"Truthfully, we did this to document a scene that we thought was going to be extinct in 20 years," states Youth of Today/Shelter frontman Ray Cappo, who co-founded Revelation Records 25 years ago in New Haven, Ct. with his friend Jordan Cooper. "Warzone was breaking up and I thought 'this is such a cool band, we need to document it. Then we ended up putting out a few other records and then realized we could put out our own records. I never thought any of this would happen."
The fact that the four-night celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Revelation Records at the Glasshouse in Pomona, Calif. (it happened June 7-10) is a sold-out event isn't lost on Cappo. Fans of the label have flown in points as far as Russia to be part of the celebration. While still-active Revelation heavyweights, Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today are headlining three of the nights, there's going to be a clutch of bands playing that haven't stepped into a practice space together in years.
The sidewalk in front of the venue might as well be a class reunion. There's jokes about the "Youth Crew not being quite so youthful these days: jabs about a few extra pounds, children and perhaps some grey hairs creeping in (the word "silver foxes" being bandied about). Still, the significance of the label (now located in Huntington Beach, Calif.) and its 25 year tenure isn't lost on anyone.
Of course, there are plenty of fresh faces milling about ready to grab their authentic Chain of Strength shirts from the Revelation merchandise booth.
Watch Youth of Today at Revelation Records Anniversary Show
H2O frontman Toby Morse, who has shown up early to the Friday evening edition of the festival with his wife and son, hasn't merely been a fan of the bands on the label: has also taken part of Revelation's history as a roadie for Sick of it All and Gorilla Biscuits.
Says Morse: "Starting from the Lower East Side Crew 7" by Warzone, Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Judge. All those records represent a time in my life. They put out important records, life changing records, inspirational records. Revelation Records was the hardcore label. It was the label that put out the best records. Those records had a certain sound and look to them. (Revelation) had a huge impact on my life and my band."
Revelation's roster reads like a who's-who of hardcore, post-hardcore with the odd venture into eclectic territory. Yes, they can lay claim to having a band called Slipknot first. Not that Slipknot, however. Imagine how fast tickets would have flown if the misleadingly monicker-ed Connecticut band (Rev013) was on the festival lineup
Festival organizer Chris Lisk: "I wanted to do one last List-Fest (Chris' semi-annual Hardcore festival) with Gorilla Biscuits headlining so I emailed Jordan who said that next year was going to be the 25th anniversary of Revelation. I said, OK, ' Fuck my fest I'm going to work on that.' Jordan said, 'OK, we were going to have a pizza party and I said no, we're going to have a rager'. So here we are. Four sold out nights at the Glasshouse." Revelation's Cooper denies the Pizza Party allegation. He did have slightly bigger plans in mind.
There are a few obvious omissions from the proceedings. It makes sense that Zach De La Rocha, the reclusive Rage Against the Machine frontman wouldn't be reforming his early '90s hardcore outfit, Inside Out. However, the likes of California's Chain of Strength, New York's Judge, Burn and Texas is the Reason wouldn't be part of the weekend for one reason or another. "A lot of the bands that did play were the springboard for Revelation," states Cooper. "They existed before the label started. I think we got almost everyone who helped build the label." On the other hand, Shai Halud weren't about to let the absence of former and New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert, who was supposed to be on hand, stop them from opening the Friday and Sunday shows. They did it with another singer: Hundredth vocalist Chad Johnson.
Watch Shai Hulud at Revelation Records Anniversary Show
When the Friday, Saturday and Sunday dates sold out in the space of a day, a Thursday show was added that showcased some of the more musically diverse bands from the label's history. Kiss It Goodbye opened the festival on the heaviest note of all four days. Formed from the likes of Deadguy and Rorschach, the Seattle band, along with fellow Revelation alumni Will Haven, is one of the key influences on modern metalcore. With a lineup comprised of vocalist Tim Singer and bassist Thom Rusnack from the classic She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not line-up, Kiss It Goodbye are still absolutely lethal.
