The venue in the basement of The Nile Theatre is fucking hard.
The aptly titled The Underground has what you want from any music venue. Badly hung dry wall with holes punched in it. Random band stickers half peeled and hanging off rusty I-beams. And an uneven unfinished concrete floor beneath your feet that holds up a bar made from moving pallets screwed together.
The place smelled like hope and mopped up blood and the fucking scene. But most of all it felt like Home. I was there to see a Hardcore Tucson act called Beg For Life.
I was a bit of a blessed guest by the scene even never having been “IN” it before or to a local Mesa Hardcore show. I had made friend’s with Rocky’s own Rollie Rathburn through his partner Brielle.
Rollie will never say it himself but he is a bit of the Mayor of the scene having worked at The Nile forever. Rollie is the most knowledgeable musical mind concerning any scene I have ever met and while he worked the door Brielle introduced me to the bands lounging or tuning their instruments in packs. But these weren’t “packs” of dudes, they were more like murders of crows. They all played in each other bands and moved from group to group slowly in hoodies, covered in jean jackets with the sleeves torn off and in black tees. They greeted each other and spoke a secret language. I was fascinated, intrigued, on guard- and naturally needed a drink, even though that wasn’t the straight edge feel from half to three quarters of the basement members.
Now while most hardcore band names are written in fonts better seen on local sacrificial satanist club posters and sound like Manson’s own brain bleedings I was greeted with open arms and smiles. Humble, quiet and reserved each band member I met was incredibly…nice. But this was because I was vouched for. I was a half “made” man. But there was this feeling that behind each smile and in each sweaty gracious hand shake or hug you could feel violence.
I hung back and watched the venue fill and after a brief intro from the shows promoter the lights were turned off by the person closest to the light switch in the back of the room and the madness began.
I have been in Punk pits before. I have been stabbed by spirit spikes, picked up off of the sweat soaked astro turf at Punk Rock Bowling and managed to hold my own in a mud bog that doubled as a pit at a Rage Against the Machine/Wu Tang show. But nothing could prepare me for the explosive windmilling kicking slam dancing of a Hardcore show. Possessed by the bands these persons flailed their way to a euphoric rage in spurts of violence and camaraderie I had never scene before. Gasps and screams and dull thumps were the forth or fifth instruments in the music being played that filled The Underground. And as each song ended the love and acceptance that filled the void of the momentum of violence and energy that had just existed was also like nothing I had ever seen before in my life.
Music will never cease to fascinate me and like some fucked up van ride that seems to have no end I am constantly exposed by strangers and friends to new horizons that believe in the same thing- If you’re with us, you’re with us…but if you are not- get the fuck out.
I left covered in sweat with mild brain damage from a cocktail of amp feedback, screams and booze but I hungered for the experience again the second I sat in my quiet car reliving the low ceilinged brutality of the night behind my closed eyes.
Now as a disclaimer: I would not advise running blindly to your local Hardcore show and jumping in the pit. But if you see them, the chosen and violent, ask a question that makes sense and is informed- be a good human. And like anything, don’t be a dick.
Many thanks to The Nile, Rollie and Brielle, Iniquity, No Altars, Beg for Life, Iron Curtain, and everyone in the scene who accepted me with open arms.