If there is a reason you need to pay attention to local NJ hardcore it is the chaotic natural force that isHell Mary. Their self-titled record claims 10 tracks, most of which never make it past the 2-minute mark. It’s classic, rage-fueled hardcore meets the eclecticism and speed of bands like Every Time I Die. And yet, you’ve most likely never heard of them unless you’re a Jersey local. They’re a gem very much kept under the dirt, and perhaps they like it that way, but you’re missing out if you haven’t had them tear your ears off and throw them underneath their drummer’s bass pedal. So do yourself a favor and give the record a listenand check out a live show whenever you get the chance.
When you go to a date of a big headlining tour with hundreds of other people in the room and a stage yards away and above, you can have tons of fun. But spending a whole day in a small room of locals where everyone knows each other and bands and fans share the same graffitied floor is a different feeling altogether. You’re not there for a show anymore, you’re there because you’re a bunch of people who connect through loud sounds and spray painted walls.
It may have been a weeknight for every eager metal fan, however nothing but insanity ensued Wednesday October 7th at Irving Plaza from start to finish, when every band possessed the crowd with a fulfilling night of circle pits, sing-alongs and controlled violence. As soon as the first ring of guitar feedback began to screech through the speakers, the much anticipated explosion of energy took over and everyone lost it. Beartooth came out strong, tore off faces and spat on them by the time they were done with their set, showing no mercy. This all led up to the amazing Atreyu, who ignited the venue and made the crowd wish they had called their chiropractor prior (in the best way possible). No one left the show with their voice in tact, but they did leave with a thrilling experience they would not soon forget.
Long Island’s Amityville Music Hall could hardly contain the excitement on September 6th for ERRA’s headlining tour. For a cramped venue, it felt like a festival. The crowd was fueled with energy as fans pushed their way toward the stage, reaching for the mic to scream their favorite Invent, Animate lyrics. Lead vocalist Ben English put on one of the most powerful performances I have seen this year, sending chills down my spine and even making me yell the lyrics while taking these photos. Impressive and inspiring, Polyphia mellowed the crowd with their sweet progressive instrumentals. Yet the main attraction was of course ERRA who delivered massive force inside the small venue. The strength of vocalist Ian Eubanks’s screams sent everyone to the stage, while Jesse Cash’s cleans guided everyone to sing along before tearing everything apart in the pit.
Once a month, in the epicenter of hipster culture in Los Angeles, the Echoplex opens its doors for Taking Back Tuesday—a night that brings every “emo” kid together to listen to their favorite 2000-2006 jams. A group of DJs spin their favorite emo tunes and a special guest DJ usually plays later in the evening; everyone from members of Senses Fail to Blink-182 have played a set. So this June, two friends and I caked on the eyeliner, pulled on our band t-shirts, and headed into Silverlake to see what Taking Back Tuesday (or #EmoNightLA, as it’s also known) was all about.
The Echoplex, as a venue, has seen rock stars of all types, including The Rolling Stones, Beck, NIN, and The Mars Volta. It’s a small venue (capacity caps at 700) and it has that rock ’n’ roll smell of stale beer and deodorants mingling together. Taking Back Tuesday looked like every My Chemical Romance concert I went to over the last decade. But even more importantly, it felt like every My Chemical Romance, every Taking Back Sunday, every Blink 182 concert I’ve ever attended. All these people, men and women with varying degrees of dyed hair and tattoos, came together to celebrate this music and what it does for them.
This is music that grabs hold of someone and sticks to them like sap on a car windshield. No matter how hard you scrape, this shit is on you. It pulled me into a strange time warp, where it didn’t matter that no one was playing an instrument on stage because I felt like I was back at my first concert. It took me back an entire decade, back well before this kind of music was popular—back to a time when I got shit for being an emo kid.
When emo first gained popularity in the early 2000s, the word was widely used derisively. People used it to put down the music and the people who identified with it. Being an emo kid was almost like wearing a target to school that said “I FEEL MY FEELINGS HARDCORE,” giving other insecure middle and high school kids the opportunity to pick on them.
Once I got to the Echoplex and saw the enthusiastic crowd and the excitement, however, I realized things have since shifted. Now, emo kids—or former emo kids who like to dabble in the culture—have taken back the word. There was a feeling in the room, which was amplified by the DJs, that being an emo kid is cool now. The DJs asked, “How are all you emo kids doing tonight?” to which they got an uproarious response from the crowd. No one felt picked on or shamed for being there. It was about celebrating the music and the culture associated with it.
