( Editor’s Note: Welcome to our first THIS IS HARDCORE FEST round up post! These are not comprehensive reviews of the fest, rather they are a documentation of one person’s experience of it. Fidel was a perfect choice for me to ask because he is someone older, who grew up with this music, but isn’t as involved anymore as me and Josh are. As TIHC fest grows, more and more of the audience are these returning core-men, and as such I value Fidel’s input very much. Importantly, all the photos in this piece and in all his pieces were taken by the lovely and talented Anne Spina who is great and who you should pay to take pictures of things. Thanks all, Liam out!)
So, how was your Thursday?
Mine was good, then it got bad, which was actually a good thing, because it put me in the right headspace for night 1 of This Is Hardcore Fest. Then it got great. After a shit day at work, I celebrated my 9th anniversary and my daughter’s 7th birthday (best anniversary gift ever) before heading to Union Transfer for the last three acts on the Thursday bill. You must remember, music festivals are a marathon, not a sprint. That didn’t seem to resonate with the sold out crowd, especially the dancers, who were a perpetual motion machine on the floor and on the stage. Then again, for a lot of these fans, the anticipation of This Is Hardcore Fest has likely been building up since last year.
First up (for me) was Code Orange. This was my first time seeing the Pittsburgh quartet. A festival staple, Code Orange brings an anticipatory type of hardcore that triggers the primal fight-or-flight response with every kick drum and chord strum. You don’t know whether to flinch or throw punches at the music, and it’s SO HEAVY.
Burn came on next, and I’m reluctant to admit some disappointment. Frontman Chaka brought a lot of energy and stage presence, but Code Orange proved to be a tough act to follow. I think the other issue was that a lot of the crowd seemed unfamiliar with the music (see previous post about Burn being underrated). There were a few dancers and divers, but the only people I saw singing along were the folks backstage. Highlights included Bane’s Aaron Bedard on guest vocals for Out of Time (pretty sure that was him), and the first ever Burn song I heard (and fell in love with), Shall Be Judged.
At this point in the evening, there was a noticeable swell in the crowd (as if it weren’t crowded enough). It was apparent who the kids really came to see. I had fortunately found a balcony spot to post up (my dancing shoes were in the shop last night), and I watched every square inch of the floor below me disappear while Youth of Today set up onstage. Then I watched as the space behind the drum riser and really anywhere a body could fit suddenly housed a human, a veritable fluid of hardcore scene. It was 11:15 P.M. and the energy in the place felt like morning rush hour. After a few technical difficulties with Porcell’s guitar, they launched into an hour of classics. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people stage dive in a single set. Then again, I’ve never been to a Youth of Today show. Ray Cappo’s voice still carried that raw energy, brimming with inspiration to be a better version of yourself. The message was community and love (yes, I know there’s a lot of irony when juxtaposed against the music), and the whole thing played out like a family reunion. It was nostalgia in its purest form, and really just a beautiful thing to watch.