Author’s note: I’d like to precede the following essay by thanking the Rocky Recs team, Dale specifically, for their utmost patience in bearing with me as I slowly found the words in my hands once again.
While capable of achieving abstract thought of the highest order, the human brain tends to function best when compartmentalizing data into manageable pieces. For example, the state in which one resides is useful in a macro view of geolocation, but largely useless when it comes to ordering a pizza. As such, our species developed streets, postal codes, cardinal directions, and a whole host of determining factors to describe your home with enough clarity to ensure your disc of cheesy goodness arrives safe and sound.
By this same token, we break down and discuss music.
For the most part, all humans can say that they enjoy music to some degree or another. But for those whose passion extends beyond using the radio for background noise, there’s a point where the specificities of what we absorb aurally merges with part of our socio-cultural identity. Whether this is reflected in your sudden urge to wear strapped sandals and listen to Grateful Dead live bootlegs while slack-lining or constantly refreshing a subreddit so you know which warehouse space is hosting a tech-house set until dawn, the most passionate amongst us eventually become that which we absorb. These things become fractalized versions of ourselves.
After all, someone who has never had their heart broken probably won’t appreciate Elliot Smith as much as the rest of us.
Combining the most aggressive tendencies of metal with the politics and personality of street punk, hardcore is an amalgam of all things angry. Exhibiting a neb-tribalism not often seen in other subsets of music, hardcore “kids” (Kids can be used to define ages ranging from 13 to 45 depending on context) understand that a sweaty basement filled with people pummeling one another will never become a societal norm. And they revel in the misanthropy.
However, this is not to say that hardcore kids are fueled only by rage. From it’s inception in punk scene during the late 1970’s, the entire point of hardcore has been to create a community dedicated to supporting one another during our darkest times. Sure that occasionally means punching your friend in the head, but that’s only because we haven’t figured out how to punch the geo-political turmoil of Earth in the head just yet.
Whether extolling the virtues of veganism, Straight Edge, ecocriticism, economic inequality, anti-racist and anti-racist movements, or simply just talking about how alone we can feel inside of our own heads, hardcore at it’s best seeks to improve the space husk we’re all floating around on. By virtue of these lofty goals, hardcore swiftly takes on a communal nature due to the common belief that we are all united against an existence which does not reflect us.
Rob Lind said it best: “Hardcore’s not much. But for some of us, it’s all we’ve got.”
Obviously, I still had my siblings and friends. But after all, the ethos of hardcore always managed to echo everything my father taught me to believe. Whether that be standing up for someone getting picked on because they’re different, refusing to place trust in authority, or rallying all the other lost souls and building your own society two steps to the left of the mainstream.
So, as an autopsy was being performed to ensure the skin, organs, and long bones of Robert Rathburn’s arms were harvested for donors, I stood in the alleyway of The Nile Theater listening to the bass reverberate through the asphalt as Iniquity, Beg For Life, Troubled, No Altars, and Iron Curtain played to a packed basement below.
Admittedly, this was a show I was supposed to be reviewing, and this piece was also due months ago. However, my time was instead spent shaking hands and hugging people I’ve spent the better part of 20 years building a small, fractured, but loving community with. At the end of the day, I suppose that’s all hardcore has ever and should ever be about. Communally channeling the hurt and anger into fists and screams until it stings a little less and the emptiness of the world wanes ever so slightly.