Late in 2015 word started to circulate through the usual channels within the hardcore scene that Gary "Dr. Know" Miller of the Bad Brains was going through some extremely difficult health issues that threatened his life. What started as cardiac arrest spiraled into multiple organ failure leaving him on life support for almost 2 weeks. After spending 3 months in a hospital and given just a 5% chance of survival he somehow beat the odds but obviously had a long road ahead of him to get his life back in order. The first hint that a benefit show was in the works came at the BNB Bowl back in May when an announcement was flashed on the screen at Webster Hall saying Breakdown and Maximum Penalty would be playing a free show in Tompkins Square Park on NYC's Lower East Side to help raise awareness and funds for Doc and his medical bills. There was a small mention of more bands to be announced but little did we know at the time that the powers that be would put together an absolute blockbuster of a lineup which also included Antidote, Cro-Mags, and the first NYC Token Entry show in over 2 decades.


Tompkins Square Park where this event took place holds not only a ton of NYC history with protests and riots dating back to the mid-1800's, but is also ground zero for NYHC history as well. The park sits just across the street from the famed A7 bar/club which was the home for many of those early shows that spawned many greats like... the Bad Brains. "We hung out at 7th and A, friends worked the door, we didn't have to pay" is a well known line from Judge’s “New York Crew” song which references the old spot which these days is still a bar and goes by the name Niagra.


Walking into the park about an hour before the music started you got a feel that you were in for something special. NYC would not disappoint us with a backdrop of the homeless, pitbulls, flavored ices, over flowing garbage cans and temperatures closing in on 100 degrees. Right away you noticed that they had donation tents set up and made it kind of hard for people NOT to donate by giving brightly colored wristbands to those who donated. Black N Blue's Cuz'n Joe who helped put this show together was the first face of the day as he introduced Maximum Penalty but also reminded the crowd that we were all here to help out Dr Know and if you saw anyone without a donation wristband to point them in the direction of those donation tents. 




MP were the first band to take the makeshift stage busting into "Immaculate Conception" which was on their old demo tape that came out wayyyyy back in 1989. A few things that immediately came to mind were.... "damn, this song still holds its weight 25 plus years after being written" as well as noticing that the crowd needed no warm-up as from the first notes a pit opened up and the chaos which would run throughout the day without incident was underway. For an outdoors live music event they were getting a really good sound out of that PA as well. "Life And Times" from '09 followed and then right into "Coming Home" which highlighted what MP does best utilizing unique song writing that stays within the realm of traditional NYHC but also adds just enough melody without losing that hard edge. They walk that line so damn well and when you add in Jimmy Williams' vocals it's like the icing on the cake and a perfect blend. There aren't too many hardcore bands out there that can mix in elements of straight up hardcore with traces of hip-hop and rock like these guys can. Highlights of their set also included a super tight version of the Bad Brains' "House Of Suffering" which closed things out as well as the track "Hate" again from that old '89 demo. It's hard to steal a show as an opening band but Maximum Penalty sure as fuck set the bar pretty high for this swamp ass of an afternoon. 





Antidote frontman Drew Stone was another one of the faces responsible for this afternoon in the park and he and his OG NYHC unit were up next. For live shows he is usually decked out in a suit and tie or full on Yankees gear. On this day Drew opted for the hometown pinstriped jersey with good old #42 on the back. They came out and went right into "Foreign Job Lot" off of the "Thou Shall Not Kill" EP which came out in 1983 and (to me at least) is the epitome of what the classic NYHC sound was, still is, and always should be. "Life As One, Nazi Youth", and "Die At War" completed the opening barrage of tracks from that short 10 minute EP that influenced so many. Some quick hits from their 2012 LP "No Peace In Our Time" followed including the tracks "Time Is Right" and "Unaffected" as they bounced back and forth between the 2 mentioned releases. Antidote really ratcheted things up when they went into a cover of "I" by the Bad Brains turning the crowd into melted mush. Drew gave some election year banter along the way sending out the track "Zero Mentality" to Donald Clinton and Hillary Trump as some crusty on a park bench waved a homemade "Fuck Trump" sign. "Real Deal" and "Something Must Be Done" closed out Antidote's set sending them out on a high as well as adding to the momentum that this show was building.





