All Words by Gareth Moore
All Photos by Josh Sisk
People were packing into the Black Cat on Saturday night. As a result I was instantly greeted with a tidal wave of sweat and stink. This feeling was far from pleasant, but the night was rooted in a good cause. Government Issue, along with the Goons and Set To Explode, were playing in support of local DJ Stephen McPherson (a.k.a. Stereofaith). Stephen recently had an expensive medical procedure and all proceeds from the night went to fund the operation. Since he is one of the finest DJ’s in the city, as well as being a good man, his fans were happy to support him.
Stephen’s fans weren’t the only ones in attendance. The devoted admirers of Government Issue arrived with a desire to be musically blasted. This band no longer tours (partially because, as singer John Stabb joked, the band would have multiple heart attacks if they did), which meant all lovers of the band needed to be at the show. What surprised me was the amount of photographers and video cameras at the show. It was not enough to be present; this night had to be documented.
The band was in strong form. They managed an act of controlled chaos; it was aggressive, the music appearing to be borderline mad, yet it was always played with precision. Bassist J Robbins and drummer Pete Moffett, always in sync, changed speeds with the greatest of ease. The band never grew sloppy or tired, but they always remained fierce. Unfortunately it was too wild for some. Two guys walked past me muttering “They’re good and all, but I can only take that kind of shredding for so long.” For others, their happiness would increase with each song. All around me were wide smiles, drunken dancers, and eyes that remained enthralled by the band.
I couldn’t help but marvel over front-man John Stabb. He charged onto the stage, his face tucked away by a purple fuzzy hoodie. This strange look led me to imagine “Barney goes hardcore gangsta.” Stabb resembled a kid who never grew up. He ran around the stage, hurled himself to the ground, and seemed to love every second of it. He is far from being a distant performer; he eradicated the boundary between him and the audience by repeatedly passing them the microphone and burying his head next to theirs. The man was an engaging presence throughout the night.
Eventually the length of the show proved too much for me. They were able to cram many songs into their show, and kudos to them for maintaining the high-energy, but I think the show would have proved more powerful as a shorter set. I was not the only one who felt depleted; around the 80-minute mark the crowd became increasingly thinner. At this point I understood why Government Issue does not tour. Staging these shows multiple times, for weeks or months on end, would lead to death. I just wonder who would die first: the band or the audience. At least we would die with smiles on our faces