Growing up as a ‘hardcore kid’ was always pretty tough. All of my favourite bands were confined to a tiny little micro-world of basement shows, minimal press exposure and an almost sneering gaze from the wider scene. It always felt as though hardcore was looked down upon as a more simple art form, as if it doesn’t carry the artistic weight of metal or the mainstream loved edge of daytime radio rock. However, times are changing, hardcore is firmly in the public eye in 2018.
” To have a band as abrasive, violent and seething as Code Orange representing the hardcore scene in the mainstream eye is a blessing that has propelled the scene slap bang into middle of the public circle.”
It was always a bug bearer of mine having to scour through festival bills, praying to find a band even remotely linked to hardcore. I remember flicking through the pages of a well-known music publication (beginning with the letter ‘K’) after the Download 2011 bill had been announced and being beyond thrilled to see one of the best 1. 2. 3. punches of hardcore in recent festival booking history. Booking a then up and coming ‘letlive.’ into ‘Your Demise’ followed by a firm boot to the face by Lee Spielman and co. in ’Trash Talk’ felt like a small victory in the ever raging ‘notice me’ war. However, this is where it stopped, all we continued to get was incredible bands being palmed off to midday slots on the third stage, when they deserved so much more.
Fast forward to 2018 and the hardcore scene is in a very different place. Hardcore is at long last finally turning heads again, with the rise of Hardcore bands on festival bills and even Hardcore-exclusive festivals popping up all over the place. Leeds’ accidental hardcore Mecca ‘Outbreak Fest’ returns for it’s 10th instalment this year, having just announced it’s biggest lineup to date, including bands such as Turnstile, Jesus Piece, and NYXHC veterans Cro-Mags. It feels as though something special is bubbling just under the surface for hardcore, as if it’s very own ‘Nevermind’ moment is about to happen. Obviously, hardcore is never going to gain fully blown mainstream success due to the visceral nature of the music itself, yet it feels as though new doors are finally being opened whereas they were previously dead-bolted shut. Let’s also not forget all of the independents absolutely smashing it, look at Shedfest selling out in the first year, or turning to Amsterdam to look at an ex nuclear fall out bunker being rammed out in the name of a festival. Hardcore is a genre that celebrates DIY and independence, something that is, and always will be essential to keeping both the live music, and festival circuit alive.
Lets take a look at Download then shall we? Download is one of the only festivals to embrace hardcore with open arms over the last couple of years. Featuring bands like Code Orange, Madball, Suicidal Tendencies and Hatebreed, hardcore feels as though it has found a home within the fields of Donington. Interestingly, starting in 2017, Download rebranded it’s third stage as the ‘Avalanche’ stage, dedicating an entire space on the bill to punk, hardcore and alt-rock. This is new ground for Download and it’s great to see such a big festival changing and morphing to suit audience demand, with this years bill including hardcore bands like, Cancer Bats, Employed To Serve and the Bronx.
It can’t be denied that a lot of the recent success that hardcore is enjoying has been in the wake of Pennsylvanian scene-saviours, Code Orange, blowing up at the start of last year. Seeing how far they have come since the release of ‘Forever’ (I’m not going to tell you what it sounds like, you’ve made your way to this feature on hardcore, so you definitely know already) is absolutely mind boggling. To have a band as abrasive, violent and seething as Code Orange representing the hardcore scene in the mainstream eye is a blessing that has propelled the scene slap bang into middle of the public circle. After Grammy nominations and Times Square billboards, Code Orange are going from strength to strength and more people are listening to what they’ve got to say. Surely it wouldn’t be hard for a fan to make the jump to a fellow scene bedfellow like Jesus Piece or Knocked Loose?
It has to be remembered that the current success that hardcore is basking in is not self sustaining. There have even been a few casualties along the way. This year, the traditional form of Groezrock has been cancelled due to many of the volunteers dropping out in order to pursue other ventures, with some even falling out of love with punk and hardcore. Moreover, Groezrock isn’t the only punk and hardcore-heavy festival to bite the dust in the last few years. Ghostfest and Hevy Fest have both been heartbreakingly laid to rest due to underfunding and simply not enough support. These festivals and this scene desperately need support from fans, as without it we can kiss goodbye to a boozy weekend belting out posi-messages and spin kicking to your hearts content.
So where does this leave us? Hardcore has still got a long way to go before it’s gracing main stages at the biggest festivals in the world. However, we’re finally out of the basement and I for one can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
Words by Callum Hurst
OH AND HERE’S THE FESTIVALS WE RECOMMEND FOR YOUR HARDCORE FIX. YOU’RE WELCOME (ticket links below)