Since Have a Nice Life’s bone-chilling Deathconsciousness debuted just over a decade ago, the album attracted a small but growing cult following. To describe the album, or any attempt to convey its devastating potency, is futile – it’s best to let it speak for itself. When performed live, its bleakness, hopelessness, and sheer ennui bleeds out of every moment like lacerations. The source of it all? Just a pair of buddies, Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga.
On July 12th, Connecticut’s Have a Nice Life made their west-coast debut, performing at Catch One in Los Angeles. The night started off with Consumer, a side-project of Tim’s, bringing together a hearty blend of post-rock inspired instrumentals with the added kick of industrial metal. Following suit was All Your Sisters, a band that seems to teeter in between the sonic spectrums of Melvins and Daughters. Perhaps the most impressive performative feat, however, was Planning for Burial’s one-man post-rock/shoegaze set. Thom Wasluck (a.k.a. Planning for Burial) writes, records, and performs his music entirely independently. Whereas most established bands in the genre require full-sized ensembles (see Godspeed You! Black Emperor), Wasluck’s ability to build walls of sound on his own is incredible to witness live. Of course, you won’t see him playing five instruments at a time, but rather conjuring crushing, expansive tones with just his guitar and voice.
“The Big Gloom” was Have a Nice Life’s weapon of choice for opening up their set, fittingly setting the dark tone that prodded through the evening. Its slow, swaying heaviness leaded directly into new songs such as “Trespassers W” and “Woe Unto Us” – from their upcoming album Sea of Worry – which sent audience members, myself included, into an unrelenting mosh. As their signature song “Bloodhail” crept into rotation, the crowd almost instinctively began chanting in unison – a testament to the song’s undeniably captivating qualities. Needless to say, the band brought a larger ensemble to perform their material live, feeding their heavy blend of post-punk and shoegaze through speakers that could hardly withstand their power.
Deeper cuts like “Waiting for Black Metal Records to Come in the Mail” were played alongside new material as if Sea of Worry has been in the band’s regular rotation for years – and it very well might be. Their last project, The Unnatural World, was released five years ago, in 2014, a long time for any fan to wait. The pinnacle of their performance, however, was arguably their final song – “Earthmover”. Also functioning as the closer to their album Deathconsciousness, it’s a song that lives up to its name (which is true of many of the band’s compositions) but particularly emphasized with the impressively calculated build-up of momentum the band displays. After the song snowballed from a mere guitar riff into an enveloping wall of sound, voices from the crowd joined together to exclaim the thesis of the album, if you will – “We wish we were dead.”
The attack packed into a Have a Nice Life show is equal parts cathartic as it is crushing. Not for the faint of heart. Please consider consulting your doctor or a trained medical professional before attending similar events.