The reunited Sense Field sound enormous: they're R.E.M. gone hardcore with Jon Bunch's incredible voice making it sound like no time has passed since they fizzled quietly in major label land. The stunning Killed for Less album is delivered with an unexpected passion from the five unassuming (and slightly aged) musicians onstage. According to Bunch (who also has the distinction of being Further Seems Forever's final vocalist), the door is now open to more shows with no plans to record in sight.
Into Another reemerged from a decade-long hibernation to a sold-out room. Their alchemic blend of post hardcore and progressive rock, gone since 2002 and the death of bassist Tony Bono, sounded spot-on and relevant still. "This time around we're really into System of a Down, Coheed and Cambria. We're really into Incubus," jokes drummer Drew Thomas. 'We've learned a lot from those guys and really want to take it to the next level. I'm hoping that all the dudes that were influenced by us will invite us over and let us drive their cars!"
Watch Into Another at Revelation Records Anniversary Show
Over the course of the four nights, there are quite a few reunions and rare appearances. Some of them are great and some of them aren't. Underdog, who haven't been to the West Coast in years adeptly juggle bits of old school hardcore, dub and their own gravelly NYC sound. On the other hand, California's Statue and Gameface plus New Yorkers Supertouch put in appearances but failed to make much of a stir. Bold, who have played a bit during the past few years only came alive when playing songs from their time as testy teenagers who went under the nom de plum of Crippled Youth.
"I didn't want to do it at first," states "Sweet" Pete Mahern, vocalist for Boston straight-edgers, In My Eyes who reformed specifically for these shows. "But, I realized that it's bigger than me. It's a celebration of a label that we really important to me and kids cared about seeing us so here we are."
There's even one legacy taking its final bow. Vocalist Dan OMahoney states it clearly that this weekend will very likely be No for An Answer's last shows for quite some time if not ever. It's hardly a funeral as the now-burly men charge through favorites from their A Thought Crusade album and their Revelation EP, You Laugh. They also had the best banner of the show.
With Zoli Teglas on leave for the evening from his day-gig in Pennywise, Ignite continue to remind the crowd Revelation's mark on modern day melodic hardcore. Teglas and stalwart bassist Brett Rasmussen belt through a set that stretches back to the likes of "Ash Return" while powering through the more recent likes of "Bleeding". Zoli is such a powerful singer with a band so on their mark, they make it look easy.
Sick of it All were faced with the dilemma of pledging their allegiance to Revelation who released their debut 7" in 1987 by simply playing that record back to front or charging through a set of anthems that have made them hardcore's veteran superstars. They opted for the career-sweeping set of anthems, "We were worried it was going to be a big nostalgia trip but luckily people wanted to hear everything," says frontman Lou Koller. It really doesn't matter what they play. We just know that we'll continue to love Sick of it All regardless.
Still a true performer, Ray Cappo also remains Revelation's inspirational speaker – hardcore's Tony Robbins, involving the crowd with every song the band plays. Youth of Today's Friday night set (which was comprise of the Can't Close My Eyes EP and the Break Down the Walls LP plus covers of Minor Threat's "Minor Threat and SSD's "Glue) far from set the room on fire. Saturday (primarily the We're Not In This Alone album) was a different story. With Underdog's Richie Birkenhead on guitar, Into Another's Drew on drums and Sick of it All's Craig Setari on bass for "Break Down The Walls" Youth of Today embodied the spirit of the weekend. "It was so cool to see all of those guys again," says guitarist John Porcell the next day. "There's this bond there – like all of us coming back from the military. We all survived and there's an unspoken vibe between all of us."
Before Sick of it All played Saturday night, Ray Cappo takes the stage to pay tribute to Warzone's long-passed frontman Raybeez. A video is played that tells the tale of Warzone and Revelation. Through interviews with Jordan and former guitarist Todd Youth amongst others we find out about Warzone going straight edge; how the covers to the Lower East Side Crew7" were printed at Jordan Cooper's school. It's a "Founding Fathers'" treatment. If that wasn't enough, Sick of it All bust out a cover of Warzone's "As One" during their Saturday night set. The 'Beez is definitely up there smiling.
