8.22.2018

THIS IS HARDCORE

Noun: an incredible event put on by some of the hardest working rockers ever. This fest means a lot of different things to me and every year I look at it differently. I want to dissect it here for you now.

For the past three years of the fest, I have caught myself having a private moment during some band's set where I suddenly become introspective and insanely aware of what exactly is going on around me. I become aware of what this fest has accomplished and what it symbolizes and I am moved by the very existence of it and the grand thing we all call hardcore punk rock.

This is Hardcore as a title for a fest is bold. It says, "this is what we as organizers believe to be the perfect example of hardcore." The fest's lineup is full of various types of punk, every single sub-genre under the sun, all the crossovers you could ever dream of as well. However, it isn't the music that title refers to alone. The name sums up the scene as a whole and it is easy to miss if you don't step back and look at the big picture.

From top to bottom, the fest mirrors what hardcore is at its simplest: a gathering of people that normal society let down to the point where we started to seek comfort in another world entirely. People come from all over the world to attend and play. You can strike up a casual conversation with someone from Helsinki that you would not have met otherwise thanks to this festival. We suspend our differences for one weekend because we are focusing on what makes us all alike: the love we share for this music. 

Every year I go, I learn something and I get to watch hardcore evolve. It's the perfect benchmark for seeing how the scene is doing. This year, there was literally zero bullshit that happened. That's shocking. There's always some weird undercurrent of tension at festivals because they throw socialization in the mix and emotions that run high tend to come out for the worst. This year felt like summer camp! Everyone got along, I saw so many new faces and everyone was so friendly and just enjoying the fest.

This year, Joe and the others took action to set a new precedent for festivals in general: they created a code of conduct. I was lucky enough to get to put it together for them but the idea was all theirs. That's unheard of at festivals, even the mainstream ones. I put together a vocabulary sheet to allow everyone to have the ability to have the conversation that is missing from things like this on a scale that large. Hearing Joe's speech during Shattered Realm about respecting people in the scene, getting consent, and not alienating different people filled me with hope. I know years ago, say in 2010 or earlier, that never would have happened.

Now, that's not to say Joe or anyone on staff didn't care then, but the climate of hardcore wasn't conducive to the conversations we are having today. Honestly, I don't think anyone cares more about the safety of their attendees than Joe. I talked to him about how my friend got roofied at the fest last year and it broke his heart. He asked me "where do we begin to get things like this to stop?" which is a question that so few people ask and even fewer attempt to answer.

This year's fest was reflective of this wish of his as well. The energy was so open. I had a fantastic time just answering questions and having discussions on this with other people attending the fest to the point where I wanted to give a speech myself. Being able to talk to people about trying to get a hold on the way we interact with each other is incredible. This fest facilitated both the tools and the setting to have these important conversations.

Every year people who are committed to talking shit about hardcore try to pick apart this fest. The people who say hardcore is "toxic" but had no interest in trying to fix what they felt was wrong. Every year I watch these people out do themselves in trying to cause a change in the way the fest caters to its audience and in some ways, how hardcore works. Nothing is ever perfect, least of all this scene, but tearing apart people for trying when you do nothing but bitch and moan is pathetic and they should be ashamed of themselves.

In summation, this festival does more for the scene than I think the organizers and attendees both realize. We're lucky to have something so huge and consistent in a scene that can't appreciate what its got until it's gone. Don't wait until this festival becomes defunct to show your thankfulness about it. It can't exist without patrons but it can't continue if those patrons take it for granted either.