It only took a moment for Cole Kakimoto to fall in love with hardcore. One night, while still in middle school, he followed a friend to see her sister’s boyfriend’s band play a church on the eastside of San Jose.
“I was expecting like a concert or something, because I had never been to a show,” he says. “But once the music started and people started moshing—which, I’d never seen anything like that—I was like, ‘This is where I belong. This is what I’ve been looking for.’”
More or less since that day, Kakimoto has been a part of the South Bay hardcore scene, present at nearly every show, either in the audience or on stage, more often than not with friends Elliot Morrow and Sammy Ciaramitaro, his bandmates in Gulch—as well as a slew of previous groups.
This weekend, Gulch play one of their final six shows as a band. The breakup comes when the band are at their absolute height of popularity.
“We thought about not saying anything about breaking up and just having our last show be our last show, but then we thought, ‘People are probably going to want to know this is the last time we’re going to be in this area,’” Kakimoto says. “We didn’t want them to feel like the rug was swept out from under them.”
Ever since emerging in early 2017, Gulch have jackhammered a name for themselves in the pantheon of hardcore, and with them, the entire South Bay scene. It’s a scene that is currently thriving, despite largely taking place in DIY spaces, like the industrial parking lot that hosted last June’s massive “RBS.”
Even among a crowded field of heavy bands locally, Gulch managed to quickly define themselves with their endlessly evolving riffs, unrelenting intensity and firehose-blasts of emotion.
“I typically write with the intention of trying to create a sound of what I’m feeling inside,” Kakimoto says. “With my music mixed with Elliot’s lyrical content and vocals, it’s just naturally going to sound chaotic.”
From the very beginning, Gulch’s tightly controlled chaos caught like a spark. Off the strength of their three-song demo, they signed with Oakland label Creator Destructor Records. Their first EP, Burning Desire to Draw Last Breath, flew through three separate vinyl pressings. By the time they released their debut full length, Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress, in July 2020, the spark had become a burning flame. Already, six months earlier, fans had mobbed the band at a Florida airport, trying to buy their highly coveted bootleg Gulch/Sanrio hoodie.
Last September, with little fanfare, Gulch announced that they would be breaking up, posting online a flyer listing their last 11 shows. While a sudden ascent to worldwide renown might sound great to most bands, Kakimoto says Gulch had reached a critical point, one far from their humble beginnings in a Scotts Valley practice space.
“It feels almost like not hardcore anymore. It feels like we’re some bigger band or something,” he says. “It gets too weird, too involved with money and popularity. It was really off-putting and we thought, ‘Maybe we should just get off this ride before we start to hate it.’”
Musically, Gulch have continued to expand up until the very end. At four minutes, “Bolt Swallower,” from their 2021 split with scenemates Sunami, is easily the band’s longest song—almost an epic compared to their standard 1-2 minute blasts. A spacey, atmospheric outro hints towards new sonic directions for the band. Meanwhile, “Accelerator,” with its classic thrash drumbeat, would fit nicely in a setlist right alongside “Cries of Pleasure, Heavenly Pain” from Impenetrable Mental Fortress. Both clearly indicate why the band have become such a flashpoint in modern hardcore.
Yet, after this Sunday, there’s only five shows left for Gulch.
Even if they’re never heard from again, their time at the front of San Jose hardcore has been bright.
“Hopefully people will continue to like Gulch,” Kakimoto says. “If they do, cool. And if not, we were a band at the best time I can think of. I’ve never seen hardcore so strong. I’m just glad we existed in this era.”
Sun, 7:30, $20
The X Bar, Cupertino