back arched and contorted between the forms of those of different heights. Cheeks pressed between shoulders and pursed out like munchkins, this show was worth every penny. If Refused is heading to a city near you, get out your life vest or you may just drown in a wave of nostalgic fan, lyrical vocalizations. Every word, even more prevalent today than the day it was written. Punk’s not fucking dead and neither is Refused.