MUSIC ROW: Local Hardcore Band Jesus Piece
Aaron Heard, vocalist of rising Philadelphia hardcore band Jesus Piece, loves his neighborhood and the Philadelphia music scene, which he says is a stark contrast to scenes around the country.
“I love living here. I think moving down into this part of the city was probably one of the best choices I’ve made in a long time. I lived in and out of the city most of my life, so this is pretty cool. As far as playing in the city goes, it’s honestly great. Going out of Philly and seeing how little is going on [musically] in other cities as far as music goes – it makes me appreciate Philly more. Especially as far as hardcore goes, it’s great here.”
For Heard, the beginning of the band’s journey is a blur. At the start, the band was “just trying to get our names out there but now that it’s out there, we’re trying to do bigger things, keep moving and not hit that ceiling as a hardcore band.” They played their second official show at Fishtown’s Kung Fu Necktie as part of one This Is Hardcore aftershow. This Is Hardcore is an annual hardcore festival that calls Philadelphia home, but attracts fans from around the country.
“It was really cool,” Heard said. “There were a lot of out-of-towners there [and] all the bands that were playing were huge. We were just a band that no one knew. When we played, a bunch of our friends rolled out and the whole room went nuts. It was really cool. It was a good start for a lot of people who didn’t know us and our friends who had never seen us. To [be seen] in that environment as a start off was perfect for us.”
Since then, Jesus Piece has made their rounds at local venues, including the Electric Factory, Underground Arts, and “random North Philly basements.” Heard also mentioned West Kensington Ministry as one of his favorite venues to play at.
“[West Kensington Ministry] kinda came out of nowhere,” Heard explained. “My friend Peter Rono sings for a band called Kaonashi. They’re from the city as well. He books a lot of shows on the more metal side of things, and he found that place on a whim, kind of a, ‘Hey, I heard you guys have a space, can we work it out?’ Apparently the pricing was beautiful and everything else worked out nicely so he booked a big show with Knocked Loose and a bunch of other bands, mostly metal, and we were all just in town, so we talked about doing a secret set and we ended up doing it … It was pretty crazy, again, the whole room went nuts.”
Heard says that West Kensington Ministry has helped his band tackle an important issue in Philly’s music scene: division. Heard believes Jesus Piece’s show at the Ministry helped “open people’s eyes” to the other side of the scene and help foster cooperation and acceptance between the hardcore and metal scenes. Heard says that it’s a “willingness to work together” that generates the successful qualities separating Philadelphia’s music scene from those in other cities.
“It seems as though [in Philadelphia] all the promoters aren’t at each other’s necks. There’s always something happening, between all the venues in North Philly, and this whole scene and different world that is West Philadelphia’s punk scene. There’s always a variety of stuff happening, whereas we’ll go other places and they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, man, we NEVER get shows out here!’ and it’s like, why? Book somebody. Get somebody out here. It’s kind of hard starting up at first but once the ball gets rolling it’s a lot easier.”
The band has a lot on their plate in the following months. They are set to put out a split with Malice at the Palace, whose singer, Bob Wilson, lives in the city. “We’re putting that out in [the spring] on Bridge 9 records. We just finished up all the recordings, getting the mastering done, and we’re writing for an LP as well. We’ve got a show with Code Orange coming up at [First Unitarian Church] on 2/11… I get to play the Church, which is pretty legendary in Philly.”
Jesus Piece will also embark on a West Coast tour with Year of the Knife, some of whose members also live in the area, and they hope to tour Europe in the coming future.
When Heard isn’t playing or working, you can catch him at the Fresh Works or at karaoke night at the El Bar on Wednesdays. “That’s my jam,” he says. “I love singing karaoke, can’t sing to save my life, but… it’s a blast nonetheless.”
Heard also frequents local favorite Ortlieb’s. “I love seeing music at Ortlieb’s because it’s a small room and you really get the intimate feel of things and everyone behind the scenes is really nice there and really welcoming. Kyle, Nicky, Tony, who bartends there, Shane’s cool. Shoutout to Ortlieb’s.”
Heard has Philly pride and a fond appreciation for the music scene in the city, offering only praise for the area and for the patrons. “I love everything about this neighborhood and everyone who does what they do.”
You can hear Jesus Piece’s music at https://jesuspiecehc.bandcamp.com/. •