WASHINGTON, July 27, 2015 – Hardcore punk had its place and time. In fact, the entire expressed purpose of the subgenre was that it was not to exist forever. Not surprisingly, the best bands performing during its wave of relevance were never popular by mainstream standards. But they significantly influenced many bands that held sway over pop culture on a macro level.
Those bands that were influenced softened their edges, and in the process became more commercially viable to the point where their hardcore punk lineage just became another line item on a resume. It was these bands that carried punk after its first waves and burned most brightly for those with their eyes focused on the underground.
The upshot of it all: hardcore punk never died. Its torch bearers just went underground. Bands such as these have emerged and re-emerged over the years for the devoted few ready to raise their fists.
Bands like DC’s Supreme Commander.
For the last 10 years Supreme Commander has been keeping alive the soul of hardcore punk. It’s been a decade in which this four-piece band has been embracing that same urgency and immediacy that often feels lost in time.
The version of hardcore punk they exemplify was only a peripheral part of the DC music scene at any point during its heyday in the ‘80s. Punk eventually gave way to DC’s own special brand of emo. But the type of ferocity erupting from that fearsome foursome known as Supreme Commander remained largely untapped among the capital city’s best-known bands.
But Supreme Commander is still every bit a part of the DC fabric as any band or institution could ever be. That’s what makes their upcoming show at DC9 such an important one. They might be celebrating their decade of existence. But for them, there’s also an air of business as usual. There’s no special album release attached to the performance or this year. This isn’t a special blowout. In fact, that seems beyond the point for them.
That’s because at their core, Supreme Commander has never been in this for anything other than deploying hardcore punk as a release. In a very tangible way, their music is all about support. It’s not only served as a touchstone for the sensibilities of the four members of the band, but also as a constant for the people they support and who have in turn supported them throughout this long process. Their shows are cathartic experiences for everyone involved. But it’s never about expunging anger. Instead, it’s focused on releasing emotion in the most positive way.
Standing front and center as Supreme Commander is front man Boo Dixon. His imposing and confrontational visage lends the band its visual presence. Before they burst out into a full onslaught, before Boo starts hollering a single lyric, this dominating figure stands tall, directing all of his sincerity and energy towards the crowd. Even without music, just raising the curtain on the image of Boo gives Supreme Commander a startling authenticity.
Then the floor drops out and everything comes crashing down.
Recording-wise, Supreme Commander has a handful releases in their 10 years on the scene, each exemplifying their exceptionally forceful brand of hardcore punk. Granted, like most hardcore punk, it’s abrasive and it sound familiar. But the further down the rabbit hole you go with it, it’s transformed into something to seriously believe in. It’s fast and vicious, just as anyone would expect from a hardcore band that’s worthy of that name. When Supreme Commander starts playing live, everything gets cranked up to 11 in short order.
For the next 30 minutes, they will blast through their set at a blistering pace. Everything from this band is blasted out onto the floor like howitzer fire, in one furious burst after another. Their breakneck pacing steadily increases velocity but never collapses in on itself. For these 30 minutes, the band never stops, relentlessly pushing forward. Their unspoken pact with the crowd on the floor is that they mind-meld along with them and refuse to stop as well.
The urgency is ever present. Dan Cohen on guitar shreds quickly and with a purpose. There’s never wasted second as Andrew Balke on bass and Ryan Burke on drums hold down the rhythm section with a relentless groove. There’s no overarching mission statement to Supreme Commander other than making sure their output is as fast and furious as possible. That signature punch in the chest their music delivers is all the message they need.
In every live performance, Supreme Commander releases everything that’s been building up within them since their last show. This has never been a profession for them in the literal sense. Their shows aren’t frequent or at least not as consistent as they deserve to be. So these moments the audience finally gets to spend with them pack an even more poignant yet powerful punch. Their obviously sincere appreciation for everyone who makes it out to their shows, inspiring them to fully rage through their set, is palpable and real.
In a different decade, Supreme Commander would have easily been regarded as an underground phenomenon. Their sound in could justifiably be called timeless. But all it really is is straight-ahead punk played at maximum volume and tempo.
The band has a clear vision of what they are and who they are, and it’s something they’ve never waver from. In the last 10 years, Supreme Commander has lived at the heart of DC, and their upcoming show at DC9 is a recognition of that fact for anyone whose raged with them during that time.
Supreme Commander appears at DC9 Tuesday. Also featured: Next Step Up and Oldham Boys. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., show starts at 8.
Address: 1940 9th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Phone: (202) 483- 5000
Tickets: $8 at the door.