I love the summer. ‘Tis the season when the transient, street urchins and their mange-ridden mutts scramble to the freight yards of Gentilly to hop their getaway trains onto cooler, more hip towns; the season when the Loyola and Tulane poseurs fly home for their two-month’s break, leaving only the dedicated NOLA folk to fester and do all the summer fun things—like late- night swims at Pontchartrain Beach, nocturnal rabble-rousing in City Park and basking in one’s punk-house kitchen in front of a noisy industrial-sized fan. Summer is also, as it turns out, a season for many a hardcore show.
The same way Eskimos have, like, a dozen words for igloo, I think we punx need more classifications for words in our discourse. I mean, when I tell an acquaintance I listen to hardcore, it pains me to think they might mistakenly believe I’m referring to the weenie kind—such as the bands on the Dragon’s Den bill of the first string of “hardcore” shows I tabled for the Iron Rail Book Collective during the month of July. Perhaps in an effort to redeem an otherwise horrendous show, Christon threw my homies in Reclaim Life (a.k.a. Baker’s Guild) on the bill with some bands called Tonight Is Glory and Katsumoto, or something like that. Christon—I commend you, my friend. It takes real dedication to book shows for and deal with scores of bands one doesn’t necessarily care much about—let alone the really, really lame ones. And my god, these touring bands suuucked. I’m undecided as to what I hated most about this show. The fact that these douche-dicks blocked my table the whole night with their gear—so that even if there had been more than five people at the show, no one could have looked at anything if they wanted to? Or was it the bands’ pretty- boy “light guy” snidely telling me, as I tried reconciling the situation, “You don’t have to move it anymore, dude?” Or could it have been the dumb strobe light these bands incorporated into their cheesy MTV-emocore sets and using the word “pwned” on a t-shirt? How ’bout Katsuwhatever’s dipshit broadie very vocally watching porn on his little iPhone and remarking how he was “about to blow a load in this trash can?” Now pass me that trash can, please, so I can throw up—throw up all over your jizz and all over your now-jizz-stained b-ball shorts. And yet this very band, I’d heard, was on Uprising Records— the same label from the ’90s responsible for releasing Kill the Slavemaster’s record and run by hardliner- turned-Muslim Sean Muttaqi, former vocalist of the infamous Vegan Reich. Apparently that guy isn’t drug-free anymore, though; after all, he would have had to be blazed on some cosmic, otherworldly grass and experiencing some mystical revelations as ridiculous as the whole of Islam itself to put out records by a band like this. He would had to have been puffing the kind of grade-A, hydroponic cheeba I used to get from my podna before he cut off those dreadlocks and cleaned up his act. Some holy, hellified reefer, you dig? You dig?! ’Cause these bands—I mean, we’re talking some real weenies-in-the-works here. Which brings me back to what I said before—distinctions must be made. Therefore, in my own fascist demarcations and dichotomous leanings, I have separated the genre into two categories— hardcore and weenie-core. I’ll provide a few examples here. Kill the Slavemaster: hardcore; Tonight Is Glory: weenie- core. Katsumoto— weenie-core; Frou Frou— hardcore. You get the picture. You do because I say you do, minions!
Fortunately, a few nights later I got a little taste of the latter category when I tabled the show Reclaim Life/Baker’s Guild played with New York’s incredibly loud, incredibly fast Swallowed Up at Zeitgeist. Karate Scott dazzled the showgoers—a fair few—with his delectable vegan king cake wizardry reared in the school of Whole Foods’ Secret Society of Overnight Bakers. I think by the time those two cakes—one chocolate, one regular cinnamon—were stowed away in the bellies of the touring band they were all ready to swallow up some more of Scott’s creamy white icing, if you know what I’m saying. If you catch my drift. If you’re smelling what I’m stepping in. If you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. I mean out of Scott’s dick. They wanted to suck it. S that d. ’Cause his Halla-dough pastry made all of ’em wanna HOLLA!
