Hammer No More the Fingers
July 6, 2012
I'll admit it. I was scared. In the final throes of Hammer No More the Fingers' Friday set at Raleigh's Kings Barcade — a performance that was as energetically played as it was received — the concrete floor trembled violently. A pack of incensed adolescents were resurrecting the pogo-ing mosh-pit mutation that has become common at Hammer's local shows, and their groupthink enthusiasm caused the support below them to recoil like a giant drum head. It was both thrilling and terrifying, a show so potent it seemed to threaten the stability of its venue.
The crowd's uninhibited and emotional embrace of their hometown heroes has become a hallmark of Hammer's Triangle outings. Friday, it was hard to blame them. The tangled indie rock aggression of Joe Hall's absorbing guitar tones was sent to tense and terrific heights by the springboard rhythms of drummer Jeff Stickley and bassist Duncan Webster. The resulting hooks and crescendos crested with uncanny emotional immediacy, begging bodies to move and voices to yell, insisting that each member of the crowd join in with the shared catharsis happening around them.
Hammer's ability to instill their music with such visceral feeling flies in the face of their nonsensical songs. "Blue Blazer," the opener from their newly released Pink Worm EP (for which the show served as a release party), gets by with a thin and inconsistent metaphor about an unraveling garment before bursting into a powerfully emotional chorus. "Where are you going?" Webster screams. "How will you get there, steal a car?" It shouldn't work, but it does. And it was doubly explosive when they played it live Friday night, the music swelling behind Webster as he and the crowd shouted the song's central lyric.
Five years in, Hammer play with professional swagger, building energy patiently throughout their sets. Friday, they sparked a flame and grew it into a wildfire, working a room into chaos and offering just enough payoff to make sure everyone left satisfied. With lightweight songs that favor fun over function, Hammer may never be a truly important band. But they still manage to feel like one, and that makes it hard to bet against their success.