3 Bands, 3 Words: Ratfight, Psyop & Cardiel at Cobra Cabana

by | Jun 26, 2024 | METAL, PUNK, THRASH & HARDCORE

The night is started off by one of Richmond’s newest and proudest quadruplets, Ratfight. I ask the tattooed and mustachioed singer Colter Smalley for a word on their performance. “Fuck,” he gives me simply.

The group rings the commencement bell with the removal of their shirts and immediately kicks into a bass-driven, crunchy hardcore punk, with spiky lyrics to match their sound. The band has a lot to say. Being an extremely political band, they find themselves telling a multitude of authorities (such as politicians, landlords, and bosses) to “fuck” off. They continue the offensive into the heart of their set, where guitarist Nathaniel Wood abandons his guitar (telling it to “fuck” off) and dives into the crowd, his flying knees and elbows matching the powerful staccato provided by guitarist Jacob Nott and drummer Adam Huber. They keep the band moving like a bullet train while the two long-haired singers thrash around the stage, echoing the attitudes and calling back to the sounds of bands like Fugazi, Black Flag, and more modern bands such as Militarie Gun.

The band continues to blast through songs, alternating between well-articulated left-wing messages and guttural grunts and punctuated “fucks” to fill in bridges. This band is going places, and no one can dictate where. In their own final words, “You can’t fire me, I fucking quit.” While they are taking time off to record their first full-length, they will be supporting Upchuck at The Camel on July 11th.

Following such an intense performance is no easy feat, but luckily DC’s Psyop is no easy band, and their singer DK is no easy performer. As the opening fuzzy and distorted chords ring out, he hops off the stage and baptizes himself in the dirt, dust, and rocks of Cobra Cabana’s outdoor flooring. There is nothing but pure energy in the area as DK pounds his forehead into a pole in the crowd, unleashing critical and astute lyrics about the current political climate, mirrored by drummer Tom Z standing high on his throne, beating his crash cymbals like a declaration of war.

Guitarist Doug provides a solid foundation for the flourishes of the drums and singer, while their usual bassist, currently wrapped in a sling, still hops on stage to sing along. All the members are nothing if not locked in with every note. As they pound through song after song, DK only ups his game—one moment in the audience dancing and swinging his arms, the next on stage, wrapping barbed wire around his torso, never once questioning a single motion.

When talking about the show, DK provides one word: “catharsis.” Truly the only word for the performance from the modern hardcore Iggy Pop. The group clearly has the songs and the presence to support their transition into the upper echelon of the hardcore circuit, a feat they are currently undertaking. A band like this is impossible to look away from, intensity boiled down to its core ingot. The band will continue to put on these firecracker shows all over the DMV over the coming months, so as soon as they are close by and you feel your adrenaline pumping, check them out.

The night presses on, the crowd is sweaty, and two tall musicians methodically take the stage. Drummer Samantha Ambrosio sets up on an electric blue kit while guitarist Miguel Fraino takes his place behind an army of pedals. The description given by headliners Cardiel: “Power.” The Venezuelan duo immediately rip into a tremendous danceable onslaught. The sound is reminiscent of traditional skate punk, but this band is all modern, not getting remotely lost in tradition.

Building off a powerful base, Fraino loops a guitar riff, and another one, and another one. Like putting on pieces of armor, the sound gets stronger and stronger with each added riff until eventually it all erupts, and you are fully suited up, ready to run through a concrete wall. The band uniquely creates each song on stage, providing an organic and intimate feel, which makes the endings so raucous and fun. Five guitar parts would be playing while Ambrosio provides an unending stream of snare hits with a cowbell sprinkled in to dance to.

With a clear mastery of the aggressive, without warning the band drops into what can only be described as some heavy, heavy dub. The scene slips into something much more rhythmic, and the skanking turns into grooved head bobs. This band would resonate with any fans of the late great Lee “Scratch” Perry, as they match his power and diversity in sound. Just as quickly as they dropped into the deep, they erupt back into the raging sea of guitar effects and machine gun drum fills.

This band is an inspiration for anyone trying to make something that hits you in the face and keeps you dancing. The duo has just finished recording an album that will be coming out later this year. Hopefully, they will be swinging by again after its release, because shows with that kind of effect are not to be missed.

RatFight at Cobra Cabana by Griffin Smalley_RVA Magazine 2024

Griffin Smalley

Griffin Smalley

My name is Griffin Strummer Smalley and naturally with that name I am a massive music fan. Primarily you can find me fronting local punk band Artschool! As a fresh 21 year old I am currently cutting my teeth in music, writing, and painting. Keep on living!

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