In an increasingly divisive cultural and political climate, Power Trip are an enigma. A rare body of unification within a population that’s almost as partisan as our country’s conservative/progressive binary: metal fans. The Texas quintet put out their long-awaited second full-length, Nightmare Logic, back in February, earning widespread critical praise—including a ‘Best New Music’ tag on Pitchfork—and landing them a slew of tours with bigwigs like Cannibal Corpse, Exodus, Obituary and Napalm Death. However, the band’s razory sound slices a path directly between the metallic grandiosity of thrash and the punk-minded exuberance of hardcore (hence their oft-assigned genre tag, “crossover”), granting them the chameleonic ability to follow-up a run with death metal legends Cannibal Corpse with a tour alongside hardcore household’s Hatebreed and Madball.
Few bands in heavy music are able to toe that line, but Power Trip’s wild and unpredictable– though sturdy and savvy–sound is beloved by many across the two scenes who’ve historically took to butting heads over banging them. Travelling through the Californian desert last week, frontman Riley Gale described a recent sold-out gig of theirs at The Mohawk in Austin, TX that put their pluralistic fanbase on display.
“There was like 1,000 people there and it was just metalheads, and punks, and hardcore kids just going fucking crazy and jumping off shit, and stage diving, and singing along—and just getting along,” he said. “You wanna push mosh, cool. You wanna be a karate kid in the pit, that’s cool, too. Just respect each other. Just don’t be that guy that’s out there to hurt other people. We want everyone who comes out to our show to get along, I guess.”
“It’s all about playing to a crowd that’s attentive. That’s all I care about,” he added.
Although hardcore, a traditionally youth-oriented genre, has the long-standing reputation of catalyzing rambunctious crowd reactions, Gale said that, surprisingly, the older metalheads on their recent tours have been just as receptive—if not moreso—to Power Trip.
“The older crowds tend to not be as jaded. They’ll come see you over and over,” he said. “Hardcore kids are a little more fickle. The generations change over a bit quicker.”
“Once we did that Lamb of God Tour two years ago, we’ve had the same middle-age guys and their wives come out to every show. They bring friends and stuff like that. A lot of these kids, I hate to say it, it is a phase for them.”
Although Gale made it seem like the vast majority of this older crowd has been overwhelmingly positive, unfortunately, that demographic occasionally attracts some of the uglier personalities of the heavy music community. Last week, Gavin McInnes, founder of the white nationalist, male-chauvinist Proud Boys—a group that stirred up trouble in the 518 earlier this year, which The Alt covered extensively—began threatening and mocking Power Trip on Twitter after the band called out a Vancouver Proud Boys faction for sexually harassing a friend of theirs, subsequently getting beaten up over it, and then doxxing the victim on Twitter in an act of revenge. Throughout a series of now-mostly-deleted Tweets, McInnes tastelessly lampooned the band as “politically correct thrash”, and alleged that a group of “our guys” would be coming to Power Trip’s Nov. 12 show in Mesa, AZ. to start something.
“Nothing actually really happened,” Gale said. “Three guys claimed to come to the Arizona show but they didn’t make themselves known.”
McInnes Tweeted otherwise, claiming that the band “refused to come out”, and then deleting the majority of their exchange to spin the narrative and make Power Trip look like the cowards.
“I think they’re just boogiemen,” Gale said. “I don’t think they really exist. I think they’re a bunch of pathetic people on the internet who want to cause trouble and scare bands, but we’re not gonna be scared.”
“If you’re a sexist, homophobic, racist, Islamophobic piece of shit, then I don’t care if you get your ass kicked,” he added, referring to the incident that sparked this engagement in the first place.
Gale doesn’t consider Power Trip to be a political band, but as his platform grows and he’s found himself in the vicinity of less tolerant people, he’s struggled with the responsibility to make his moral and political beliefs known.
“The more audience I have, the more personal responsibility I feel to say these things, and be outspoken. . . and that’s why I get so frustrated with it, because now we’re starting to get more conservative people at our shows.”
“The other night some guy came up and was wearing a Skrewdriver shirt.” (Skrewdriver are infamously regarded as the most influential white nationalist punk band, and are almost universally deplored by any rock musician outside of that community.) “We were kind of like, ‘fuck off, man’. We were real rude to him.”
“I saw a guy buy $140 worth of Anthrax merch and he had the SS bolt on his neck. He didn’t even notice that three-fourths of Anthrax are Jewish,” Gale said, referring to an instance on the 2015 Lamb of God tour with Anthrax.
Despite all of this, Gale still refrains from expressing these opinions on the stage, instead using that time to decompress from all the stress and negativity he deals with in between sets. Perhaps that’s part of Power Trip’s chaotically purgative appeal.
“For me, that’s just not the time and place. I’m not there to get into a debate and have some guy yell some shit back to me. I think our politics are known, and I do mask a lot of the political stuff in my lyrics with allegory, but I absolutely make sure people know what’s up. I don’t need to do it on stage. That’s the point of catharsis. I’ve been sitting around reading news all day and getting pissed off about the grief in the world. So when I’m there, it’s like, let’s just fucking play and not worry about that stuff for 45 minutes.”
Power Trip will be playing a fittingly mixed bill show at Chrome Food & Spirits in Waterford on Nov. 27 at 7PM. Gatecreeper (Arizona), Wrong Move (Albany) and New Life (Albany) will be opening.