A Letter to all the Hardcore Kids Out There: Hardcore Ain’t All You Think it is.
by Mitchell Harper
Hardcore is more than music, it’s a lifestyle. Yes, it’s a rather clichéd sentiment, but it’s true. People who listen to hardcore become consumed by it. It affects their thinking, the way they live their life. It affects the people they surround themselves with and most of all, it affects the person they will become.
There is a difference between people who “listen to hardcore” and those who truly listen to hardcore. Those that “listen to hardcore” are people who do so because they enjoy the sound of certain band, it was recommended by a friend or it they read that a band they really like mentioned them in an article or interview. Those who truly listen to it get into hardcore because it speaks to them on an emotional level, a level that they can’t explain. It tugs at their heart strings and they can’t shake it. When they’re feeling down-and-out they listen to hardcore, or when they are in a good mood and they just want to sing along to their favourite lyrics, they put on their favourite band and sing, fist pump, head bang, and slam dance when no one is around to them. Hardcore changes lives, whether people like it or not. Where other music is just an escape from life, hardcore is about thinking and passion.
Hardcore can lead you down many roads. Things like vegetarianism or veganism, straightedge, religion and politics. You name it, it’s covered in hardcore. It’s what sets hardcore apart from genres like the mindlessness of pop, the bling culture of modern hip-hop and the heaviness of metal. Where punks are (generally) getting inebriated and going against the system, hardcore is about opening your eyes and seeing the world for what it is. This all sounds good on the surface doesn’t it? The truth is that as positive as hardcore is, people are sometimes caught in a vacuum of ignorance.
Hardcore can be a breeding ground for intolerance and hate. Hardcore may seem like one of the most open minded genres in music on the surface, but it has also created some of the most ignorant minds around. People get stuck in a zone that they can’t shake like a crack addict can’t shake pulling on his pipe for one last time. They get stuck in a nostalgic time zone which is similar to the Italian football league. Unwilling to shake from preconceived ideas that were laid before them by people who had previously walked the halls they now walk. They don’t seem to want to support new ideas, only when the rest of the world leaves them behind will they decide that it’s okay to join in. Experimentation is frowned upon unless it’s carried out so expertly that we have no choice but to accept it. Let’s face it, if bands like Defeater and Trash Talk weren’t as good as they are, people wouldn’t like them. People who like Trash Talk might turn their noses up at bands like Conquest For Death or Converge because they “are too thrash”, or “too noisy” but if it wasn’t for them there would be no Trash Talk.
In hardcore, it seems people are too happy to resign ourselves to musical recluse. Not wanting to divert from our preferred tastes and preferences, whether it be “Posi”, “Tough Guy”, “Straight up”, “Metalcore”, “Deathcore”, “Straightedge” or “Christian”. We seem to find a comfort zone and just be happy with what we have, like a slave given his 40 acres and mule, and not complain because it’s better than nothing. We won’t listen to other genres because we are afraid of either thinking outside the box or scared of what our friends will think. We are too scared to wonder into a different mindset, and things that wouldn’t be popular amongst our cliques become our guilty pleasure. For a genre that claims to be forward thinking, it is very closed off.
Hardcore is a genre that doesn’t claim to judge, but it is very judgmental. Bands won’t play with other bands because they aren’t hardcore, or don’t share the same musical ideals they have. People won’t associate themselves with others because they don’t share the same beliefs or don’t like how others think, instead we stand in corners and gossip about them, like old woman at salons under the perm machines. What is this, The Vatican? Are we this close-minded that we act like a political system or organisation that is cared of getting our image hurt that we must throw others to the wolves for our betterment? We are supposed to be hive of positivity and non-judgment. We are no different from the other group of people we try to distance ourselves from.
