The easy way to describe a Downtown Boys show is to say it's part basement punk party, part political rally. But that's not totally accurate. For one thing, political rallies aren't nearly as substantive.
At Mississippi Studios on Sept. 21, the rising Rhode Island quintet didn't just chant empty slogans or unleash a torrent of anti-government invective. Instead, the band delivered something closer to a church service—a 40-minute sermon on the sins of white supremacy, with hymnals in the form of double-barreled, sax-addled blasts of furious hardcore.
Introducing each song with impassioned spiels that frequently bled into and continued out of the songs themselves, frontwoman Victoria Ruiz spoke the group's message as much as she shouted it, threading their anti-capitalist, pro-labor themes into a single, cohesive narrative. (Crucially, she never invoked the name of Donald Trump, implying these issues are much bigger, and older, than him.) Often, it seemed like the music was interrupting the speechifying rather than the other way around, but the truth is it all serves the same function, as a platform for cathartic release.
While the Thursday night crowd was probably a bit sleepier than those the band typically encounters, there were still those who clearly needed it—like the guy who grabbed the mic to growl the line “a wall is just a wall,” or the fans who stormed the stage for the concluding “Monstro.”
All photos by Henry Cromett.