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Last Saturday night, American University’s campus witnessed far more leather and denim than usual. The quad was overrun by jean jackets with Black Flag patches and dusty, old combat boots, instead of the Greek-heavy school’s typical North Face jackets and TOMS.
The occasion? Local bands Unholy Thoughts, Coke Bust, and Satan’s Satyrs were teaming up with D.C.’s legendary ‘70s heavy-metal heavyweight Pentagram at AU’s Mary Graydon Center for the Alexandria band’s first D.C. show in 10 years.
For Clayton Burgess, Satan’s Satyrs’ frontman and bassist, opening for Pentagram meant playing alongside one of his favorite bands.
“I’m at a loss for words, practically,” Burgess said. “Since the beginning, when we formed, [the influence] was Pentagram amongst a few other bands. But Pentagram was at the top.”
Richmond metal-punk band Unholy Thoughts took the stage first and rallied the crowd. Frontman Ricky Olson mimicked the headbangers in the front row, encouraging them to scream with him as he got closer to their faces while bassist Kenny Ball spat loogies on the ceiling. The band played fan favorites “Excess/Black and Red” and “Earthquake” from its 2012 album, The Attic, along with a few new songs from an upcoming album.
Less than halfway through Unholy Thoughts’ set, a mosh pit formed, getting bigger and more hectic when Herndon’s Satan’s Satyrs started up. Pentagram’s influence was apparent in the band’s aesthetic: The doom-fuzz rockers wore flared denim, streamlined leather jackets, and wilder-than-thou blowouts. In a counterpoint to the Coke Bust and Unholy Thoughts’ noisy garage metal, Satan’s Satyrs played melodic and fast-paced riffs with minimal lyrics in songs like “Instruments of Hellfire” and “Show me Your Skull” from the band’s newly released Die Screaming.
Before Pentagram went on, fans started chanting “Bobby, Bobby!” waiting for the band’s frontman, Bobby Liebling, the only remaining original member of the band. After making the crowd wait it out for a while, Liebling finally took hold of the mic. The audience erupted, screaming and moshing. Pentagram opened with “Sign of the Wolf” from 2005’s Relentless and played crowd-pleasers like “Forever my Queen” and “Review Your Choices” from 2002’s First Daze Here. After chants for an encore, Liebling and company returned to the stage to close out with “20 Buck Spin.”
“Feels great to play near home,” bassist Greg Turley said. “In many ways it’s a little more stressful to play in front of friends, family, and our long-time fans. I feel like we have to step it up a couple of notches.”
Despite occasional issues with sound and the venue’s stringent smoke-and-alcohol-free policy, fans raged throughout the entire show and performers fed off of their positive energy.
“People seem to have a perception that alcohol and music go hand-in-hand. Honestly, it doesn’t change the way we prepare or play the show,” Turley said. One of the opening bands, Coke Bust, is a part of the straight-edge punk/metal community. “All things considered, this show went really well. We were happy and the fans seemed happy.”
Top and bottom photos by Sean Meehan, middle photo by Jordan-Marie Smith