THE FEVER 333 – Live In New York City
Last night at The Knitting Factory, New York City, Jason Aalon Butler introduced his new band to the world with a bang. And we were there for every life-affirming, sweat-soaked moment…
There’s a reason THE FEVER 333 are calling their gigs demonstrations – because they’re about much more than just a band playing music. They’re about something much bigger than the room they take place inside, bigger than the three people onstage, and bigger than the people watching, singing and cheering along. They’re about the state of the USA – not just the America with that guy inside the White House, but also the America whose political system is inherently flawed (and has been for decades) and the America that, 242 years ago, was built on slavery.
That’s at the core of the EP that the trio – vocalist Jason Aalon Butler, guitarist Stephen Harrison (from now-defunct metalcore merchants The Chariot) and drummer Aric Improta – released just a few days before. And Butler pulls no punches when he introduces its title track. “It’s called Made An America,” he snarls, “because we made this motherfucker.”
While Butler’s mixed race status certainly informed elements of his previous band, letlive., it’s one he’s elevated to full force for THE FEVER 333, both in terms of the music – which mixes vicious punk/post-hardcore with elements of hip-hop and rap – and the message. It rallies against racism, but also confronts (among other things) recent issues of immigration under Trump, wealth inequality, misogyny and police brutality.
All of that constitutes the real A
merica that THE FEVER 333 are trying to expose – and fight against – with their band. Tonight’s demonstration begins with black and white videos of civil unrest projected onto a sheet that hides the stage as racially-charged sound clips – including one from Trump, that’s greeted with a chorus of boos – play over the top as alone figure stands in front of it wearing a FEVER 333 boiler suit and a sack over his head, a reference to the human rights abuses carried out by the U.S. in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and in Guantanamo Bay in the early 2000s.
Then, suddenly, there’s a portentous sound swelling from behind the sheet, which then drops. As it does, the figure in front of it removes the sack, revealing himself as Butler, and all hell breaks loose both onstage and off. Over the course of 45 minutes, the room is a revolution – We’re Coming In, (The First Stone) Changes and Hunting Season hurl themselves around the room as every mouth in the room shouts back their radical and rebellious words, and you feel, whether during the songs or one of Butler’s many speeches, that this could actually, genuinely be the start of a political movement.
But beyond the all-encompassing, all-important message, it’s also a lot of fun. At one point, Butler is in the crowd, the next he’s on the merch desk. Harrison, too, plays in the centre of the room and on the bar as well as on the stage, while Improta jumps up onto his kit and then back down again while still playing it – and never missing a beat.
It all ends with Butler tossing a giant FEVER 333 flag into the crowd, waiting for people to pick it up and open it, and then launching himself onto it. He falls into it and up, and there’s a brief moment where you not quite sure if he’s okay, but then he emerges and bounces up and down a few times. The grin that spreads across his face as he does so is of one of pure joy and exhilaration.
It’s one brought about by his own realisation that this wasn’t just a gig, that it wasn’t even a demonstration. It was the start of something much more important and beautiful and powerful than that. Since they began, the band have been promising that a fever is coming, but that’s not true. Because it’s already here.
Words: Mischa Pearlman
Photos: Andrew Lipovsky
THE FEVER 333 EP Made An America is out now on Roadrunner Records. Check it out on the stream below.
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