Gulch played Saint Vitus – 4/30

West coast hardcore luminaries Gulch played the second of two nights at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus over the weekend during their final run of shows, joined by semi-locals The Fight, Combust and Exhibition.

I’m the first to admit I’m no connoisseur of hardcore. I enjoy a good brutalizing, sub-20-minute record now and again, but it takes a band with something special in that sphere to really get me on board. If you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you that Bay Area wrecking crew Gulch was one of those bands.

Their entire recorded output – a storm of serrated riffs and feral vocals blurring the lines of hardcore and extreme metal – barely scraped past the half-hour mark, but that was all the band needed to make a lasting statement. Well, that and a notoriously chaotic live show, comically hyped merch drops and an enduring, alluring sense of mystery. One spin or scene report was enough to convince you that Gulch weren’t just any hardcore band, and just about as soon as the wider world got wise to that fact (somewhere around the release of their 2020 full-length Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress), the band’s imminent breakup was already on the horizon.

I’m not sure that Gulch ever played Boston during their brief tenure as a band, but it certainly seemed unlikely that one of the scratched-off dates on their also rather brief final tour poster would be at Hardcore Stadium. I’d been itching to catch their live show from the second I heard them though, and this had to be the time. Sure enough, two nights in NYC at the end of April was the closest I was gonna get, so Saint Vitus it was. This did not feel like the appropriate gig to request a list spot from the label or whatever, so I snapped up a Saturday night ticket from the Vitus website during the ~2 minutes they were on sale and prepared to walk my camera straight onto the battlefield.

When the night finally arrived, it began with the Vitus crew ratcheting up the anticipation just a little bit more by pushing back the set times. Buffalo’s Exhibition were the first of the three greater-NYC-area bands to hit the stage a couple hours after doors opened, and they were quick to shake off that standing-around malaise with a short, punch-in-the-face of a set. Rounded out by Combust and The Fight, the trio of openers each put their own spin on a classic hardcore sound and increasingly wound up a crowd that was ready to knock some heads.

Once Gulch’s set time rolled around, the sold-out room really felt that way, with a formerly roomy pit for moshers to get creative now packed tight. I stepped onto the corner of the stage with the handful of other photographers, video guys and mosh-wary onlookers for fear of a stray kick that would have me out of this game before halftime, and was immediately glad I did. Led by vocalist Elliott Morrow, who had already been stirring things up on the floor during the opening sets, Gulch’s headlining half-hour was a whirlwind of glorious chaos. Your standard-issue flying bodies and streaming stage-divers were present and accounted for, but the guy chugging beer from a boot (at Morrow’s request), what may or may not have been an attempt at fire-breathing in the pit and the stage getting whipped by a belt were all new ones for me.

And the music, of course, sounded immense, with drummer Sammy Ciaramitaro’s kit-brutalizing beat anchoring songs that swung like a barbed-wire baseball bat. I’ve seen plenty of heavy bands and rowdy shows in the last 10 years, but this set really did feel special. Some combination of the room, the crowd and the gravity of this being among Gulch’s final handful of shows made that stage feel like the center of the universe, for a little while at least. Making my way to the bar after it was all over, having narrowly avoided more than a few direct hits and feeling maybe the sweatiest I’ve ever felt immediately after a gig (Why’d I wear jeans? Shut up.), I had to simply feel grateful to be there as an already-legendary band was going out on top.

Scroll down for a ton of photos from the whole night.