As Friends Rust Make Every Heartfelt Show Feel Like Their Last
There’s already a crowd waiting at the doors of Brooklyn’s Kingsland when they open, despite the fact that it’s a rainy Thursday. As they bustle inside and mob the venue’s front bar, tonight’s audience, none of whom look much younger than their late 20s, ripples with impatient excitement. It’s as though a vague understanding of maturity’s time constraints — bedtimes, babysitters, work in the morning — hangs over everyone like a fog. That said, to miss the first As Friends Rust gig since 2015 — would be a damn shame. Better to apologize to the nanny later than ask permission tonight.
“I’m excited to see my dudes,” says frontman Damien Moyal, also known for fronting hardcore acts Shai Hulud and Culture, and for his work as a solo artist under the moniker Damien Done. “We’re older, we’re busier and we’re geographically challenged, and now that there are no more weddings to attend, these occasional shows are the only excuse we have anymore to get together.
“Then the songs,” says Damien. “I’ve been in many bands, and while each holds its own sentimental value, As Friends Rust was the band for me. The songs mean so much to me, and I feel like I’m my truest self when playing those songs with these guys, and seeing people who’ve inexplicably derived meaning from them, singing along to them…That just never, ever stops being the wildest, most humbling thing. This band is all about inclusivity. Our motto for years was ‘Exclude No One.’ So that sense of connection we feel with the people we’re sharing those songs with for 40-whatever minutes…that’s fucking everything.”
Though the band initially broke up in 2002 and has only played sparingly for years, Damien feels as though the music’s purity and earnestness make it as relevant today as it ever was. “Musically, because we never tipped too far in any one stylistic direction, we always seemed to appeal to fans of various subgenres under the punk rock umbrella,” he says. “My feeling is that existing at that intersection gives you a lot more longevity and relevance than a band that fits squarely into one specific category. I think that’s why we see other bands who never fully gave themselves to any particular style — like Avail or Hot Water Music, for example — still out there making just as many people sing along and smile as they did in their heydays, if not more.
“Lyrically, we have a sense of candor and honest nakedness that I think people still appreciate,” he adds. “That feeling of ‘Shit, that’s me! That’s exactly how I feel!’ is what hooked me as a kid, and with AFR I always aspired to a level of openness that would be disarming, inclusive and relatable for everyone. I think that certainly helped to create a timeless relationship with our audience.”
At the same time, As Friend’s Rust’s history is, for fans today, immediately tied to their dissolution in 2002 upon Damien’s departure, just after the release of their EP A Young Trophy Band In The Parlance Of Our Times. For Damien, the departure was necessary to preserve the band’s soul. Ask him if he thought he’d ever be playing these songs again live when he left, and his answer is and unequivocal, “Definitely not.”
“Toward the end, AFR was in its third incarnation, with myself and Joe (Simmons) being the only carryovers from the second incarnation,” explains Damien. “This final lineup was vastly more productive and professional, but for me the heart was gone. I was proud of the material and enjoyed everyone in the band, but not the direction things were heading. Years later, when the idea of reuniting first came up, there was no doubt in my mind that it absolutely could not happen if not with the second lineup, and that was that… any shows we’ve played since 2008 have been with that lineup.
“So, no need to resolve any issues,” he says. “We simply went back to the core lineup and suddenly all was right in the world.”
This sentiment is echoed by everyone who has shown up to see As Friends Rust tonight, especially the sizable population of Florida punk ex-pats living in New York who have come out to catch Gainesville’s hometown heroes. A family reunion atmosphere pervades the night, with the members of the band running around before their set and saying hi to friends they haven’t seen in years.
The minute As Friends Rust take the stage, the energy in the audience explodes. The entire set is a singalong, and every audience member seems to want to climb over one another reach Kingsland’s awkward stage, while Damien does his best to wade into the sea of bodies without being swallowed by it.
Damien Moyal, for his part, is overjoyed, playing with wide-eyed abandon to the rabid horde of everyday punks surging around him. Some folks crowd-surf and other do their best to start a pit, but there’s barely any room to do so. Instead, the whole audience crams on top of the band to show them just how well they know every fucking word.
“We arent the best band,” says Damien after the show as fans shuffle out into the lousy weather, “or the tightest band, but we are the band that everyone in the crowd is a part of. They are part of the band and at this point we get to play shows, so everyone we don’t get to see very often can come together party and catch up.”
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