En route to the first performance in 14 years by the storied and epochal Arizona hardcore band Malignus Youth, it would be fair to say I was more than a little excited. Car windows down, blasting "Missa Brevis," my favorite piece of music by the group, from the car stereo—it was just like old times. I pulled up next to a group of Hell's Angels-type motorcyclists at a red light. They cocked their heads in my direction as the music billowed out of the car along with my cigarette smoke, and the look on their collective, bewildered faces was just priceless: "You are the biggest pussy I have ever seen."
Inside the venue, it was like time stopped in 1994 at the Downtown Performance Center, where Malignus at certain points was almost the house band. A collection of former teenage punks with their punk accessories and punk accoutrements dusted off for the big event huddled en masse, catching up with each other, old enough to drink legally now, some outfitted with the ultimate punk rock mantelpiece—their very own six year old child with a mohawk—proudly on display.
After the opening sets by Phoenix Hooker Cops, Twisted Heads Collective, and Flying Donkey Punch—who ranged from good to spectacular- as well as a ridiculously rare and appropriate real life earthquake, the floor of the Rialto (complete with a seated section for us old folks) got very crowded. Here it was, our moment to relive our innocence and pass it on to the actual kids we toted in there with us. Could any band possibly fulfill that pipe dream? Someone told me "it's not like anyone's here for the music anyway."
And suddenly there they were, almost like they never left: Malignus Youth. For the most part the physical appearance of the band members validated this. Would the music be as ageless? It was.
Malignus Youth never sounded like anybody else and no one has ever come close to duplicating their sound: The ringing and iridescent guitar, the beauty of Octavio Olaje and James Martin's voices gliding over each other like two clouds in an otherwise clear sky, and those songs that discarded nihilism for realism that confronted horror or embraced peace with equal comfort and intensity.
They finished with "Missa Brevis." I wished those motorcyclists were standing with me, watching this band that found the elusive fountain of youth in their reunion and brought it to their contemporaries, and their kids.