“Do you guys like to headbang?”
Free Throw’s frontman Cory Castro stood in front of a mob of people who whooped as the band’s next song exploded from the amps. Castro and his bandmates, drenched in sweat, belted the words along with their fans. In the middle of the crowd, a mass of hands sporting neon yellow wristbands and thick black X’s reached up towards the ceiling, moving in time with the beat.
Free Throw was the third band to play that night at Union Stage and each was more intense than the last. Set after set, the crowd’s energy increased and the mosh pit expanded to encompass the entirety of the audience. By the time the headliner played, the entire room was filled with people shoving each other and jumping to the music.
Jetty Bones, a self-described “solo project with a full band mentality” out of Urbana, Ohio, opened the show. Jetty Bones consists of singer-songwriter Kelc Galluzzo and the friends she recruits to accompany her on stage. Galluzzo’s music is on the more pop-influenced, melodic side of punk, but that pop sound is deceptive. Her songs aren’t just catchy refrains. Galluzzo’s lyrics tell a relatable story of love and personal growth. Singing along is fun and cathartic for anyone dealing with being in a much different place than they thought they would be.
The second act, Hot Mulligan, is a pop punk group composed of five guys from Lansing, Michigan. The day of the concert in the District, Hot Mulligan dropped their new album entitled “Pilot.” The simple drum beats and guitar strums let the lyrics come through strongest. Their music addresses emotional topics like heartbreak, while still remaining fun to listen and dance to.
The Nashville-based band Free Throw cranked the energy up even more. The band played tracks from their 2017 album “Bear Your Mind,” many of which focus on singer-songwriter Castro’s mental health and body image issues. During one song called “Randy, I Am the Liquor,” an intense mosh pit converged in the center of the floor. The first rows crowding the stage screamed every word to every song.
Boston Manor, a hardcore punk band out of Blackpool, England, brought an extra level of intensity to the lineup. Their music felt harder, faster and angrier than the previous bands, fueling the ever-growing mosh pit. The lead vocalist Henry Cox sang about disappointment and destruction while bathed in red stage lights.
The final act, Knuckle Puck, is a punk rock five-piece from Chicago, Illinois. Their sound had the most hard rock influence out of any bands on the lineup. Their songs’ hammering drums and raw-sounding vocals powered the set ahead like a steamroller. Throughout Knuckle Puck’s performance, a steady stream of crowd surfers were lifted from the crowd and carried onto the stage. The threat of being taken away by security did not deter those hardcore fans who found themselves swept away by the music.
The audience’s intensity for the first four bands was nothing compared to what it delivered for Knuckle Puck. Hundreds of people moshed together, pounded their hands on the stage, and screamed song lyrics. Throughout the set, there was a steady stream of crowd surfers and a handful of stage divers. One girl ran onstage to make a pass at frontman Joe Taylor. Another snuck onstage, did a backflip and disappeared back into the crowd before security could intervene. The audience’s exhilaration was infectious. Whether or not you consider yourself a mosher, you were moshing during this concert.
Union Stage is a fairly new venue located at the Wharf a recently redeveloped area of the District. Both the Wharf and Union Stage were completed and officially opened in October 2017. The building that houses Union Stage is feet from the Potomac. The venue’s actual stage is located in the basement through a pair of heavy double doors.
A sold out punk show full of adoring fans is one of the most high energy concerts you can experience. As much as the diehard fans cared, all of the bands met them with the same energy and enthusiasm as if it was the last show on earth.