Going along with this disproportionate number of New Orleans hardcore shows, the next afternoon was the “10 for 10” hardcore matinee. I covered myself and my Iron Rail articles in a trash bag and biked out in the rain to The Hangar, the venue located…Exactly where was I?! Stepping into that warehouse on Rendon Street was like stepping into a portal to another dimension: I couldn’t be sure if I was still Uptown, across the Jeff Davis bridge from my neighborhood, or actually in the netherworld of Metairie or Baton Rouge’s Darkroom. Definitely could have fooled me. I kept looking up at the attendees and the lighting and thinking, “How did I get in the suburbs?!” only to remember I was a ten minute bike ride from my house.
Bane was on the bill, and they were the only band I cared about that day. I saw Bane play the High Ground a couple years ago to about thirty people, if that; everyone, it turned out, had gone to Baton Rouge that night to see Terror instead! Well, good riddance, I say! Yet, despite the fact that only a few showed up, a couple remnants from the Crescent City Dickhead Shitpricks still had managed to start a fight on this fateful day, causing Bane to stop the show and give a little lecture. Now, because both bands were on the “10 for 10” bill today, I was getting two for the price of one: Bane in addition to all the asshats who listen to Terror! Yippeeee! Ah, here I go—sounding jaded already…It’s no secret: this show was proving itself a real downer for me, leading me to reevaluate a lot of things. Granted, Iron Rail made some money (hardcore fans tend to spend it freely), but I felt completely disgusted. By six o’clock, my makeshift table had almost been taken out by air- punching, crowd-domineering morons a few times, and in my equally fragile state, I didn’t know if I could handle it; my table would go flying one of these times, and I would either crumble with it and bawl there in a heap on the floor like a baby, or I would lunge at the jerk-wad with the sharpest object I could get my hands on! When Bane arrived I actually told the singer doing stretches outside I was glad they were up next, so I wouldn’t have to sit through the rest of the show. He frowned. “Aw, but there’s still great bands playing after us…”
Bane totally made the show for me. If they hadn’t played, as I at first feared since they showed up a few hours late, I would have most likely gone home bitter and depressed. But they took the stage and somehow all the heybrahs disappeared as surely as they shall two years hence, and the vibe of the show completely changed. I looked over and saw my friends grabbing the mic, screaming together arm in arm, and it felt almost like…a real hardcore show. And what can I say? I love that Bane singer—busting jump-kicks in those enormous white Nikes, flapping his arms in that button- up three sizes too big, cap perched backwards over his dome. He looks kind of like some hip grandpa or something. Ol’ Pawpaw, dancing around in his oversized clothes and dispensing sagely wisdom to the kids again… First, he made fun of the people standing way in the back with their arms folded—”We got a tough panel of judges back there. I hope we meet your approval.” Ha ha! That was great! He also pointed out to those of us standing up front, “This barrier seems really unnecessary. I don’t see any security guarding it…” And as if accepting a dare, as the opening chords rang out for the next song, the crowd concentrated to the front began shaking the barricade from the ground. Like a convulsing mass quivering with the passion of incited insurrection, like an embittered people ready to storm the gates of an empire, they madly shook the metal grating as the song built to a crescendo. It came loose! Then—in a moment of beautiful and poignant direct action, the barrier was forced from its position and wielded by the frenzied masses for a moment before being tossed against the wall—breaking down the barriers between us and bringing about true unity! It reminded me of that Earth Crisis show, when the kids tore off that cumbersome bar attached to the stage during the “Gomorrah’s Season Ends” pile-on. But this was even better. Well, maybe not better; just different. This was, like, metaphysical or something… After Bane played, I sat at my Iron Rail tabling perch in happy reverie for all of Poison the Well’s set. I felt totally rejuvenated. The morons now all seemed somehow less macho, the stage and re-erected barrier less stupid, the world and scene in general just more…posi. But something was bugging me. That frown. After Poison the Well finished playing, I walked over to the Bane singer lounging on the couch—lounging like Gramps in his La-Z Boy. “That comment I made to you before was very cynical,” I began. Just then the DJ started yelling at some idiots who started a fight—”All y’all are fucking assholes!” He sounded pissed. Like somebody stole his weed or something. I mean before he cut off his dreads and quit dealing, obviously. Definitely a positive life choice. Just inconvenient. I mean, now I have to find someone else with dreadlocks to give me the hook up! I continued my spiel to Pawpaw Bane: “It’s just that, being here all day and seeing some of this bullshit I begin to remember all the things I hate about hardcore.” Overbearing machismo. Women treated like coat racks. Consumerism. Commercialism. Patriotism.
