Photo: Errick Easterday

Miracle Drug Is Louisville Hardcore with a Staten Island Heart

Dan Ozzi

Listen to the debut EP featuring members of C.R. and By the Grace of God.

Photo: Errick Easterday

He calls himself Bricks because, as one of his former bandmates once put it, that's what's in his head. In his youth, he was an uncontainable madman on the microphone, bouncing off the walls throughout the 90s for the New York hardcore bands C.R. and Phallacy. Every photo of him from this time tells a story, from the mid-air shots of him screaming at a smattering of awestruck onlookers in a VFW hall to the nude portrait of him in the insert booklet of C.R.'s sole LP. He possessed boundless energy—an indefatigable blur of tattoos, mesh shorts, and lean muscle. One second he'd be hanging himself with the mic cord on one side of the stage, the next he'd be doing cartwheels off the other. Yet, despite being one of the most intense frontmen ever to emerge from the East Coast, his name is largely unknown, even in his home state. See, Bricks and his crew weren't from New York. Not really, anyway. They were from Staten Island, the city's forgotten borough. Within the confines of the 58-square-mile island, though, between the ferry and the world's largest landfill affectionately dubbed The Dump, the name Bricks was legendary.

Most Fridays at The Joint, the now defunct neighborhood hole-in-the-wall DIY spot that hosted weekly shows for local and touring bands, C.R. and Phallacy were beloved fixtures, and Bricks used his platform to unleash all the pent up adrenaline from his day job climbing poles for the telephone company. But unlike the breakdown-loving tough guy attitude pervasive in hardcore at the time, Bricks and his bands existed to challenge the meathead mentality. With Phallacy, he sang an anthem against victim-blaming in sexual assault cases, replete with a thick Staten Island accent. ("They say you shouldn't wawwk the streets alone, but why?") In C.R., which came to stand for Compassionate Revolution, he penned songs that promoted monogamy and condemned child abuse, drug use, and greed. His bands handily blew away any band they shared a bill with and instilled pride in a town that was often the butt of jokes from people in Manhattan or Queens.

But a few years after C.R. broke up following an onstage implosion in the late 90s, Bricks left Staten Island and his small but formidable legacy there to move to Denver where he started a new, quieter life as a massage therapist. His hardcore days became a fading memory in the decade he spent there, as he hung up the microphone in favor of domestic existence in a new state. Life in Colorado kept dealing him tough hands, though, as he and his wife, Mc Caren, coped with the premature births of their two sons and the complications that arose from them. Wanting to be closer to her family, she and Bricks relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 where he once again started over, returning to a job climbing telephone poles.

While struggling to gain his footing in his new, unfamiliar home of Louisville, Bricks ran into an old friend, Thommy Browne, who he knew from way back in C.R.'s touring days when Browne was playing in the seminal Louisville hardcore band, By the Grace of God. Browne was starting a new band called Miracle Drug with a few local friends and they were looking for a singer—ideally a young guy with a ton of energy who could bring out the intensity of the songs they'd been writing. So it was a bit of a shock when he asked Bricks, who had just turned 40, if he still had it in him.

"I almost kind of cried," remembers Bricks. "Because so much shit went down in my life for so long—all the relocation and starting new careers again and family strife. To be able to sing again, I knew it would bring me back to center."

Now two years in, Miracle Drug is about to release their debut EP, How Much Is Enough, and Bricks, whose name was once synonymous with Staten Island hardcore, has been ingratiating himself with his new scene in Louisville by going harder and wilder than ever. While most of the people who come to see Miracle Drug aren't familiar with the relatively obscure work of his youth, the pure spectacle of a 42-year-old frontman with the stamina of someone half his age has been enough to win them over.

"These kids work for it and bust their fucking asses," says Bricks. "If you have a show with 200 to 400 people on the East Coast, it might be 40 people here, but people are fucking psyched."

He also notices a lot of common ground between the Midwestern scene and the one he remembers from Staten Island, which was comprised of working class people, operating like a small town within a big city. "People are just chill here," he says. "So if your band fucking kills it, people are just like, 'Yeah, good show.' There's not a lot of smoke being blown up people's asses. Nobody is jaded. Their egos aren't big."

Twenty years ago, Bricks' dedication and incomparable showmanship played no small part in building a local community for outsiders, one that strived for a compassionate revolution. Now, the irony of hardcore coming back around to find him and pick him up when he was down is not lost on him.

"When you step into a room where a hardcore show is going on, it's filled with all the things that you're genuinely interested in, whether it's the familiarity or whether it's camaraderie or conversation that spans politics and diet and religion, or the DIY aspect, all of that stuff," says Bricks. "Those are our people, that's our tribe. To get back to doing my part, it feels so good."

How Much Is Enough is available from War Records. Miracle Drug is playing on the following dates:

7/29/2017 Black Box At Underground Arts - Philadelphia, PA
7/30/2017 The Electric Factory - Philadelphia, PA @ This Is Hardcore
8/06/2017 Bobby'z Place - Berea, KY @ For The Kids Fest
8/26/2017 The Showroom - Indianapolis, IN @ Matter Fest