GIVE AND TAKE Dropdead at Foo Fest.
It’s 20 years and counting for iconic hardcore-punk quartet Dropdead.
"We’re just four old guys trying to play loud music, really fast," Dropdead singer Bob Otis told me following their recent headlining set at Foo Fest. Otis was covered in sweat and attempting to catch his breath while a second ambulance arrived behind the stage on Empire Street. Guitarist Ben Barnett, drummer Brian Mastobuono, bassist George Radford, and death-growl vocalist Otis had just delivered a vicious 40-minute performance that whipped up a human tsunami, resulting in a handful of bloodied noses and damaged limbs.
"Your voices have power, your numbers have power. Don’t be afraid, think for yourselves," Otis urged the crowd with conviction throughout the set. He decried the tobacco companies and mentioned the mother he lost to cancer after years of smoking two packs a day ("It is not a straight-edge rant, it is a fucking hate song"). All of mankind’s ills were up for examination and dissection, addressed in succinct thrashers that rarely exceed 60 seconds. Prior to the final song, Otis announced, "Eating dead animals is murder, let’s evolve beyond this brutal tradition" then launched into "At the Cost of an Animal," much to the delight of the rabid crowd.
Otis indeed practices what he preaches, applying his proactive, free-thinking stance to his day job as a staff member for Resources for Human Development, a local non-profit agency that provides productive and intellectually-stimulating arts programs for individuals with developmental disabilities.
While sharing opinions or engaging in small talk, Otis will eventually come out firing. When I asked him to offer his take on the State of the State, he summed it up in two words:
Otis expounded, "Not only Rhode Island but the whole country in general, from the economy to people’s attitudes and unwillingness to strive towards a better future. I think a lot of people just feel beaten down, so they repeat the same destructive and apathetic cycles over and over.
"We need another Martin Luther King, another Gandhi. It’s time for radical thinking and ideas. We need someone to inspire us."
Dropdead will play NYC and Philly this week before returning to AS220 for another hometown throwdown on September 24. Otis stays busy on the live circuit with his other two bands — Lolita Black, which just recruited new lead singer Scarlett Delgado (and will play AS220 on October 1), and I,Destroyer, supporting English crust-punk legends Hellbastard on regional dates in early October.
Since 1990, Dropdead has toured every corner of the world and released a small mountain of vinyl EPs (many available at Armageddon Records). And while the old men have scaled back the touring, Otis has confirmed that Dropdead will hit the studio this winter and begin work on a new full-length album.
"We have never 'broken up,' we just take long breaks," Otis said of Dropdead’s sporadic activity (the band has been relatively quiet since 2006). “If we had done the neverending tour strategy year after year, we would've burned out.
"Every time we start it back up it’s exciting and fun, and people are coming out to the shows more than ever."
DROPDEAD + THE BODY + SOUL CONTROL + WORK/DEATH | Friday, September 24 @ 9 pm | AS220, 115 Empire Street, Providence | $6, all ages | mypsace.com/dropdead