As we slowly move out of the harshness of winter, the sun now hangs around a little longer. Its beams threaded through the slits in the walls at Gabe’s as a line trailed through the building and out the back. The six band bill brought in hundreds of people, many of whom traveled across state lines just to be there. Their guiding reason for their pilgrimage being their hype for one or more of the prolific bands playing.
Within the line though were many dressed to their best for what was dubbed “Screamo Prom” by those in the community. Attire included the attempted elegance of high school formal wear combined with darker aesthetic elements fitting the genre of screamo. In this line, and in the days preceding, the local scene was bustling in anticipation.
Image via Paul Botch
February 2nd saw the arrival of the eagerly anticipated Screamo Prom, the first proper Iowa City hardcore show of the year. The opening band, local hardcore juggernauts Psyop, were incredibly fitting and, furthermore, representative of the scene, sound, and DIY sensibilities of the Iowa City World City mantra.
Fronted by prolific local artist and musician Dolly Sperry, they delivered a powerful set rife with rage and passion. Without hesitancy, the set whipped the crowd into an inescapable rolling flurry. It set the stage for what proved to be a legendary night full of talented musicians. Psyop kicked down the door, and everybody else filed in.
Image via John Glab
Swathed in the reds and blues of stage light, Aseethe began their set sending a single dense note into the crowd at Gabe’s who were already itching for a mosh. Diverging from the night’s up-tempo punk, they delivered a change of pace to the lineup with their slow and droning doom metal. Sludgy notes formed into motifs, repeating themselves while overlaying new sounds and vocals into a mesmerizing pattern.
As the only band of the night using a synth, an uncommon choice for doom metal, they built in an electric effect into their sound. The underlaying synth bled together their layers of sound, distorting the air into a dense mist of pure noise that seeped across the room. Repetitive sounds continued building, bending, and bleeding together into a hypnotic rhythm. One of my favorites of the night for their unique heavy style, Aseethe brought a dense metallic performance to the show’s lineup, generating a droning fog to drag a crowd into their doom.
Image via Sam Hammond
Bootcamp’s set was marked by a sharp increase in stagediving, and the like. The chaos seems to have only incentivized the crowd. During the set, not only were there stagedivers, but there were also crawlers, flippers, and even several cases of audience members remaining on stage and singing with Bootcamp’s vocalist. All of it together made for a vivid, lively, and positively unique experience for those in attendance. With this fervor in activity from the audience, the band took it in stride. Their set was fantastic, none of the members, at least outwardly, phased by the happenings of the raucous crowd.
The band, particularly the guitarist and vocalist, blended a sense of early rock joy into their hardcore musical stylings, jumping and dancing as if it were the ‘60s. The music, too, was on point. The drummer was a particular highlight, while all three of the other members of Bootcamp performed excellently throughout their set. Perhaps the most important gauge of a good set to me is how much fun the band was clearly having. The grinning smiles on the vocalist’s and guitarist’s faces were clear indications of that.
Image via Sam Hammond
Your Arms Are My Cocoon
Someone said, “Hey, can I borrow your vape?” during a brief reprieve of silence in the beginning of Your Arms Are My Cocoon’s set at Screamo Prom. As the stage was awash in pink light, everyone crowded towards the front to get closer to Your Arms Are My Cocoon’s leading man, Tyler Odom. He was dressed in prom attire and wearing a bunny cap that obscured his eyes (sadly not a Gummo reference, I asked him. Rather it’s a natural acknowledgement of his love of caring for bunnies in his off time).
Through a flurry of unreleased songs and cuts from their 2020 self-titled EP, YAAMC managed to bring their unique blend of rage and melancholy. Their genre clash of bedroom pop and traditional screamo singing bled through into a uniquely cathartic set. Their control of the crowd had people kicking and screaming one moment, then slowly swaying together the next. People weren’t just screaming just to scream, rather screaming lyrics along with the band.
Emotions were in the air. If there’s one thing I remember about this show, it’s the swiftness between trying not to collapse under the weight of the crowd pushing towards the stage, then holding hands with my friends as the band broke into a ballad, with everyone collectively stopping for a second.
Image via John Glab
Before this night, I’d never properly listened to Frail Body. I’d heard a few songs back in October, sitting in the front of my friend’s car, which was filled with a strange sense of high energy delirium I have only really felt while driving home from shows. I barely remembered how they sounded. However, I could almost remember the way my chest ached, and how my peripheral was filled with aviation obstructions and headlights. I remember how tired I was, and how I didn’t care.
Right before Frail Body went onstage, I also found myself very tired. Each set had been fantastic, but by round five I found myself so drained that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was sitting outside of Gabriel’s, watching whisps of cigarette smoke blow in the breeze and wondering how on earth I was going to be able to stay awake long enough to cover this show. A blare of sound check echoed around the garden, and it was time for me to head inside.
Frail Body woke me up from a trance. I was swept into the pit by dense instrumentation and exposing vocals, letting the piercing waves swallow me whole. Just as this noise began to consume me, the sun broke through, melting all over. The music was tragic but hopeful. You’re falling on the ground, but you’re facing up towards the light. Triumphant bell tones and misty, dark melodies soundtracked this collapse, and blanketed the crowd. It became too much to kick and scream. My feet began to move differently, loosening without the pressure. Flinging myself across a sea of figures, I was ready for the tragedy to not hurt so much anymore. <3
Image via John Glab
In Loving Memory
It had been a tumultuous night already, with each consecutive artist seeming to only amplify the already electric energy of the house. However, by the time 9:30 PM rolled around, the night had taken its toll. Many held towards the back, taking a breather and getting their energy back, that is, until the set began.
In Loving Memory is one of Iowa’s finest in terms of musical artists. Seamlessly bridging the gaps between the similar but distinct fields of emo, screamo, and emoviolence, they rose to prominence around the turn of the century. Both during their short reign, and in the time since garnering a cult following, their no-holds-barred screaming delivery that doesn’t compromise a millimeter of intricately crafted riffage, has built an immensely exciting aura. The result is a galvanizing, high-tension experience. Look no further than the effect on the crowd that night.
In mere minutes the general atmosphere turned on a dime from black-and-blue exhaustion to a surging, explosive mosh pit. While their set was brief by most standards, clocking in at about a half hour, those who have listened to their music before know that is more than enough time for them to deliver a potent combination of musical punches, and the band proved it. While bands that reunite after almost two decades often lack the consistency, energy, and hunger that fans often crave from their original work, In Loving Memory proved to be a welcome exception to such expectations. Their stage presence alone was enough to demolish any such thoughts, as they flew about the stage and even into the crowd.
In an emotional address after the set, the band thanked everyone for showing up and convincing the band to return from the grave, as many of them never anticipated to return to the project. They were met with deafening cheers and demands for an encore as they came together and embraced. It perfectly concluded the night dubbed Screamo Prom, which at its core, centered around community, support, and love for the scene.