This Is Hardcore Fest – Wherever You Go, There You Hardcore

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Hey there! Fidel Gastro here. Cinepunx was gracious enough to give me access to their blog in exchange for tickets and coverage of the annual installment of This Is Hardcore Fest. I would imagine most of you already know about the 4-day music festival in Philadelphia. And if you don’t know now? Well, you never did, or something like that.

For myself, it’s been thirty-seven years and I’m still trying to figure out exactly where I fit in. A lot of that comes from the fact that I grew up as one of the only Mexicans in the whitest city in the United States, and I decided at a very early age to be “alternative.”

Growing up in Salt Lake City at a time when information wasn’t seared into your eyeballs every moment of every day meant that you would take what you could get in an alternative scene whose ranks probably wouldn’t have filled the Electric Factory, let alone Union Transfer (both venues will be host TIHC Fest bands this weekend). Anything that was counterculture–be it wearing flannel, spraypainting walls, or skateboarding–was fit for consumption, and party lines weren’t drawn. Armed with a bus pass and parents who were too busy running a restaurant, I spent my days at Raunch Records, a purveryor of all things that would make Mormon parents soil their Jesus Jammies.

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It was here that I bought my first Fuct t-shirt, a Rolling Stones tongue modified with a tab of acid I naively mistook for a postage stamp. I thought I was the goddamn coolest. Looking back, I’m certain the cashier thought I was a goddamn poseur. No matter, he let me continue to hang around and spend my Taco Bell/Slurpee money on the entire Revelation Records discography. Back then, you could get EPs for $5 (which was about what I had left over after filling up on 59 cent burritos and frozen corn syrup), so I stopped Raging Against the Machine and turned myself Inside Out. I felt a different sort of Burn. I was captivated by all things angry (though not an angry kid myself), but more importantly, all things that nobody else had heard of (full disclosure: I’m the type of person who hates things as soon as they become popular. See also: Metallica’s Black Album). But I wasn’t the only one in Utah who gravitated toward this music (and lifestyle). Turns out that Salt Lake was the perfect breeding ground for hardcore, in large part because of the Mormon community, whose teachings forbid drugs and alcohol. The youth of back in the day were already straight edge. You know that NYHC symbol the with the letters placed around the intersection of the X? In Salt Lake, they had SLSE (Salt Lake Straight Edge), who were the focus of a 1998 L.A. Times article about gang violence. By this time, however, I had moved 2,000 miles east, and hardcore music was somewhat of a distant memory until my first college roommate showed up with a trunkful of hardcore CDs. Bands with single-word names like Floorpunch and Strife overlaid in varisty letters on grainy black-and-white photos of punk kids screaming along with lead singers.

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Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in. Somehow, out of the entire pool of college applicants and potential roommates, I get paired up with the hardcore kid, skinny legs, sauconys, and all. And I found myself at shows again, skewing the age demographic. More spectator than participant, but still eager to soak up every bit of the aggression.

It’s funny how no matter where you go, you always find your people. With social media and social networking (and the main reason I’m writing the words you’re currently reading), it’s much easier, but think back to the early 2000s. It was a flyer, or mixtape, or a trip to the local record store. Twenty-four years after hearing Chaka Malik scream that gruff “Whatcha gonna do when it’s all reaching the end!” for the first time, I get to see it live. If you can somehow score tickets to the Thursday show, Burn, at least to me, is an underappreciated must see. And since you’re there, you may as well place bets on whether or not Ray Cappo’s voice still cracks like it did during his Shelter days (he’s fronting the Porcell/Siegler/Schreifels Youth of Today lineup).

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While Thursday is primarily about the classics, Friday brings in some new blood, and certainly bands that play faster, scream louder, and lean towards all things evil. I’m mainly in it for Iron Reagan, who I make a point to see every time they’re in town. As much as I love hardcore, thrash is where I’d prefer my still-beating heart to be ripped from my chest. I’m hoping that after seeing these guys, All Out War, and Integrity that I have the strength to go on for Saturday and Sunday.

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But pain is temporary, and pride lasts forever, so I’ll push through with the help of Hub Bub coffee and maybe a nap during Criminal Instinct’s set (no offense guys, it’s really just the set timing). The denouement of Saturday is Gorilla Biscuits, a band whose music was the only thing that could get me to clean my room or finish my homework, and another band that pimple-faced me looked up to even though the only thing I really knew about them was informed by their album covers. Shit, maybe I am a poseur.

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Sunday has no plans whatsoever to throttle back. Breakdown, Strife, and Floorpunch will be keeping you dancing until late in the evening. And if by that point the fatigue gets to you, think about this: you’re gonna have to wait a long long time until these bands come around again. I think the young kids call that YOLO these days. We’ll be there for as much of the finger pointing that we can, so keep your browsers tuned to Cinepunx for day-by-day play-by-play photos and recaps. See you at the shows!

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Fidel Gastro
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Fidel Gastro

Fidel Gastro is an old man who refuses to be an old man. His writings are typically dedicated to overhyped and underdelicious fast food. He spends most of his time engaging in the celebrated internet pastime of self deprecation and also questions his life choices up to this point. He also runs a small beef jerky company when he's not at his day job.
Fidel Gastro
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