So now it was time for Saturday at This is Hardcore, what a day, perhaps the day where we might find that piece of the American dream that the festival had been hinting at for the previous 48 hours. Through the fire and the flames we carry on, but can we find the true enlightenment we need, and perhaps even deserve? Or is there no way to find peace in this torn distorted world, and is hardcore simply something to take our minds off the darkness? Perhaps I will never know, but I certainly hope that this is one of the things guiding us towards a sort of cultural ascension.
It should be noticed that I had been almost entirely sober for the previous few days, something that has never happened to me at a festival before. Being surrounded by straight edge kids was starting to frighten me. Sure these guys are nice enough, but as the great Raoul Duke once said “Never trust a man who doesn’t drink.” I wasn’t sure if I was wholly comfortable in this environment. Vegans I can deal with, but there is something strange about young people who avoid alcohol entirely. Sure they say “Fuck bar culture,” but how can you hate something you’ve never been exposed too?
Anyway, I arrived at the venue early, and was frustrated to find that entry only started as the first band began to play. The opener on Saturday was Freedom, a group I had really been looking forward to seeing. I finally made my way into the venue about halfway through their set, yet what I did see totally ripped .These guys get the beautiful destruction of hardcore and their sound is loud and proud. It was really fun to watch these guys live, they certainly bring the mosh, and their energy is oftentimes unholy. I wish I had a chance to catch them play more of their stuff, because to be completely honest, if anyone at this festival truly understands hardcore, it might just be these guys.
Up next were Old Habits, now, I had had zero previous exposure to this band, but by god was I impressed by their music. They immediately came out and impressed me with an all out attack that added touches of Pantera to solid hardcore. Add in memorable chorus lines and powerful vocals and you had yourself a recipe for success. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of their performance though wasn’t the music as much as the couple who got engaged halfway through the set. Though their set was limited, the bands vocalist, Billy, proved to be an able and charismatic frontman who gave everyone a great experience. I was disappointed that these guys only really play in Florida, I would stoked to see a band who get hardcore like they do again.
The third band in a row for me was Full of Hell, another group made up of extremely young guys who play with an incredible rage and ferocity. The vocalist of Full of Hell may very well be demon possessed. The way his lines are torn out of his body and thrown upon the stage is simply impressive. These guys riffs are vicious too, every song blasts forth like a bear from a cage, leaving the listener feeling battered and broken, a slave to grinding, metal tinged hardcore that will split you in half. This is what the best hardcore is about. Youthful energy and destructive vibes channeled into something that we can all relate too and find a deeper meaning in.
Now it was time to go out and conduct some interviews. First I went down and found Billy from Old Habits, a man whose band had impressed me so much I felt almost obliged to interview him. He proved to be as cool in person as he had seemed onstage, reflecting some of that strange American magic that was dominating my weekend. I also took the time to set up a chat with Danny from Die Young, of course to properly interview him I probably had to wait until I actually heard some of his music, or at least saw him live, as I would later in the day. With that scheduled, I went and hung out with some of the local hardcore brethren and bands like Noisem. It made for an interesting time to chat before Die Young hit the stage.
When Die Young did come on I was immediately struck by the live energy of a band who have been doing this for basically twelve years now. The touches of metal in the sound helped to keep me engaged, and on at least one track there was even a *gasp* guitar solo! As the legions of stage divers crashed onto my skull, I realized that these guys really get what hardcore is about. As the bands singer, Danny, preached to the crowd about animal rights and the like between songs I realized that these guys had a very clear and beautiful driving force behind their music. These men are artists in the highest sense of the world, creating something engaging and educational, allowing us all to find something great within ourselves.
Coke Bust had a tough act to follow, but their unique brand of super angry hardcore did a good job of following up the magic of Die Young. There’s something incredibly democratic about a genre of music where any old fan can tear the mic out of the singers hand and contribute a voice of their own. Coke Bust are one of those bands who really get to the magic of hardcore. From the bandana on the singers head to the incredible grooves that these guys laid down, Coke Bust bring it hard. Sure, they never slowed down, but in all honesty, that only added to the magic, it makes Coke Bust the kind of hardcore masters who will tear your face off and force your body into the unholy two step that defined so much of the festival.
Now I had a bit of break before going back in to see Rotting Out so I did my interview with Danny from Die Young. It was interesting to speak to a man who had such a sense of balance in his life between hardcore and real life. In many ways getting a better understanding of his music was inspiring to me as a writer and musician, maybe you don’t need to go the whole way with this, but you can instead find peace with the toil of this world and the glory of music. All of the sudden halfway through a conversation with some of the guys from Die Young I heard a band covering Minor Threats In My Eyes. I knew it was time for me to jump into the pit and watch Rotting Out.
This was another one of those hardcore bands who get it. Blaring forward with the kind of breakneck and carefree attitude that only legends can have, Rotting Out did what they do best, they broke my skull open with a sound that can only really be described as a heavier evolution on Minor Threat. I’m fairly new to American Hardcore being European and all, but I’m starting to get a sense for the regional sounds of the genre, and when these guys refer to themselves as Washington DC hardcore you get a palatable sense of their pride in who they are and in what they do. They just want to share their crazed anarchist sound of liberation with punters like us, and you have to respect that sort of magic in the music.
After a far too long pause it was time for Nails to crash onto the stage. Now, I had high hopes for this band, Abandon All Life had been one of my favorite records of 2013. I was weirdly disappointed then by the music in their set. Sure the setlist was great, but it felt like they extended out the breakdowns so kids could rage. Seriously, why is hardcore dancing a thing? Furthermore, why would you do that at a show where the music seems to clearly be suggesting that you go out, and start a massive and face crunching mosh pit? Suffice to say, sure they were heavy as balls, but did they really get to the power of what they could put out on the record? No. However, I get the impression if I saw them on a metal bill with a pit going it might have been a lot better. I need to give Nails another chance before my heart breaks.
Anyway, it seemed like it was a good time to get going on to the aftershow, it would be 21+ so sneaking in might be hard. It was around this time that I found out a group of kids I had been hanging out with where not 20 like I had suspected but 16. The inevitable freak-out brought on by sobriety was about to start. I tried to figure out how to get to Kung Fu Necktie. Walking on your own for the first time through a shady neighborhood in an American city is a unique experience. At one point I pussied out and got taken a few blocks by an incredibly nice cab driver named Concord. Yet after I found the venue, I knew that the greatest struggle, sneaking in, had yet to come.
Unfortunately, despite the antics of me and Tyler from Noisem we were unable to get me into the show, and so I was forced to stand outside, hanging out with other young musicians trying to get to the heart of the American dream. Perhaps now is a time to mention how exceptionally decent Tyler Carnes is, he’s a sweet guy whose being taken on an incredible journey, if he manages to stick it through he could be his generations Randy Blythe. I met the guys in Full of Hell too, they are another bunch of friendly young dudes who just want to bring hardcore music to the fore, and surprisingly enough, they’re starting to succeed.
Yet, soon they had to go in to play their respective sets. I was left outside with the band Castle Freak, a group who were all nice dudes who happily consented to doing an interview with me. They seemd fun, exciting and heavy, the sort of wonderful metal music that keeps guys like me alive. Sure I’m a metal lifer, I don’t see another way to be, and dealing with other young metal lifers like these guys is always a pleasure. Their bassist is a graduate of the same school I’ll be going to in the fall which brought us together, talking about the goo times to be had at Saint Joseph’s University. The sort of brotherly bonding that can only happen through extreme music. I had learned a lot today and had many cool experiences, and so I lay down that night, ready for a final day of hardcore hatred.