American Hardcore and the Rise of Modern Rock @ Kimmel Center: October 19

Moderator: Steven Blush, author, American Hardcore: A Tribal History

Vic Bondi, Articles Of Faith
Jack Rabid, The Big Take Over
Matt Sweeny, Chavez/Zwan
Michelle Rakshys, The Syndicate

There’s little debate to over whether or not hardcore has changed American music. The rise of college radio, the emergence of independent labels, the rise of grunge in the early '90s, the rise of indie rock in the early ‘0 s, and the near-collapse of the major labels can all be at least partially traced back to people playing fast and furious punk rock in various DIY venues across the country. Hardcore is that brash, aggressive, often politically-minded branch of the punk that came to prominence in the ’80s when punk transformed from an art scene centered around cities like New York and instead spread all over the country. The panel consisted of writers and critics like Steven Blush and Jack Rabid, who have played a curatorial role over the years in covering this music, musicians like Vic Bondi of legendary Chicago hardcore band Articles of Faith and Matt Sweeny of modern rock groups like Chavez and Zwan, and management like Michelle Rakshys who still promotes hardcore bands through The Syndicate.

The topics covered included the conception and emergence of hardcore, the legacy and endurance of DIY culture, violence within the hardcore community, the year hardcore “died” (suggested years: 1983, 1986), and, cause it wouldn’t be a hardcore panel without it, Legends of Ian MacKaye’s Integrity. Rabid, who publishes the magazine The Big Take Over, described hardcore as music that was, “younger, faster, louder, and more obnoxious.” Sweeney offered a pointed critique of some of the violence and unruliness that was both an essential part of hardcore but also a damaging force. He described going to shows where, “Everyone’ s a jock. Everyone likes to beat the shit out of each other.” He also described the ways elements of hardcore culture have been reappropirated, normalized and commodified over time with stores like Hot Topic cashing in on the image hardcore. Rakshys described how the internet has allowed local hardcore scenes to flourish in certain respects, claiming, “It’s a lot easier with the internet.” Bondi told the Fugazi anecdote about Ian MacKaye turning down over a million dollars from a major label.

The discussion was tinged by nostalgia, no matter how often Blush would try to steer the conversation towards the present. No one pointed out the irony that a panel discussion is probably the least punk rock thing on the planet and not particularly hardcore, but I think that was part of the point. Through great music and thoughtful criticism hardcore has become part of the rock canon.

-Daniel Jackson