Drain Brought Fun, Fury and a Couple Friends to Toronto

Danforth Music Hall, May 22

With Scowl, Terror, End It and Trail of Lies

Photo: Matt Forsythe

BY Marko DjurdjićPublished May 23, 2024

Drain are the epitome of what Exodus were talking about in "Bonded by Blood." Not, like, actually, or whatever, but they are the essence of what that song represents: having fun, staying positive, being one with the music and with your fellow headbangers, and bleeding — both physically and metaphorically — for the bands you love.

Their music, and in particular their live show, is calculated chaos: you can't predict the stage dives, but you can predict the breakdowns and circle pit requests, and both come in hot, heavy and constantly. While Drain might not be every hardcore aficionado's cup of Monster, their crossover brand of party punk has definitely struck a nerve with fans young and old, and this reverence was on full, sweaty display at their show in Toronto Wednesday night.

The proceedings were enthusiastically kicked off by Syracuse's Trail of Lies, whose triumphant return opened a pit during the very first song of the night. Their crushing sound double kicked the half full (then 3/4 full) Danforth Music Hall into submission, even if their blunt brand of straight edge hardcore was overshadowed by some of the more eclectic sounds that followed. Still, it was a very pummeling start to the show, which Trail of Lies no doubt intended.


Baltimore's End It started their set by dissing Drake (respect) before launching into an acapella version of "My Life" by NJ's favourite son, Mr. William Joel. This led right into an incendiary set that ripped through the crowd and saw the bodies start to fly, the first few rows responding with up-stretched arms and throaty singalongs. "That was fucking sick" lead singer Akil Godsey acknowledged after the very first song, before humbly thanking the crowd for their attendance and animated participation. During the second song, he threw his mic into the audience, confident they would know every word. They did. He also requested that the police — as a collective force and as an ideology (probably) — blow him. Meanwhile, the band, without fail, ripped everyone's heads off. It got the people going, and at a hardcore show, that's all that matters.

Scowl, who recently dropped out of two major festivals due to the fests' affiliation with the US Army (much respect) came out to Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon-led ballad, "Little Trouble Girl," which betrayed the torrent of uninhibited noise and aggression that followed. "Retail Hell" received the most rapturous, circle-pitted reaction because duh, work sucks. Their bouncy, driving, and diverse sound — which ranges from full-throttle hardcore to beatdown to practically pop punk — got the crowd both dancing and slamming. Vocalist Kat Moss screamed, stomped and sashayed her way throughout the band's set; unfortunately, there were a few songs where her vocals were repeatedly drowned out by the instruments, which is a shame, since her voice is the bands gnarled, not-so-secret weapon, full of power and rage. Nevertheless, the band was a welcome respite from the general pounding witnessed throughout most of the evening, injecting a much-needed dose of melody halfway through the show.


Terror have been doing the damn thing for over twenty years now, and they're not about to change (or evolve) for anyone, least of all you! The crowd was quickly and mercilessly whipped into a frenzy, and even at 51, vocalist and founding member Scott Vogel can still incite some pretty spectacular (if not slightly performative) violence. Within the first ten or so seconds of the band hitting the stage, bodies started to extend the pit, punching and kicking their way into eternity. Vogel tried to incite the audience to give the security guards something to work for, to get up, but the overall number of crowd surfers was surprisingly low for a big-name hardcore set, no doubt influenced by some of the venues more stringent crowd-control policies (stage diving would result in an immediate ejection, and at $40+ a ticket, no one was risking that for a few seconds of glory). With Terror, if you haven't bought in by now, you probably won't, but the band is unpretentiously dedicated to turning pain into power and uniting the masses through caustic riffs and collective fury. It's a particular brand of unity, one dedicated to positivity and communal enjoyment. At one point, Vogel told the crowd to "embrace the differences," requesting, nay, demanding that they refrain from any "tough guy shit" and take care of each other. Love it. The band exited to the strains of Sinatra's "That's Life," a fitting conclusion to 30 minutes of relentless hardcore. Spin kick into forever, my dudes.

Above a sea of backward five-panels and bucket hats, Drain took the stage to thunderous, insta-mosh applause delivered unto them by a ravenous crowd ready to break it the fuck down. And unsurprisingly, they did (eventually).

In front of a backdrop that read "Drain is not responsible for anything you do in the next 30 minutes" (which also prominently featured their red-cheeked, shark-costume wearing mascot), the band stepped on stage to a hero's welcome. Last year, they played the Opera House, and since then, the band has developed a noticeably larger following, with the floor at the Danforth nearly bursting from the standing attendees and ever-growing pit.


It's incredible to see hardcore acts drawing big crowds and eliciting such a fevered response from an audience, and Drain are clearly dedicated to putting on an exuberant and welcoming live show. When you see them play, it becomes obvious why people love them: they're boisterous and dedicated to the mosh, relying on a throwback approach that's been embraced by both contemporary heavy artists, and their fans (for reference, just look at what's been happening in death metal).

Drain's ever-affable lead singer Sammy Ciaramitaro perma-smiled throughout the set, jumping, running, and generally owning both the stage and the crowd. He's a great frontman, all charisma and righteous sloganeering, hellbent on extolling the virtues of safety, energy and a good time. He was constantly in the crowd and thrust the mic into the faces of his fans for more than half the set. It's all unmistakably punk, and very Californian. Their enormous sound betrays their minimalist set up, with the instrumental side of the band — Cody Chavez on guitar, AJ Hoenings on bass and founding member Tim Flegal on drums — barrelling through song after song, riff after riff, fill after fill, without so much as a moment to pause and catch their breaths. If their main goal as a band is to keep the audience pumped to the point of breaking, they succeeded.

Unfortunately, the first half of the set, it seemed like the crowd had slowed down, stalled even. They'd gone berserk for Terror, so the start to Drain's set felt less wild, less unhinged than that of their veteran predecessors. But after Ciaramitaro told the crowd to two-step before circle pitting, they became a lively mass of bouncing, running and crunching. It quickly turned into pandemonium, and it was a shame not to see people leaping off the stage into the receptive hands of the first few rows. Ciaramitaro is very adept at generating some intense crowd participation.

The set borrowed almost equally from 2023's Living Proof and 2020's California Cursed, with the latter's title track acting as the concert's finale. It produced some of the night's wildest crowd participation, including a crouch-to-stand-up-and-dance moment that preceded the track's explosive opening. Appropriately, the last scream of the night came not from Ciaramitaro, but from a very enthusiastic attendee, a fitting end to a very crowd-forward show.

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