The park seemed jammed packed right from Maximum Penalty's first songs and right through Antidote's set but a surge of bodies moved in tight and close to the stage as the Cro-Mags were just about to go on. They came out delivering a double shot of Bad Brains with "Right Brigade" backed up with "Attitude". From there came another one-two combo with "We Gotta Know" followed by "World Peace". The Cro-Mags got the biggest reaction of the day with bodies flying everywhere for the majority of the time they were performing. Stage diver after stage diver went airborne in what looked at times like a line and some even used the poles that made up the stage as a ladder to try and get even higher. Click on the photo above or look this set up online, you won't be disappointed. Junior Cro-Mags joined in as well as 3 boys probably in the 7 to 10 year old range were front and center and got their mosh on as they jumped and fist pumped together throughout this set with the non-stop energy that only 7 to 10 year old kids possess. Some of the Tompkins Square "residents" made the most of this benefit as well with one woman making her way from the pit earlier in the day to actually walking back and forth aimlessly on the stage between songs before someone just led her back to the crowd. As expected the set list was made up of the bulk of "The Age Of Quarrel" album with "Crush The Demoniac" off of "Best Wishes" being snuck in there as well. With Sick Of It All's Craig Setari on bass and Leeway's AJ Novello on guitar it wasn't really a surprise to hear a little prelude to the old Leeway track "Rise And Fall" before they went into "It's The Limit". Their set finished up with "Life On My Own" and "Hard Times".





Things cleared out a little after the Cro-Mags set with Token Entry taking the stage with "Entities" as their opener. Their lineup included Tim Chunks on vocals, Johnny Steigerwald on bass, and Ernie Parada on drums… all faces Token Entry diehards will recognize. Jason Lehrhoff who you may remember from later Warzone lineups as well as Grey Area rounded out this solid lineup who played the longest set of the afternoon. They belted into tracks like "Revelation" and "Antidote" early on as the crowd slowly filed back in to the park from wherever they were going to find water, beer, food and whatever else they were doing to beat the heat. After a couple of songs in TE went heavy into some "Jaybird" LP tracks which included "The Brightside", "The Whip" and "The Fire" before slowing the pace down just a bit with "Psycho" off of "From Beneath The Streets" which came out in 1987. For a band that hasn't been together in ages and probably only had a handful of practices leading up to this show they sounded on point. Chunks still has that punked out spikey hairdo and hasn't lost his ability to do these classic tracks justice. His shirt of choice for this show was a black tank top that read "Stage Dive Makes Me Feel More Alive" and there were plenty of dives to go around on this day. "Doing It Again" was the lone track off of their third and final LP "The Weight Of The World" and was dedicated to Dr. Know who was in attendance and visible on stage for the entire show. "Birthday" and "The Edge" wound down their 13 or 14 song set. TE played as a tight unit and showed very little (if any) rust as everything just seemed to just click. 





With Breakdown all set up and ready to start John Joseph of the Cro-Mags came out on the stage with Dr. Know alongside him. JJ had mentioned during the day about the ways music can unify people of all walks of life and this show was an example of that. John then handed the mic over to Dr Know who kept it short and thanked everyone for the love. The mic was then passed off to Breakdown frontman Jeff Perlin as Breakdown busted into "Safe In A Crowd" off of their 1987 demo and was performed by that same exact lineup. This was not Breakdown's first trip down to Tompkins Square Park as they have had a couple of memorable ones here in the past (albeit with some different lineups) first in '88 and then again in 1992. The '88 set can be found online and in the footage a younger Mr. Perlin can be seen wearing a cut off t-shirt with almost knee high tube socks. Grainy video of that set can be found online and early on in between songs someone yelled something out about it which prompted one of Jeff's dry humor responses which he does so well. The '87 demo was on full display here minus the instrumental "Pipedream". We also got "Dissed And Dismissed" and "All I Ask" (dubbed a love song before it was played) from the 1989 compilation "Where The Wild Things Are" to round out their set list which was delivered with precision. The crowd went off for all 5 bands from Maximum Penalty's first track through to Breakdown's closing track in "Sick People". There was simply no significant let up for any of the sets throughout the entire afternoon. Later on it was announced that approximately 2000 people attended with over $25,000 dollars raised to help Dr. Know. There were no fights, no obvious police presence, and the hope of more shows like this one in the future as the organizers got on the stage and asked everyone for help by picking up trash on the way out to help recoup a cash deposit they had to drop down ahead of time to get the permits for this show. It would have been cool to just walk out of the park on this day knowing you witnessed an amazing show for the ages. The fact that the NYHC community came together to put on a show for the ages AND helped one of the scene's forefathers get back on his feet made it all the more satisfying. 




HATE 5 SIX was also in attendance at this show and has full footage of all the bands who played. They are also currently raising money for Dr. Know through a crowdsourced polling system where when you donate money you are given votes. These votes go towards which sets will be released on their site first, second, third and so on. It costs only 50 cents per vote and the sets will not be released until the goal of $500.00 is reached.

For more information click the link below.



THANK YOU to all that helped make this article come together from Dan Piro and Eric Svirida with the good memories to all of the photographers, Gary for the flyer, NYHC Chronicles, Hate5Six, and Chucky Brown’s Hood TV with the videos, and Bas Spierings with the graphics work. Give them a follow…

@rich_zoeller_photography @jcphotomedia @pedro_guererro @nut_neton @brettsweeney_ @basspierings 

NYHC Chronicles, Point Blank, Chucky Brown's Hood TV