Ho99o9 at the Workman’s Club, Dublin, 19 June 2017

Every year there’s a cult act on a festival bill that travels back out into the world via those hazy stories recalled in the days and weeks afterwards. “Ah man, if you’d only been there, I caught this totally random band at three in the morning and they were bleedin deadly.”

In the case of Body & Soul 2016, that band was Ho99o9. The New Jersey hardcore hip-hop duo came on after a set from Bitch Falcon and dropped an unbridled punk-fuelled mania – recalling the stories those of us too young to have been there for real have only heard about the likes of Black Flag and Bad Brains. There was blood, sweat and a whole lot of hardcore moshing.

There were more than a few heads in the Workman’s on Monday night that had tasted the Ho99o9 in Ballinlough last year and – with more than a little masochism at work – had come back for more.

Ho99o9 – pronounced horror, the 9s are also Rs – live up to their name by being frightening as hell. TheOGM is the first one to come out on stage, a slim, tall imposing figure with a wild head of dreadlocks wearing a blue leather facemask. He lays on an eerie synth line that builds into something utterly menacing. Alternating blue and red lights flash the stage like police lights on a crime scene.

Eaddy appears a couple of minutes later – a more subtly unsettling menace in his short-sleeved white shirt and black slacks. He stands there on the stage and stares into the crowd in front of him as the music pulses. He could start singing at a moment like this, but he doesn’t. He stands his ground, holds it for an intense moment, and then dives chest first into the pit of bodies in front of him. He’s sucked into the melee and only after a couple more fraught minutes does he come up yelling his first verse.

After that the lights cut away entirely. TheOGM – stripped of his mask now – emerges with his face illuminated by single point white light and stalks the stage like a demonic entity. The set builds and builds in aggression, going from fanatically shouted verses to full on blistering unleashes of noise-making.

When Eaddy and TheOGM get into their flow together the move with an ease that brings all the chaos together – they alternate verses, yell in unison, and complement each other’s with lyrics at lightning speed. They also do this while tossing themselves about the venue (both onstage and off) with alarming recklessness.

Meanwhile the duo’s long-haired and shirtless drummer beats the shit out of his kit, laying on more double bass kick peddle than a discography of Slayer albums, filling the little room with noise.

There are moments of relative calm – but these serve to emphasise that there is more, even harder, chaos to come. In a break between blistering tacks, somebody in the crowd hands Eaddy a half-full shoulder of cheap vodka. He knocks back a heroic amount of liquor before dropping down into the crowd once more, spreading his arms to divide the audience as far as the back of the room into a wall of death.

The music pulses like a freighted animal. And then it unleashes.

Two opposing waves of sweaty human bodies collide around and on top of Eaddy – who thrashes around in the middle of it all and yelling the chorus to Knuckle Up (“Let the bodies hit the flooo-ur”) as he’s pummelled about.

Ho99o9 don’t hang around too long. Rather they come tearing in, kick up and all mighty fuss and then they’re gone – leaving the audience to catch their breath and let the whirlwind they’ve just witnesses actually sink in.

Were there waves of stage divers crowd-surfing precariously close to the stage lights hanging from the ceiling? Did both members of the band light up and take a few puffs off a joint somebody handed to them? Did every song of the night seem to get harder, faster and shorter until what the band were unleashing hardly seemed like music at all? Will everybody who made it out alive be lining up for a ticket the next time Ho99o9 come to town?

The answer to all of the above is yes.

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