It’s a nippy night in Baltimore, standing in the courtyard of the Church of the Guardian Angel. Nestled within this nook is an unsuspecting basement that houses The Undercroft, one of the beating hearts of Baltimore’s next generation of DIY indie music. Members of up-and-coming local punk legends Combat man the desk and board as B.o.B and OutKast tracks blast out of the PA. The Undercroft community, a microcosm of the younger end of Baltimore’s punk and indie music scene, is gathered to witness the performance of two cybergrind bands currently on the rise: Pittsburgh/New York’s Ultra Deluxe (the only non-local act on the bill) and Baltimore’s own Jade Weapon.

The higher-than-average concentration of battle jackets for an Undercroft show foreshadows the card presence of local fem-punks SCUM, who open the show with a blast of classic hardcore that recalls the explosive female-fronted music of Baltimore moshers JIVEBOMB. After a brisk warmup set, Ultra Deluxe takes the stage, finishing up the last night of an eight day outing proselytizing gay communist hardcore up and down the East Coast. The duo present a vision of synth-driven punk that is both nostalgic, pleasantly recalling the stark nintendocore grooves of FUCKING WEREWOLF ASSO in a less sassy, more emotive context alongside a thousand other beloved bands from the last 25 years of post-hardcore, and yet undoubtably original, spinning a singular and immediately identifiable sound out of all these disparate yarns. The strong melodic core of their writing shines through as brightly as the inseparable politics of their music; the set begins with a sample of Ireland’s testimony against Israel on charges on genocide in the UN world court before fading into the opening pleas of “The Argument,” the track making up the latter half of Ultra Deluxe’s most recent EP Quests. “The planet is on its last legs,” screams lead vocalist Max Narotzky over climactic synthwork before literally exploding into the song’s first climax, showering the entire room with a cannon blast of glow stick rings.

UDx tears through 2022 cut “Dreams of Him” before launching into a sequence of unreleased material comprising the back two-thirds of their set. “The 16th Question” best demonstrates the frenetic energy and emotion that they bring to all of their music with its blistering breakdown climax whipping the crowd into a frenzy, while “Housed in the Arctic” brings the layered vocals of Black Eyes into the band’s toolbox of post-hardcore reinterpretations. The band’s minimalist setup does somewhat hamper the peak of their viscerality - I would love to hear how off the wall they could be with a live drummer (update: since writing and publication i have apparently willed this into existence) - but the sheer fun factor of their music, incessantly bouncing ahead through sentimental violin passages and frenzied octave chords and Dane York’s insistent backup vocals while Narotsky blasts bubbles all over the room and audience and runs a manual foot-operated lightshow, could never fail to bring a smile to my face. “Promise my dreams won’t stay dreams / Promise I rise from my sleep,” they plead over closer “Points of Peace;” the disparate imagery and intensity of the Ultra Deluxe live experience crystallizes the emphasis on love, hope, and yearning that permeates their songwriting, underscored by harsher and more insistent elements but never overtaking that core.

Ultra Deluxe is followed by a lovely set from progressive post-hardcorers [redacted], who have a pleasantly nostalgic sound harkening back to the latter days of the MySpace era. In keeping with the theme of children’s toys - fitting, as the space The Undercroft inhabits functions as a daycare during daytime hours - lead vocalist Griffin Stanbro eviscerates a teddy bear throughout the set, throwing fluff all over the crowd at regular intervals. After a healthy performance, it’s finally time for the main event: Jade Weapon.

Jade Weapon, who are only a couple weeks removed from releasing their debut EP, are not supposed to be here. Jade Weapon’s lead vocalist, Tommie Summerville, is supposed to be backing up queer punk outfit Chaz Monroe from behind the kit; unfortunately, Chaz Monroe had to back out and Jade Weapon is now faced with the unenviable task of playing their first ever show on last minute notice with little practice. “Our first time playing the EP in full was 8 hours ago,” Summerville explains at the top of the set.

It’s a matter of seconds from when opener “Look Inside Yourself” launches out of its intro to when the crowd explodes.

Far from the timidity you’d expect from a band finding their live footing, Jade Weapon displays a stunning level of confidence and reckless abandon from the drop, a kind of energy that The Undercroft’s mosh-happy audience responds to enthusiastically. While Jade Weapon only has about 11 minutes of released material at the moment, the sheer ferocity of their performance goes hand in hand with the contagious enthusiasm that makes even a brief set like this feel massive. While credit naturally lends itself to the instrumental end of the equation for the sheer intensity of their sound, special note has to be taken of Summerville’s command of the audience. “Can y’all do me a favor and fuck it up in this one?” she asks before the start of “360 REALITY,” the group’s most devastating weapon; the crowd responds in turn by evolving from a mosh pit into a full-on faux-wrestling pit. A song later, a simple inquiry as to “who wants to have a dance party?” whips up a 2-stepping circle pit. Jade Weapon is less playing songs and more detonating them.

The final hurrah, “Day_Tona,” is accompanied by the spontaneous appearance of several Hot Wheels and a looping track out of the pit, an act of sorcery surely fueled by the repeated ritual sacrifice of toys throughout the night by various bands. After a brief but truly impressive 15 minutes, things finally settle back to equilibrium. The lights come back up. Usher’s “Yeah” plays gently over the speakers. People gently filter back outside into the still-nippy night. For as huge as the music sounded mere minutes ago, nothing has changed in the world; and yet, for a little while, there was comfort to be found in community. These kinds of DIY shows are more than just a place for bands like Jade Weapon to cut their teeth; they’re one of the few spots left where music that sounds like this, bands that are as high concept and meaningfully transgressive as Ultra Deluxe, and people brought together across demographics can celebrate music free from all the bullshit. 

The Undercroft is one of many DIY venues across Maryland but it’s also one of the only stable venues left in Baltimore that supports genuinely leftfield music and the vibrant community of musicians that surrounds it. Ultra Deluxe and Jade Weapon are both fantastic bands who you should see as soon as possible, not just because they deserve the support but because they’re fucking killer, but you should also go out there and find your local scene and support it in general, because it’s getting harder and harder for places like this to exist, and with it, bands who rely on these spaces to tour and bring their music to life and support themselves. I’d like to imagine a future where bands like these can continue to do this forever, but it can only exist if we allow it to by showing these spaces love while they still exist.

Ultra Deluxe has new music in the works and shows coming up in New York, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania this coming March and are playing in D.C. on April 25th. 

Jade Weapon’s debut EP, Jade Promo, can be heard now on Bandcamp.

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