The return of beloved bands from past eras is always a thrilling occasion and this weekend at Strange Matter was no exception as mid-90s Richmond punk legends Action Patrol returned to, er, action. This hyperactive quartet, whose trademark was the orange jumpsuits the members wore onstage, mixed spastic nerd-core freakouts with a surprising melodic streak. On their two EPs and one LP, The Weak Force, they graced listeners with an enduring classic that dug their hooks into the brains of everyone fortunate enough to listen (I’m sure I’m not the only person who occasionally still gets “Tube” and “Brains” stuck in their head).
It’s no surprise that the reunion caused an immediate uproar in the Richmond underground. Originally booked as a one-time thing, tickets for the Saturday night reunion sold so quickly that a second show was added the night before. Although it was the Saturday night show that got everyone was most jazzed since it also featured the reunion of Sleepytime Trio. The chaotic, rumbling roar of this four-person trio had a similar spastic energy as that of Action Patrol, but replaced melody with heavy, emotional intensity, making them an obvious forebear of today’s screamo scene.
Back in the heady days of the mid-90s post-hardcore scene, when all-ages shows were an every-weekend thing, Action Patrol and Sleepytime Trio were not only musical mainstays of the Richmond scene but friends and comrades in musical performance. When Action Patrol played their final show in 1996, Sleepytime Trio paid tribute to their friends by taking the stage in matching black jumpsuits. In 2006, at the last local Action Patrol reunion, Sleepytime Trio stormed the stage for a surprise two-song set before Action Patrol came on. This time, though, they’d be playing a full set, which cranked up the excitement to an even higher level.
The anticipation paid off in a big way Saturday night, as both bands proceeded to level the place, blowing away everyone fortunate enough to grab a ticket in the day or so they were available. Sleepytime Trio was joined for a significant portion of their set by guest vocalist Jason Wood, who played bass in Engine Down, another classic band from the era. Action Patrol dug the jumpsuits out of mothballs, hung a big orange flag up behind the drum riser, and blew everyone’s minds.
For one brief moment, it was as if 1996 had never left. Here are some of the best photos from the night:
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