2008, a crazy year for live music in New York City. So many memorable shows, so much energy. Fueling this notion as a key player was the mighty Absolution. After 20 years, Gavin and Djinji brought their legendary 80’s hardcore outfit back to the stage. For me these were probably the most highly anticipated shows since Underdog destroyed at CBGB’s back in 2006. Luckily Absolution did the very same at the Knitting Factory. Ripping through their back catalog like it was still 1988, they nothing short of killed it. (((unartig))) is proud to present footage from both the August and December shows as well as an outstanding recollection from Djinji Brown, singer for Absolution. Enjoy!
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by Djinji Brown
2008 was a year of full circles for me. Just look at the numbers involved, 2 zeroes and 1 eight which is in essence two zeroes or two circles stacked. Absolution came back to perform after 19 years, and almost 20 years to the exact date of a legendary day in NYC/ L.E.S. hardcore history. So although Absolution formed in 87′ and broke up in 89′ im going to focus on the 20 year year gap of 1988 to 2008 the night of August 13th 1988 at the Tompkins Square Park Bandshell, and August 15th 2008 at The Knitting Factory. First off see them circles in both years, both years have 4 circles, four complete 360 degree ciphers. Ciphers are circles of unbreakable strength containing 360 degrees of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. No, I’m not a member of The Five Percent Nation, yet in this particular circumstance as I sit down to write this re-cap of Absolution’s revival this is the stream of consciousness that just hit me, and that’s always how I wrote the lyrics for Absolution.
1988 was an incredible year for NYHC. I was 18 years old and to be 18 years old and in a NYHC band was something special. 1988 was an incredible year for NYC underground/ street youth culture in general and thats a whole other story. Everything found its way into everything, we all felt complete, we all felt like we had the necessary knowledge to be leaders of the world if only given the chance, we all felt like we had the understanding of how fucked up society was and we all felt like we had enough street wisdom to be in the struggle and come out survivors. From Hip-Hop to Hardcore we shared these sentiments in so many ways, and maybe that’s why NYC in 88′ was such a melting pot of creative ideas and the L.E.S. was a place where a lot of these ideas came together,and some even clashed. Summer 88′ we played at Tompkins as part of a “Stand Up against gentrification” type of rally. A lot of people in and around Tompkins Sq. were being displaced (again) due to the new influx of Yuppies ( 80’s term LOL) and we all know the story about the ensuing riots. Well, about a week after that day long rebellous musical event … BOOM the Tompkins Sq. Park Riot of 1988 happened. It was crazy and for SURE the background music to that historical event was Punk Rock and NYHC. Songs like “Victim in Pain”, “World Peace”, ” Riot Squad”, “Armed with Anger” came into my mind and damn near every hardcore song ever written came to reality that night. Ironically I watched the riots with my girlfriend at the time who was about 9 years older than me. We tripped on Mushrooms and ate Ice Cream from Ray’s on 7th and A. We ate ice cream, and kissed in the park while walking her dog tripping on mushrooms in the middle of a riot. Summer 88′ was crazy, we had our LES version of “Do The Right Thing” about a year before Spike Lee’s movie came out, but point being that was the climate of NYC in that time, in many neighborhoods and with many different outcomes. The music of 1988 NYHC had all of those elements inside. Absolution was a part of something much bigger than our band and it took me 20 years to fully recognize that. In the same breath I never knew how much of a lasting influence Absolution would have and I had no idea that our music would be as welcomed now as it was then. I had no idea we were a part of such an important legacy in Rock Music History. NEW YORK HARDCORE was born of Punk etc…but was and is ITS OWN THING. The 80’s is where HARDCORE came to life, the mid to late 70’s brought us Punk, and by the 80’s HARDCORE was its own FUCKING BEAST!!! By the late 80’s The NYHC sound was a sonic TATTOO inked forever in the minds and hearts of us all. It took me 19 years to feel that again, and on Aug 15th 2008 at the Knitting Factory NYC, Absolution played our biggest and most highly anticipated show.
