Even if you don’t know who Pg. 99 is, chances are you’ve probably heard a thousand bands that have drawn at least some influence from them. From later punk and grindcore bands, to the 00’s pop outfits which were so tragically labeled “emo,” it seems like countless groups have taken at least one page (get it?) out of their book.
Originally formed in Sterling, Virginia in 1997, Pg. 99 quickly gained a reputation for their prolific studio output and explosive live shows. Although they were grouped in with other East Coast screamo bands at the time, such as Orchid, Saetia, and Jeromes Dream, they had a distinctive sound and style. Much of this was due to the fact that they eventually ended up with an eight-member lineup, consisting of two vocalists, two bassists, three guitarists, and a drummer. To say that their music was chaotic is a bit of an understatement, but their ability to control that chaos is what produced their signature massive sound.
Unfortunately after almost six years, over a dozen releases, and a particularly trying European tour, the band decided to part ways in 2003. “We had come back from about five months of touring and we were young and we were really dramatic then so we decided to just not do it anymore,” explains guitarist Mike Taylor. For the next eight years, it seemed unlikely that fans would ever get the chance to see Pg. 99 perform again. But thanks to the internet, the group discovered that their audience had not only persisted but expanded. “There were even very few videos. So people just had like out of print 7” [records] and were just selling them and trading them,” Taylor says.
In 2011, Pg. 99 performed a reunion show at the Best Friend’s Day Festival in Richmond, Virginia. Since then, they’ve embarked on a number of relatively shorter tours which means that many their newer fans who were too young to see them during their initial run now have the chance. “It could be a good thing,” Taylor jokes. “We’re probably better now than we used to be. Most of us have been playing together since the band broke up. We’ve all been hanging out and touring still, just not as the Pg. 99 thing. So we’ve known each other for a long time, I mean it’s like a big circle of friends. I think just by playing together we got to be better musicians and learn what we’re doing, more or less,” Taylor explains.
Today’s social and political climate has also played a big role in the band’s reunion. “It’s a little more progressive than it used to be. There’s a lot more social change happening now. Maybe it’s just because we’re playing during the Trump era, but I feel like a lot more people are outspoken. It’s nice because I feel like we still have our place.” This also stands true for the other bands on last Saturday night’s bill, such as Philadelphia’s The HIRS Collective, who dedicated their brutal, noisy, and dancey set to “Every woman that has ever lived, is alive, and will live.”
Pg. 99 and their tour-mates Majority Rule, who are also a legendary hardcore band in their own right, have made it a point to donate a large portion of their tour income to charities which are local to each venue. “The expenses for Pg. 99 to tour are almost double what it costs for a normal band. So Majority Rule is taking 5% and we’re taking 10% and that at least helps us pay for gas and plane tickets and stuff,” says Taylor. They then donate the remaining 85% percent of the money they make at the door to charities such as The Q Center in Portland, a land trust operation in Oakland, and Garden Grove’s own H.O.P.E.
While it is an intimate space, the Locker Room at the Garden Grove Amphitheater proved to be the perfect venue for this show. The floor rumbled with bass and the close quarters reaffirmed the camaraderie between the crowd and the bands. While Portrayal of Guilt, The HIRS Collective, and Majority Rule all played incredibly loud and angry sets, there is only one Pg. 99. Their angular, sometimes dissonant guitar parts, a pair of bassists who could both play both countermelodies and in unison, and loud, crashing drums made the perfect sonic backdrop for frontmen Blake Midgette and Chris Taylor to trade their passionate shrieked vocals. It was often difficult to count all eight members on stage, as at least one or two of them were laying on the ground at any given time.
The only time the audience could be heard over their absolutely punishing wall of sound was during their classic song, “In Love With An Apparition,” as seemingly everyone in the room screamed the lyrics at the top of their lungs. At the end of their set, they invited up members of the opening bands to play various drums for “Living in the Skeleton of a Happy Memory.” The result was a mesmerizing tribal jam with heavy guitars and emotive screams. Within Pg. 99’s controlled chaos lies something profound: a reminder than we can only change, “Not as a race, not as a creed. Not as a sex, but as human beings.”