Gorilla Biscuits' Start Today isn't merely Revelation's biggest seller. It's also the best album released in the label's 25 years. Over the course of three sets on Friday and Sunday, it's plain to see why. Two trombone players sound the call and the band explodes into "New Direction". It doesn't matter that the band is largely into its forties. They play with every bit the sincerity they had when they were youngsters from Queens, N.Y. The one-and-only Anthony "Civ" Civorelli himself is the perfect frontman. Civ sells it like nobody's business while making every person in the packed-to-the-gills Glasshouse smile as he kids around with reed-thin bassist Arthur when the tall, lanky bassist goes shirtless. Tighter and slightly more poised than they were "back in the day", Gorilla Biscuits have joined the likes of The Descendents or Bad Religion as beloved veterans.
"It's getting to be Groundhog Day!" laughs guitarist Alex Brown on Sunday, the third night of GB's three night "residency". You can't help but wonder what it is that's given the band such staying power.
"Who knows?" says Brown. "It represents a time and a place and Walter (Scheiffels) wrote some great songs. How do you put your finger on it? It's totally intangible stuff. It's the mix of personalities in the band. It's the studios it was recorded at. It was the context with which that album came out. It came out of a really hard scene with bands like Agnostic Front. That record was a lot smoother more positive that some of the stuff that was going on around us."
A new Gorilla Biscuits record isn't in the cards – now and probably never. The band built its "comeback" through playing strategically and giving the fans what they want. Just play the hits. "It's rare that we've had bad shows," says Alex "We're totally spoiled. We played recently in Belgium at the Groezock festival. That was a real rock n roll moment to play in front of 7 or 8 thousand people and have it be basically a riot for an hour"
The worst kept secret and the most anticipated moment of the weekend: the first appearance of New York's Post-Hardcore heroes, Quicksand since an ill-fated tour with the Deftones in 1998. Place this mere five song set in the same category as Refused's reunion earlier this year; let's make no bones about how it decimates At the Drive In's weak comeback attempt at Coachella. Quicksand couldn't have been anymore dead-on during their four-song set. From the first chord of "Fazer" it all sounded vital as ever. All four members: Walter Schrieffels, drummer Alan Cage, bassist Sergio Vega and guitarist Tom Capone were playing like no time had passed whatsoever. In comparison to his other post-Quicksand endeavors: Rival Schools and Walking Concert.
"I feels like it was in the when we did the first 7"," says guitarist Tom Capone the afternoon before the all-too-brief show. "Were the same people but we're in a different place so we're trying to be a lot more respectful of each other. I never expected this to happen.
"This almost feels like a closure because we left off kind of weird with each other when we broke up but it also feels like a new beginning."
Three songs in, Walter steps to the microphone to talk to the crowd. He starts talking about Hardcore as a metaphor for life. Some of it makes perfect sense and some it doesn't. The crowd is hanging on his every word.
"Omission", "Dine Alone" and the band's cover of The Smiths "How Soon Is Now" are a reminder of how powerful Quicksand can be and what the future can bring.
Watch Quicksand at Revelation Records Anniversary Show
The plan now is to bring the Revelation Anniversary Shows east later in the year. There has been talk of doing it in Chicago as well. At the end of the four days, Youth of Today's Porcell can't help but feel a bit overwhelmed.
"What's shocking to me is that 25 years later people give a shit.," says Porcell. "Back then if you had asked me if it was going to last beyond 1989, we would have said, 'What are you talking about?' We're going to be working in some business by then, making our fortune - which didn't really happen. It's humbling and flattering."
Revelation Records will be throwing another anniversary bash from Oct. 11-14 in NYC at Irving Plaza. Head over to www.RevelationRecords.com for more information.