Scraping Genius Off The Wheel

HARDCORE STILL LIVES — AND WHAT A LIFE IT IS

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This Is Hardcore 2011To truly get a sense of what hardcore looks, sounds, and smells like today, one could hardly do better than to have attended this past weekend’s aptly-named This Is Hardcore festival, a four day extravaganza and endurance test of one’s devotion to the subgenre. Scores of fans, dozens of bands, and a representative sample of scene vendors descended upon Philadelphia to represent and revel in a robust lineup with acts as disparate as Bitter End, H2O, and Touché Amore. At no point did the diversity of acts seem more apparent than on Friday, when metallic misanthropes Ringworm essentially opened for the melodic likes of Mouthpiece and Title Fight.

Moreso than established names on the bill such as Terror, up-and-comers and well-regarded locals received some of the best crowd reception. Southern Lord act Nails delivered roughly 20 minutes of blunt force trauma culled primarily from last year’s Unsilent Death, while crossover thrash revivalists Mother Of Mercy put on a boisterous performance that left no doubt in my mind that they’re a band to keep your eye on. Unsurprisingly, straight-edge bands like Stick Together and the raucous Helmet-esque Agitator went over well. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the thunderous applause and ferocious pitting that accompanied The Rival Mob‘s set. A cult favorite with a merch-devouring fanbase, the Boston band played through what little material they’ve released to date–despite some technical difficulties at the start–and promised a proper LP on Revelation Records sometime in the future.

The weekend was not without its share of dramatic onstage moments. Dark horses All Else Failed stunned many with an emotional and at times agonized set that many (including myself) called the best of the entire fest. Accompanied by Reign Supreme frontman Jay Pepito, Blacklisted played what might possibly have been their final show, a “Don’t Look Back” style set revolving around We’re Unstoppable material. Given the number of recently reunited hardcore bands on the bill (and in general), I doubt we’ve seen the last of them. Madball closed out Sunday with an unapologetic set, half of which was new material off 2010’s Empire. True to form, longtime hardcore ambassador Freddy Cricien decried “novelty” bands that get back together just “to play their first album”, a well-placed dig that probably didn’t sit well with some.

And speaking of reunions, this fest had them in spades: From Ashes Rise, Killing Time, Reach The Sky, Strife, Token Entry and Underdog to name just a few among the recently rebooted. Resurrection, the Rob Fish fronted second wave act that preceded, and then overlapped with 108, played a heart-wrenching performance to a less-than-enthused crowd (perhaps drained by the preceding District 9 set). Nonetheless, the band, whose discography was released by Deathwish that very day–put on a powerful show that I dutifully supported from the front of the stage, witnessing Fish seemingly break down at times. Friday night headliners Youth Of Today offered a spirited run-through of straight-edge classics like “Make A Change” and “Take A Stand.” Hardcore journeyman Ray Cappo has hardly paused over the past three decades, and on Friday both he and guitarist John Porcelly showed little sign of slowing down.

Curiously, while metalcore like Morning Again was openly embraced, deathcore was essentially hardcore’s bastard cousin that owes it money, receiving no representation or even so much as a t-shirt. No matter, as one needed only mosey on over to the Theatre of the Living Arts, where on Saturday both Whitechapel and Oceano played the Summer Slaughter tour.

-GS

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