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Getting To The Core of Hardcore

Rediscovering the Roots of Hardcore Music and Community

Originally Published: Wednesday February 6, 2008
Written by: Kat Boyer

A Community’s Call

Build communities, not scenes.”  These words are urged to fans by now-defunct Portland hardcore band Thirty3, a band that wrote song upon song about staying true to the hardcore community, friends, and the music that their community was based upon. It really is a shame more people in the hardcore scene aren’t Thirty3 fans, because it seems nowadays those lyrics could serve as much needed advice.

The Evolution of Hardcore Music: Popularity vs. Purity

With Hardcore’s entrance into pop culture and with the emergence of trends and fads hardcore-based we see a community turn in to what most feared it would, just another music scene.Though I, like any other fan, am happy about Hardcore’s growing popularity and the fact that it has found a way to survive the fate of most musical movements, I must say I am one of many fans who see it slipping away from what it once was. 

The Core of Hardcore: Community and Ideals

Hardcore was a movement oddly ambivalent about music itself, concerned instead with community and ideals. No dress code, no secret handbook of how to be the most ‘hardcore’ you could be. It was felt, not worn, created, not sold.

The Transformation of Hardcore Sound: From Meaning to Market

What used to be something so pure, so untouched by the mainstream and untainted by corporate hands has now developed into the newest trend, and not just businesses are reaping the benefits. Hardcore is the flavor of the week for new bands.  Singers decide to sing a little bit harder, scream a little bit louder. Guitarists buy a few pedals, learn a few new tricks.  Add a few ‘breakdowns’ and you’ve got kids hooked. 

What used to be songs with messages about self respect, strengthening a community, songs that appealed to the mind and soul of a fan are now laden with ‘jun-jun-juns’ and distorted voices, essentially bastardizing the hardcore sound. I will not say that there aren’t thriving roots-based hardcore bands out there, touring and spreading the message of real hardcore, but more and more we see bigger labels signing essentially generic sounding bands that can not be distinguished from one another by most fans.

Hardcore’s Identity Crisis: The Rise of ‘Core’ Subgenres

More sickening still is the sub-categorization of these bands by subgenres bearing monikers that are increasingly more ridiculous.  Few remember a time where hardcore music simply ‘was’. With a growing number of grind-core, metal-core, math-core, and any other ‘noun-core’ bands, the music that once existed is now simply a mutt of other genres cashing in on the hardcore sound.

Fashion Over Fidelity: The Changing Hardcore Scene

The past few years have been a trendy period for Hardcore.  With the emergence of seemingly dozens of new ‘core’ bands came a whole new fan base, and a whole new ‘scene’. A main component of this scene, a, for lack of a better word, uniform, worn by all who want to be accepted and deemed worthy of attention by others attempting to look the part of a fan.  At most of these sub-genre bands concerts, audiences are full of tight jeans, bandanas, and black zip up hoodies. 

A coincidence? Perhaps, but more and more shows are becoming about what you’re wearing and not what you’re listening to. More and more kids are being denied respect and acceptance into a community now over run with those who judge you by your hair, rather than your commitment and love for the hardcore genre. Real fans are opting out of attending their favorite bands shows, just to avoid another pit full of dressed up kids. Whereas the years soon after its inception Hardcore was a mentality and attitude, it is now becoming nothing more than a fashion statement, a trend marketed to teens.

Preserving Hardcore’s True Spirit

“Keep your scene. I’d rather be a part of a community. I thought this meant so much more than a slogan on the backs of our shirt.” The tools to save what is becoming a fading community of people staying true to hardcore are in the lyrics of the songs that helped shaped the scene. Thirty3 are just one of the many bands trying to remind listeners that the community is slipping away, becoming a scene obsessed with material appearances rather than a personal connection with band mates, fellow fans, and the music that Hardcore really is.

Next time you see yourself at a show, judging fans not dressed like you, remind yourself that clothing is not what the scene is about.  Next time you write a song, put on some Black Flag or Minor Threat and remember what bands were trying to do with the community they founded. Music is a precious gift, and squandering it on fame, money, merchandise, or looks, is something that a true hardcore fan would never reduce themselves to.

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