Checking in on the Local Bands Who Inspired Us Back in the Day

By Alex Kantarelis

scan0001-copyLooking back, it’s hard to believe how fast time flies. It wasn’t long ago that every weekend you’d see a flyer for a show at the Space, the Espresso Bar, the QVCC or Sir Morgan’s Cove (now known as the Lucky Dog). Some venues are still here, some are long gone, but they cemented Worcester as the premier place for bands to play in the late 90s ~ and some even in the 80s. National acts would come through every weekend to witness first hand one of the best musical scenes in the nation. If you were from Worcester, you were lucky to be growing up during a great time for music in this area. So let’s take a look back at the bands that filled and defined our scene back then. Not everyone became a famous rock star, but all of them went on to do some cool things. (Note: Godsmack and Staind are not on this list because they were busy doing Alice in Chains covers and nobody really gave them a second listen ‘til knowing the right people gave them their big breaks. Hey, sometimes the truth stings.)


Not every band can manage to keep at it for as long as these bands have. In ’98, it was common to see a show with Overcast, Converge, and Bane on the bill ~ and all three bands are still playing, still touring, and still releasing new material. If anything, they’ve become even better with age. Fans of their older material, fans who haven’t really checked out those bands since the late 90s, should do so immediately. These bands are responsible for some of the best hardcore and metal in the world today.

7th Rail Crew. These guys brought a crazy level on intensity every night, led by frontman Jay Lawn (aka Jay 7, or Siete) who took inspiration from groups like House of Pain and Rage Against the Machine to form his own style of rap mixed with rock and hardcore. This was pre Limp Bizkit and these guys weren’t cashing in on a trend, they were creating it (along with Eastcide, of course). They disbanded after Locobazooka in 2002, but during their time, Siete lived the rock star life to the fullest. After a few near death experiences, he took his life in a new direction, moving to Florida and becoming an ordained minister. “My wife said to me, ‘Of all the things you can’t do, why not do all the things you can.’ So I went on a spiritual journey, trying to figure out my path and what I was supposed to do in life,” he said. Helping his friends along the way, and occasionally serving as the minister at their weddings, he has managed to bring a new level of positivity to everyone around him. “I’ve brought some people to church that really needed help, and church helped them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” he said. Aside from that, he also runs his own screen printing business. As for the others in the band, Jeff Lawn (aka Hefe) is still playing drums in a cover band and was touring with the band Genuflect (featuring members of Reveille). Guitarist Ennio is still playing in bands here and there, and has a 9-5 computer job, and bassist Meat is working as manager of a car parts shop. They played a reunion show last year and haven’t quite given up on the idea of playing again, so “open your eyes” because we might be hearing their name again.

flyer-copyEastcide. MA’s biggest rapcore act dominated the scene ~ along with 7th Rail Crew ~ and sold out shows at all the venues,even landing a spot on the TV show “Farmclub” (hosted by former MTV VJ Matt Pinfield) where they played with DMX and Third Eye Blind. While the band called it quits in 2003, the guys have all remained involved with music. Guitarist ChampEY is currently working as emo band Taking Back Sunday’s road manager, and owns and operates recording studio Liberty & Union, where the latest Dropkick Murphys’ record was recorded. Vocalist Jake is now the singer for Taunton rock band White Knuckle Rodeo. Luke, the bassist, is touring the world in the indie rock band Wheat, and has even played both the Conan O’Brien and Carson Daly shows. Drummer Swifty is playing drums for punk band Bad Blood and the Cruelty. Kool Aid is the only member of the band who is no longer playing music. He currently owns a business in CT. Band DJ Markie B still spins records, DJs for the rap group One Life, and owns his own studio and record label called Raised on Rakim ( Markie B recalled, “I’m from Plymouth and the others were from Taunton, but our home town was Worcester. It was the premier spot on the East coast to see music. One night you’d have the Deftones, the next night you’d have Eastcide and ForcedFed ShovelHead, the next night it was 7th Rail crew and Chillum. The whole Worcester scene was unbelievable back then.”
Rawhead Rex. Worcester wasn’t all about rapcore back in the day. Rawhead Rex sounded more like a cross between White Zombie and Pantera. “We came out in a time when the hardcore movement was really coming into full swing and we were labeled a metal band because we had long hair,” said drummer Craig Lindberg. The band accomplished quite a bit ~ they put out 2 CDs, were voted best metal band in Worcester in 1998 in the old Worcester Phoenix, and even spoke briefly with RCA records about a potential deal (that sadly never happened). After calling it a day in 2001, the guys went their separate ways. Vocalist/bassist Eric Jernstrom joined up with Lindberg to play in Beware the Ides for a while, and now he’s happily playing mostly acoustic music. “[Eric] has a tremendous voice (as opposed to the screaming he did in Rawhead),” Lindberg said. Rhythm guitarist Tom Nickerson is currently in school finishing his degree and still plays recreationally, as does lead guitarist Paul Caine who plays guitar in a Jimmy Buffet cover band. Can’t get much further removed from the styles of Rawhead Rex! As for Lindberg, he is currently working in Shrewsbury as a personal trainer, and remembers his days in the band fondly: “It was a fantastic experience, and I think everyone else in the band would say the same thing.”

This is only scratching the surface of what went on in Worcester a decade or more ago. There were so many bands, so many shows, and so many stories that came out of those days. It was a different time for music, a time when being the best onstage was a lot more important than looking cool on some music blog or in your press photos. It was a time when going to a show was a lot cooler than staying home and updating your tumblr. While those days may be gone, the impact they had will last forever. I think it’s safe to credit the bands from that era for putting Worcester on the map, and for making Worcester a great tour stop for all bands, even to this day.

THIS JUST IN! Craig Lindberg of Rawhead Rex has just confirmed that the band’s original line-up has reunited and will be playing a reunion show on July 23 at The Lucky Dog ~ you do not want to miss this long-awaited reunion!!