DISCLAIMER For the large part of this article, I will be referencing some of my experiences within the Philadelphia (and surrounding areas) hardcore scene. However, please take this all with a grain of salt as, for the most part, the Philly hardcore scene has been nothing but accepting and wonderful as long as I have involved with it. The incidents I reference are few and far beyond but much easier to use as a point of reference as I have personally experienced them.
At the beginning of November, I reviewed the newest Twitching Tongues record for this site and gave it a less than stellar review, as that was how I personally felt after listening to it. To me, this was not a big deal. Numerous times in the past I have read negative reviews of records I thoroughly enjoyed and simply moved on with my life; there are such a thing as separate opinions, after all, and everyone is entitled to their own. Sadly, however, it would seem that not everybody who read my review would agree with that sentiment. Upon the review being shared by friends on various social media sites, I began to notice to a few message requests pop up on my Facebook. I was curious as to why it seemed that I was spontaneously becoming significantly more popular, and finally caved in, checking the message requests. Needless to say what I found as a result less than thrilling.
The first one I read was from a girl who’s basic message summed up to this: “You’re a shitty writer for reviewing this record poorly” and ended with the always lovely sentiment of “if I see you at a Philadelphia show, I’ll have my boyfriend and his friends beat you up.”
Overall, I brushed it off, deleted the messages, and blocked her. There was no need for me to acknowledge that negativity and I was positive that I would come to no bodily harm if I attended a Philly hardcore show afterwards (which I have done in abundance since). However, as time went on, I began to think back to this incident, and it slowly dawned on me that this behavior was not an isolated event in the hardcore scene, but rather was reflective of a much larger issue that has been plaguing the scene for awhile now.
What I’m referring to is hardcore’s rather dangerous love affair with the tough guy mentality, a mentality that takes away from the music and makes involvement in the scene less about the music and far more about keeping up appearances, a sentiment that is rather ironic when considering that much of punk revolves around individuality. While many may not see it, and many may just choose to ignore it as it largely doesn’t involve them beyond dealing with the occasional crowd killer, it is an issue that threatens now to drive hardcore from DIY staple venues all over the world that essentially keep the music alive, as well as provide a huge turn off for countless new fans who are exploring the genre. Not to mention it creates a dangerous herd mentality and helps to breed incidents of violence, such as what happened to Tom Alderson of Crosscheck.
As stated above, it is highly ironic that hardcore, a subgenre of punk music, would ever idealize and even celebrate herd mentality but, alas, this is what has happened as the “tough guy” attitude has worked its way into hardcore, ultimately creating the era of “da crew”. What, exactly, is a hardcore “crew” those readers who are not familiar with the genre may be asking themselves? Well, beginning in the mid to late 1980’s in East Coast hardcore scenes were “Straight Edge Crews”, or, as the style of music that quickly followed to match this new lifestyle was so fondly called, youth crews.
These crews were meant as a way for straight edge members of the hardcore scene, who were very much a minority in those early days, to find common ground with one another and surround themselves with people who led a similar, positive lifestyle. However, these crews also brought with them dangerous herd mentality, similar to that of gangs, and resulted in many “policing” shows, beating on those who they deemed as “offending them” or sometimes even just those who didn’t seem to fit in.
Even today, as bizarre and overdone as it sounds, these crews exist, but they have just changed a bit. Enter the world of the modern day “mosh” crew, those who are too afraid to enter the mosh pit alone, and so instead mosh on anybody and everybody not with or representing their crew, including those who purposefully avoid the pit as they do not want to mosh. Which brings me back to the irony of it all. If punk has always been about individuality and personal choice, why would you ever decide to forcefully subject those who are enjoying the show in their own way to a barrage of swinging fists and spin kicks? There are, after all, “designated” “mosh areas” in the crowd for a reason, and that is so that those who don’t want to mosh can simply avoid it.
To make matters worse, bands have long since adopted this attitude, encouraging it in the crowd and working actively to pressure people into getting violent in the crowd or moshing when they don’t want to. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good mosh call and am always active in any pit, but even I recognize that when bands build their entire image, music, and attitude around this “tough guy” mentality that NOT crowd killing or moshing makes you weak or a “fake” hardcore fan, it’s difficult to not get a bit swept up in all of it.
For the most part, this is where the issue lies, as it deters member who may actually be helpful, productive members of the scene, and instead replaces them with a whole lot of dead beats who there for the sole purpose of getting violent and harming someone. The worse part of this is that it is often accepted and dismissed, with many saying “it’s just part of a hardcore show, you know what you’re getting into.” However, it should not just be “part of a hardcore show”, as it usually ends with negative repercussions for the scene such as losing beloved DIY venues, something any good hardcore scene needs to thrive, or worse, someone suffering serious injury, such as Tom Alderson.
Which is why we need to put an end to this attitude in the music. It is causing the scene to rip itself apart from within and lose its punk roots, no longer giving a sheltering space to those who feel like they don’t belong elsewhere, but instead giving them a new set of standards to conform to; ones that promote violence and exclusion. It is shameful behavior from the fans, and more importantly shameful behavior from the bands. They are who the scene takes its cues from, and if we have bands who continually play shows with bands like Bad Luck 13 (just google that whole mess) and other crew affiliated bands, we are sending the message that this behavior is not only ok, but will continually be supported. It is our jobs as fans and musicians to reclaim the safe haven from judgement that hardcore once was and rebuild a stronger, better scene in which no one is forced to conform to a new set of ideologies but is free to express themselves, as was originally intended.