There’s something about Virginia that makes for stellar punk rock music. I’m not sure if it’s the sun, the proximity to D.C. or just the fact that you can’t get a decent Mexican food there and touring in a punk rock band is incentive enough to get you on the road in search of the perfect burrito. Regardless, you can’t ignore the state's track record: Tim Barry and his former group Avail, The Riot Before and Strike Anywhere, to name a few. Oh, and that Dave Grohl guy - just one of the best rock drummers of all time and incapable of composing a bad tune. For these artists, the lyrical content and conviction of the songwriting - not to mention the passion and ferocity that can be felt in their explosive performance - takes ultimate precedence over fashion and style.
You can now add Richmond's Hold Tight! to that impressive list of hard-working bands from the Old Dominion, and if its debut full-length, Can’t Take This Away, is accurate of its overall cannon, the quartet obviously subscribes age-old punk philosophy of "hit 'em hard, get 'em jumpin' and get the hell out.” With most of the tracks clocking in at less than two minutes, these 14 barnburners are pulsing with quick blasts of distortion, passionate vocals and scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs choruses ... and then they’re gone, like sonic ninjas as the last chord still squeals from the amp.
And while those old Lifetime 7-inches are apparent in their take-no-prisoners ferocity and ragged melodies, you can also hear a groups like Hot Water Music and Latterman in the band’s shared vocal style and gang sing-alongs. On repeated listens you discover traces of East Coast hardcore seeping in as well, reminding the listener of younger contemporaries such as Title Fight and Maker. Not bad when you consider the limited punk rock frame of reference for most 20-somethings playing music nowadays.
There's no doubt that Hold Tight! is a relatively new band living in an old-school world of DIY basement shows, shoestring touring and community supported endeavors, and Can't Take This Away is oozing that sort of take-no-prisoners, all-or-nothing punk rock spirit. Still, the outfit is always looking through the front windshield, evidenced through its embracing of the free / name-your-price digital model (see: http://holdtight.bandcamp.com/), for example. Virginia is sort of the same way: blue collar, middle class, yet it also boasts the highest concentration of technology workers of any state. It's no surprise that the Old Dominion has long been a cradle of vital punk rock and that Hold Tight! is continuing the tradition of doing its homeland proud.
- John Moore
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