Saturday, May 4 at Sonia in Cambridge | Tickets

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Welcome to HC/M6 – translation Halfcocked Mach 6. Formed in 1997, the band known as Halfcocked barreled out of the Boston rock scene like being shot from a cannon, signed to Boston independent record label Curve Of The Earth, and set out to make a name for themselves on the strength of their glam-inspired good time Rock and Roll songs. With two independent releases, 1998’s Sell Out and Operation: Rock Star from 2000, they joined the ranks of Boston’s best loud bands, with Quintaine Americana, Roadsaw, and Rock City Crimewave among the list of contemporaries. 

As 1999 WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble finalists, Halfcocked were the very first band to be a “wildcard” in the then-twenty year history of the Rumble. It was quite a year with The Sheila Divine edging out both Halfcocked and The Shods for the title; others on the lineup that year include Kicked In The Head, The Raging Teens, Cave In, Gangsta Bitch Barbie, Ms. Pigeon, Quick Fix, Señor Happy, and Seventeen. 

The band had its sights set on the big time, never considering themselves an Indie rock band, not by their sound anyway. Theirs was a genuine retro burst of swagger and glitz, described once as “AC/DC and ABBA having a bar fight.” 

In 2000, Halfcocked signed to Megatronic Records, a Dreamworks imprint, headed up by Spider One of Powerman 5000, another band that got its start in Boston on Curve of the Earth. Spider is one half of the Cummings brothers who grew up in Massachusetts (Bradford if you really want the skinny, which I always do). Halfcocked hightailed it out of town, playing their final local show on May 27, 2000, at The Middle East (thanks to Brett Milano’s Boston Phoenix Cellars By Starlight piece called “Bye Bye Halfcocked,” dated May 26, 2000).

Their way was paved with a swanky place to stay, a legitimate entertainment manager (Andy Gould, who’s worked with Powerman, Monster Magnet, Megadeth, and Rob Zombie), and drummer Charlee Johnsson even had an endorsement deal in place. A young band needs a hype machine, having the PM5K connection didn’t hurt. 

Touching down in Los Angeles, Halfcocked got to work, teaming with producer Ulrich Wild (Powerman 5000, Deftones, Incubus, White Zombie, Static-X) and recorded a slew of new songs, along with several from their previous two Curve releases. It took over a year for their major label debut, The Last Star, to see the light. Originally scheduled for release in February 2001, then pushed to May, the label was holding the record. Given the nature of rock radio at the time (think post-No Doubt/pre-Evanescence/all nü metal), the “Big Four” reigning the airwaves of the time were Korn, Limp Bizkit, System of a Down, and Linkin Park. Woodstock ’99, the Nü Metal Olympics, dressed to look like a weekend of peace and love, was meant to make history, bidding farewell to the decade of Kurt Cobain and all the alterna-sad rock. It did make history, one that everyone involved would rather forget. That weekend in July 1999, was a mass disaster, an infomercial for chaos, misogyny, and violence for mobs of dehydrated aggro-white boys with heat stroke.

Calling it a manly genre is being polite, it was pretty unfriendly to melody and range. Those post-Grunge years, the late 90s into the 2000s, rock radio wasn’t playing women. There may have been the occasional Shirley Manson and Gwen Stefani, a Courtney Love here and there. But new voices weren’t happening. Radio programmers will say no one wanted to hear it (despite Alanis Morissette’s massive success with Jagged Little Pill in 1995). In fact, most radio music directors refuse to schedule female voices back-to-back in their music logs (something that was finally said out loud in 2020 in the Country music world).

We saw a shift a few years later when Evanescence released their breakout hit, “Bring Me To Life” (It was 2003, and I remember the frenzied callers to WFNX asking “who was that song that sounded like Tori Amos singing with Linkin Park?”). Karen O. and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were breaking out, and Hayley Williams and Paramore were still a few years behind.

After being pushed back several times, Halfcocked’s debut finally had a street date of August 21, 2001, on Megatronic/DreamWorks. The band was headed into the great wide open of cross-country tours, festival dates, and what surely should have been superstardom.

Evidently the label was required to add a Tipper Gore “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” sticker to the release, setting it back several more weeks – something that historically helped sell more records. Finally, Halfcocked’s major label debut, The Last Star, was set for release. It came out on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the same day they released Long Beach Dub Allstars’ Wonders of the World, a Reggae/Ska record sung by dudes.

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The band had gotten to celebrate one of the songs that would appear on The Last Star called “Sober” being included on the Dracula 2000 soundtrack (released December 2000), and their cover of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” landed on the soundtrack of the megahit, Shrek, in May 2001.

The band eventually called it in 2002 with their final show at a venue called The Gig on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. They moved on, joining other bands. Johnny played with Powerman 5000 for a bit, Charlee with Danzig. Regina went on to play with Cowboy Mouth and CeeLo Green.

This lineup, HC/M6, featuring three of the band’s founding members – vocalist Sarah Reitkopp, drummer Charlee Johnsson, and guitarist Tommy O’Neil (who’s with the band for the first time since 1999) – regrouped last year with stalwart guitarist Johnny Heatley, who’s been part of the band since shortly after its inception and a stint with 6L6, and Regina Zernay, who was living in Los Angeles, joined the band in 2000. 

How did this come to be? Well, this is what Charlee Johnsson said, “In 2023, members of the final touring lineup of the band were approached for a reunion show in Boston with legendary hardcore heroes DYS. Due to logistical and schedule restraints, the show was postponed, which led to another opportunity at the beginning of 2024 to headline the legendary Rock & Roll Rumble, in its 45th incarnation. The band has the distinction of being the first recipient of the “Wildcard” placement, which had not existed until their original appearance in 1999 at the proceedings.”

On March 15, Halfcocked released two demo singles recorded in 2002, “The Last Star” and “Into The Spotlight,” available via their Bandcamp at halfcockedtheband.bandcamp.com

Halfcocked is fully loaded and ready to rock for the first time since 2002, on Saturday, May 4 at Sonia (formerly TT The Bear’s), 10 Brookline St, Cambridge, Mass. Let’s give them a warm Rock & Roll Rumble homecoming. Tickets: rockandrollrumble.com/tickets