Those with the foresight to purchase advance tickets were treated to an early Xmas present last Friday, December 17th, when New York’s Citizens Arrest played one of only a handful of reunion shows at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. The sell-out crowd featured the young and old, those from across the country and across the city attending in a tribute to the short-lived, but highly influential late 80s/early 90s New York Hardcore band.
While the oft-sited NYHC initials generally inspires images of 1980s stalwarts such as Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags or straight edge revivalists Youth of Today, Citizens Arrest ushered in their own unique brand of punk. Even though staple elements NYHC are present in most of the their songs (fast rhythms with breakdowns interspersed appropriately, angry vocals with socio-political lyrical content etc), they also added an extra dose of heaviness and speed with bleak and often violent imagery. Along with exceptional bands such as California’s Infest and Boston’s Seige, Citizens Arrest took some of the first steps towards pioneering the grindcore and powerviolence subgenres with only an EP, an LP and a handful of compilation tracks.
Friday night showed the years had not dulled the intensity of their sound or the effectiveness of their performance. The audience responded in-kind with moshing, stage-diving and singing along (this author was sidelined three songs in with a cracked rib). Vocalist Daryl Kahn delivered his terrifying growl seemingly with minimal effort and the casual, even deadpan, expression of one having a conversation on the sidewalk. Newly added second guitar duties were handled by indie-rocker Ted Leo, once an early singer and guitarist of the band. Leo’s long-time foray into poppy indie rock did not faze his approach to the aggressive style of songs he had not been present for the first time around. Opening with fan-favorite Death Threat, the pummeling did not stop until they had exhausted most of their body of work and thrown in SSD, Red C, and Youth of Today covers for good measure.
Rounding out the evening were Boston’s Mind Eraser and A**hole Parade, two bands whose performances were made possible only by the stylistic evolution Citizens Arrest gave rise to. This was not lost on the openers either. Both bands took time between songs to acknowledge the influence of a band that existed for less than three years, but whose net effect is evident (even obvious) in the musical outputs of continuous devotees.
A surprise warm-up gig was played a week prior in Long Island, while the Brooklyn show was followed by two performances in Philadelphia.