If you look closely at actual lyrics, it’s easy to see why these bands resonate so strongly with confused adolescents (and struggling 20somethings). In the My Chemical Romance song “Thank You For The Venom,” frontman Gerard Way croons, “You’ll never make me leave/ I’ll wear this on my sleeve/ Give me a reason to believe.”Lost, lonely, and searching for anyone to understand, these lyrics hit close to home for emo kids everywhere. The universal feeling of being misunderstood doesn’t go away entirely when you grow up. People will always misunderstand and overlook and be sort of shitty. You’ll always have to deal with that, and finding a healthy way to channel those feelings constructively, like with music, will always be important.
The feeling emo music gives me is one of acceptance and recognition; like someone turned to me in a moment of my own intense weakness and said, “I get it, this sucks, but you’ve got to stay strong.” That was the feeling that washed over me, like a warm shower, the moment I stepped into the #EmoNightLA crowd. It felt like I had found an old pair of Vans, well worn and held together by colored duck tape, that slipped on like no time had passed. It was like stepping back into my skin.
People jumped, bopped, and moshed to Sum 41, Taking Back Sunday, and Brand New. The moment the opening lyrics of “Fat Lip” blared from the speakers, (“Storming through the party like my name is El Niño/ When I’m hangin’ out drinking in the back of an El Camino/ As a kid, I was a skid and no one knew me by name/ I trashed my own house party cause nobody came”) 300 screaming attendees pushed forward and a mosh pit appeared like a sink hole, pulling in bodies from every direction. The songs that amped up the crowd most were songs about rebellion and being misunderstood, eliciting instant recognition and nostalgic joy.
Emo Night at the Echoplex gives people who never stopped being emo a place to jam together; a place to scream, jump, and enjoy the music that has become part of their soul. It’s a place where the year is 2006, and you’re watching the best damned Warped Tour of your entire life. The fact that this still exists, a decade later, is a testament to how much this music and this community still care. If every night could be Emo Night, then you would know where to find me: Jamming in Silverlake with a bunch of fucking emo kids.
If you had that conversation with someone, they would probably think you were being intentionally vague or even rude. But no, The Place is actually the name of a one of a kind venue in Brooklyn, NY. It’s the kind of place that, as Jack Sparrow would say, “can only be found by those who already know where it is”; or, by the signpost of kids in black band t-shirts standing outside.
To the unknowing eye, The Place is nothing more than a pizza joint/bar. If you’re a hardcore kid looking for a show, however, the employees will nod you through a door toward the hidden venue in the back, where DIY locals frequently go. The deep human-sized dents in the wall and the amount of bro hugs people give each other will tell you that this room has seen a lot of bands and a lot of familiar faces mosh through it. The wood floor and wood left wall will tell fans of The Ongoing Concept that it’s the perfect place for them to play some new tracks off their latest record, Handmade.
The album that takes DIY to a whole new level, Handmade is a title that describes the process of how TOC made their new work. In our interview with vocalist/guitarist Dawson Scholz, he tells the tale of how the band literally chopped down a tree to make all of the instruments by hand for their most recent tracks. It was in this room half made of wood with instruments entirely made of wood that The Ongoing Concept banged out new songs like “Unwanted” and “Soul” to something like 20 or 30 kids. The low body count was no matter, however, as the intimate number made for an up close and personal floor show. And for those of you who have never seen TOC live before (like I hadn’t), you don’t know up close and personal until Kyle Scholz is screaming wild-eyed two centimeters in front of your face with his shirt off and leaving a puddle of sweat at your feet. “I’m sorry if I sweat or spit on you,” he says calmly after a song. “I’m just trying to have fun.”
The band finished with crowd favorite “Cover Girl,” and the word “insane” does not adequately say all that needs to be said about these last few minutes with them. The whole room went berserk with kids unafraid of marching up to the mic and getting just as much in Kyle’s face as he was in theirs. The room reverberated with cries of “Stop being the print of someone else’s painting,” and the echoes of the end rang out.
As for the opening bands, Heroes and Outlands were two whose live performance stood out, showcasing great energy and crowd involvement. Heroes’ set brought the sense of community you crave when you think of local hardcore, while Outlands members bounced from wall to wall like an epic and chaotic game of pong. Despite having recently released a rather successful album, the energy dipped low and got pretty depressing during Dayseeker’s set. Lastly, on the whole, the attendance of bands whose sets had finished was rather spotty. There’s such a thing as show etiquette, folks. You stay for all the bands, not just one or two, and not just your own.
Overall, HXC Magazine‘s night at The Place was a fun reminder of why we became so dedicated to the hardcore scene in the first place. You don’t need a room with hundreds of people to make something special happen. You just need good people who aren’t afraid to get a little weird.