Over the years hardcore, like everything, has become corrupted by time. A pure idea has become tainted by individual ideals, beliefs and preferences which have turned something utopian into something ultimately ignorant. Let’s take straightedge for example: a completely genuine and innocent idea has been perverted into a form of hate. Straightedge, if you don’t know, is the adoption of a lifestyle free of alcohol, drugs and promiscuous sex. On the surface this sounds like a perfect model to live by, especially in a world where underage drinking, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy is at an all-time high. For parents this would be the ideal lifestyle for their children to live, and would help them sleep a whole lot easier at night. Unfortunately you can only claim to be straightedge if you are into punk or hardcore and even then it’s a hard life style to maintain. Many claim to be straightedge after a bender, when they have spent the night hunched over a toilet bowl, and woken up with a hangover that would make the strongest man say “I’m never doing this again”… only for them to start drinking again a few months down the line. If you have followed the lifestyle for any substantial amount of time, if/when you do start drinking again you get labeled an “edge-breaker”, and you are treated like an outcast. People are forever looking down on you with disgust, which is quite different to the non-judgmental picture that is painted for you when you first learn about straightedge. Where is the brotherhood that is famously sung to you by the bands that you love to listen to and watch every Saturday at a local venue? Straightedge has also spawned the most hate mongering groups in the history of mankind; militant straightedge groups who take pleasure in attacking individuals who don’t share their sentiments. Groups like FSU and Boston Beatdown praise those who take action against those who don’t share their beliefs. This sounds a lot like the Nazis of World War II, Jihadists or modern Israel. Is there really a difference between them? Labels like Seventh Dagger who specifically only sign straightedge bands and militant bands are no better than political parties who back right -wing extremists. People in hardcore are happy to praise and applaud people for their militant beliefs, yet at the same time claim to be tolerant of others.
This type of thinking isn’t reserved for straightedge. Veganism and vegetarianism has its own form of extremists. These come in the form of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). You may recognise PETA, they are they the group that has celebrities like Naomi Campbell, Famke Janssen, Pamela Anderson and many other celebrities in their “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign. The group is no different than any other political party that finds a niche’ market and tries to benefit from their supporters’ beliefs. The previously mentioned ALF is no different to a terrorist group. Hell, even their name sounds like Somali terrorist cell. The group is well known for breaking into animal testing labs, destroying them and petrol-bombing fast food chains. They are criminals who destroy other people’s property and livelihoods because they don’t agree with them. PETA has denied having ties to ALF in the past. Religion also plays a big part in the hardcore seen. People won’t seem to associate themselves to other people of different religions. Christians won’t listen to bands if they aren’t Christian, and vice versa. When did being religiously intolerant fly in the 21st century?
Hardcore is also an extremely nostalgic genre that has people transfixed in time and makes them wish that “Marty McFly” was real and they could travel two, five, ten and even twenty years back in time, so they could watch bands that they used watch because that’s when the best years were. People are unwilling to support new bands because the bands they used to support aren’t around anymore, and think it’s not worth their time to go support scenes that are trying to rebuild themselves. These very seem people sit on their social network sites and create debates about bettering a scene. Bands broke up because their time was up; everything runs its course, that is life. People need to forget the past, chalk it up as good times and move on. Another aspect of hardcore is that people can’t seem to accept the fact that people grow up and their tastes change. We seem to dog people because they decide to move on, if we didn’t we would all end up like Michael Jackson.
Many of you may be reading this and think that it is an outsiders opinion, but it isn’t. I have lived through all things I have mentioned and I have been going to shows since I was 14. Hardcore saved my life. If it wasn’t for hardcore I would not be the person I am, and I wouldn’t have the people in my life that I do. I was straightedge for four years and eventually “broke my edge”, not because I was weak and couldn’t keep up with the lifestyle, I just realised that it wasn’t for me. But if it wasn’t for straightedge I probably would have ended up like the rest of my family; a junkie, an alcoholic or some kind of addict. I don’t regret a day I was straightedge. I also found vegetarianism through hardcore, and have been a vegetarian for almost six years now. I also discovered my religious inclination through hardcore and I am thankful to hardcore for it. All I wish is for those who read this is to open your minds and throw away your preconceptions, like, “too bad, hardcore isn’t for everybody”. Accept others for who they are, because that’s what hardcore is all about to me.
Categories: Essays, FEATURED