“Oh, man, I totally understand,” he replied. “These are long fucking days. I totally understand where you’re coming from.”
“But I’ll say this,” I went on. “Your set completely changed the mood of the show for me.” His face lit up. “That’s awesome! Thank you! Man—that’s awesome!” Sincerity. He came up to me some time later, browsed my table, and bid me an equally high honor when he told me, “You’re doing an important thing here.” Now that’s true respect right there—not just the kind these fight- horny “crews” give lip service to!
Finally, Madball played. Speaking of things I hate about hardcore…Actually, like Terror, they weren’t as bad as I expected. Just silly. “Yo, let me tell you something,” the Stallone-esque frontman told the crowd. “In case you didn’t know, hardcore began on the streets.” Hmmm… Well, I guess you learn something new everyday! Or: “Ten dollas fo’ a hardcore show. You can’t beat that.” Well, how about walking through the back door with an armload of “merchandise?” That sure beats paying ten dollars! Sylvester also set one of their songs out “to our [sic] president.” Their (b)roadie sitting next to me in front of Madball’s ten-thousand t-shirt designs wore an “American Straight Edge” shirt prominently displaying our nation’s flag, so I’m deducing that these whack- ass mofos actually support Barack Obama! American Straight Edge— that’s sort of oxymoronic, in my humble opinion. About as oxymoronic as so-called “free trade” or the “War on Terror.” Besides, America totally infringes on my right to wind down after a long day and light up a little Scooby Doobie. Do a little midnight toking. Puff that magic dragon. And worship Allah. C’mon— give me a break-edge already, will ya?! I wondered if the iconoclastic subject matter of my distro had anything to do with Captain America telling me earlier that day I had to move the extra Iron Rail things taking up a foot of space on “Madball’s” table?
The show drew to its close, and I was left to evaluate once again why I’m here. One theme I picked up from the bands throughout the evening was the medium of hardcore music serving as a place of escape, this idea of being an outcast and discovering the only place they truly belonged. Now, I’m all about using the punk subculture “to fit in” or to “escape this bullshit world,” but what is up with all this additional tough-guy nonsense? I see hardcore music representing those above things for me, too; yet I feel alienated at the same time when I find myself in a room full of beefy, shirtless imposters swinging their fists, screaming the lyrics but not saying much at all. Diluting what could otherwise be a potent counterculture, and turning it into another microcosm of the destructive dominant culture. I look around and ask myself: Are you people “escaping” to a place to fit in and vent your anger because you weren’t picked for the football team? Did your father beat you as a child and—once drawn to the scene as a place of shelter—you now embody those same abusive traits as you dominate and lash out??? Or are you actually just infiltrating a refuge for the outcasts and using it to feed your own inflated male ego and masking your insecurities by perpetuating violent behavior? Do you feel important now? Like you’re “part of something,” Mr. Underdog? A scene to be seen, to be noticed, to be feared? Well, you can have it, broseph; may it lead you nowhere. Because when it comes down to it, most of those people still represent “this bullshit world” to me—and I’m still trying to escape from it…
AcknowlEDGEments: for the REAL hardcore kids; for those girls and boys challenging patriarchy at every step; and for those who understand that “table”/”distro” are verbs, not nouns…