For the past decade, In the Face of War has been synonymous with the Indiana hardcore scene. A positive hardcore group in a sea of more aggressive bands, they put that most hardcore of towns, Kokomo, on the map, making it a viable stop for touring bands, as well as a breeding ground for local up-and-comers.
Nonetheless, this story doesn't end with mainstream success, and after a rocky couple of years, the group disbanded in late 2010. In death as in life, In the Face of War will bring together an eclectic lineup for its final show this Saturday at the Earth House, including local slop-rock band We Are Hex, Kokomo-born punk band Full Rainbow and, in one-off reunion appearances, Away with Vega and Dead of Winter.
The show will have a retrospective feel, with the band playing from a 28-song setlist drawing from each of the band's four full-lengths. The group's current lineup has also prepared a new release for the show comprised of eight newly-recorded songs from the band's catalog and three brand-new tracks.
In the beginning — dateline: Kokomo in 2001 — band members weren't particular about where they played: church basements, living rooms, sometimes actual venues. The music scene was different then, according to the band. It was rare to see a show without hearing multiple genres.
"We started doing our own shows, bringing in bands we had met around the area that had never played in Kokomo before," guitarist CJ Sutton said. "The word spread and it seemed like every show was just a big hang out with friends and with bands that everyone was interested in checking out."
A 2002 album, Self-Reliance is Self-Destruction, helped draw more fans with its sweeping, melodic hardcore and gang vocals.
"We definitely felt like—and maybe it's because we didn't know as much music at the time—we were doing something that was unique," CJ Sutton said of those early years. "We didn't hear any other bands doing exactly what we were."
In that time before Hot Topic and Myspace, one of the only ways to hear new music was by going to shows. And In The Face Of War put on some of the best, bringing up-and-coming bands such as Ruiner, mewithoutYou, Norma Jean and As I Lay Dying to Kokomo. With screamo and hardcore becoming more commercially viable, the group was poised to make a mark on the national scene.
"There was just a magical buzz in the air," vocalist Ben Sutton explained. "No matter what happened during the week, it just didn't matter, because the weekend was finally here, and there was a show to go to where all your friends would be."
2004's Live Forever or Die Trying had more of a commercial appeal, with a faster, more punk sound, as well as a cover of the Foo Fighters' hit "Everlong." The band spent 13 weeks through 2004 and 2005 touring with national acts such as Dillinger Escape Plan, Bane, Verse and Comeback Kid. It was an impressive achievement for a small-town hardcore band.
By then, they were the band to play with in Indiana: they brought the biggest crowd and the best bands. Kokomo's hardcore and punk shows came to rival those held in Indianapolis and Bloomington. The band stayed at the apex through 2007, which saw the release of We Make Our Own Luck, a thrashy, punk soundtrack for growing up and getting older.
"I felt like that really was a pinnacle in many ways," Ben Sutton said of the album. "We worked together the best and were most on the same page."
Drummer Matt Nelson agreed: "None of us really had any major things going on in our lives. The band had become our entire focus, and there was amazing chemistry."
Still, the group wasn't long for that pinnacle: according to the band, the release of We Make Our Own Luck was mismanaged, and founding and veteran members of the band departed soon after the release. Everything You've Heard Is True followed in 2009, released after a three-month tour with Omaha-based Hercules, but the fan support wasn't there. It was in late October of last year that the members of In The Face Of War decided to end things.
"Imagine the things you cared about and wanted to do ten years ago," Nelson said. "A lot of those things don't apply today. Our lives have all changed so much. It's bittersweet, because we love what we're doing, but we know it's time to move on to other things."
The best example of the band's impact across the state can be seen at their last show. All members of the supporting acts have played shows with In The Face Of War in one band or another, and all have stories of how the band paved the way for an Indiana music scene.
"They cultivated [it] with their bare hands," Away With Vega guitarist Kyle Kammeyer said. "They booked their own shows, created their own venues and brought bands from far and wide to Indiana for all their friends and fans to discover. They were the first band that toured on their own for months out of the year. All that made everyone look and say, 'I can do this.'"
"In the Face of War has been an inspiration for so many young and upcoming bands," said Alex Jones, drummer for Full Rainbow, a Kokomo-born, now Indianapolis-based trio. "Had it not been for the shows and opportunities for local music In the Face of War was providing, we probably would have never stuck with it."