It was the first time we headlined, and I must admit it felt natural to do so. One thing is that Absolution was never afraid of the stage, stage fright wasn’t in our vocabulary not then and not now. We always dreamed of headlining a major NYC venue, we never talked about Europe, South America, Japan back then none of us did! HARDCORE KIDS didn’t want to be rock stars we fucking hated the image of rock stars and what they stood for. Usually Rock Stars didn’t stand for shit, not then and not now and thats why we were punk and hardcore. We were the antithesis of Rock Stars the complete opposite. We stood for things, social change, politics, even the freedom to get as high and fucked up as possible without being judged for it ( I just contradicted myself, rock stars stood for that too so we did have that in common LOL). We didn’t want to be rich from our music, we just wanted to play for people, our people. We didn’t even talk too much about touring the US. In 88′ we only cared about the East Coast and only a few cities like Boston and D.C. I mean being from NYC the talent level was so off the charts, we were operating on that Old Blue Eyes mantra of ” If I can make it here I can make it anywhere…NEW YORK” In 88′ it was about rocking LIVE!!!!!! Your band had to be the illest on stage, and the competition was fierce!
So when we stepped on stage at the Knitting Factory after 19 years all to say it was a dream come true. For me especially because, Absolution was and will most likely be the only hardcore band that I will ever be in. Both Gavin and Sergio went on become MAJOR MUSICAL FORCES in NYHC with their bands Burn and QuickSand. They played, toured and headlined so many sold out shows in the 90’s its crazy!!!! They were and still are MAJOR MUSICAL FORCES. Sergio and Gavin in their careers have influenced so much and so many, Im so proud of them both. !!! I went on to Hip Hop and flipped the script per se, but not really, remember I was from the Bronx and into Hip-Hop before The LES and NYHC. I guess those full circles have always been a theme.
So to reiterate, the KF gig was a dream come true for me and it felt so right to be up there again with Gavin, Sergio and this time Doug Mackinnon. Doug was a big part in getting me to do the gigs in the first place. Both he and John Joseph were the final motivating factors to finally get my head into performing again NYHC style. Again, thats a story in itself. Long story short, I moved to Miami in 2004 and around 2007 I got a request on Myspace from a Miami Hardcore band called “La Vieja Guardia”. The drummer Doug wanted my permission to cover “Neverending Game” as his band was gonna open up for “Sick Of It All” here in Miami. I said sure, he asked me if I would want to get on stage or maybe come to a rehearsal, and I politely declined due to my busy DJ schedule at the time. Little did I know what the forces of nature had in store for me. April 1st ( April Fool’s Day) 2008 Jon Joseph performed in Miami at a South Beach bar called
Love Hate owned by the Miami Ink brothers. It was a Cro-Mag Jam with Jon on vocals and Doug on drums. Doug played that Cro-Mag set flawlessly, and Jon as you know is Jon…Always on fire!! The next day Jon called me up and was like…” you need to do Absolution again, etc…..Im playing again down here on May 30th (2008) get your band together and this brother Doug will help you, he’s family”
Well there’s more to the story and im kinda para phrasing Jon, but yall get the drift. April Fools Day 2008 featuring Jon Joseph, Doug Mackinnon and me. So actually Absolution’s first revival happened May 30th 2008 in Miami at Churchill’s. We opened up for the Cro-Mag Jam, with Jon and Mackie and musicians from Doug’s band LVG..A DREAM COME TRUE!! After 20 + years!!!
The KF gig in Aug was nothing short of amazing, seeing all those people after so many years was mind blowing. To have my 12 year old daughter, Sergio’s 17 year old daughter and Gavin’s 19 year old son in attendance really blew my mind. Playing those songs was like getting back on a bike. We hit a couple of bumps in the road but we never fell off the bike. Those Absolution songs demand a lot of work and energy to play and it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard either. A labor of love is just that. The energy in the place was electrifying and the love and happiness that was in attendance was countless in a sold out crowd. Never before had I played to a sold out crowd in NYC. After all these years of engineering, producing, performing and dj’ing in Hip-Hop, and House Music, it was returning to the NYHC stage that seemed to set my spirit free in ways I hadn’t felt in years. The December show, well I’ll say this….It was so true to the old school I really felt like it was the late 80’s again and Absolution was performing again for the first few times. Full Circle baby!!!
The KF was damn near empty, only our family, friends and die hards braved the cold NYC night!! It was freezing outside in anticipation of a blizzard and our only intention was to HEAT up the spot full blast!! This time the set was flawless no bumps on the road!!! It was a night to remember!!! Thank you Torsten for capturing these moments for us all to enjoy for years to come.
Absolution NYC 1987-1989 | 2008-?
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Djinji Brown: Vocals
Gavin Van Vlack (Die 116 | Side By Side | Burn): Guitar
Sergio Vega (Quicksand): Bass
Doug MacKinnon ( La Vieja Guardia | Guajiro): Drums