Saturday, December 30, 2006

American Hardcore: The Movie

I am so hopped up that I have no idea how I’m going to get to sleep at all tonight. I just got back from seeing American Hardcore, this amazing documentary about the rise of hardcore punk in the US. Listening to all that hardcore music for an hour and forty minutes just gets under your skin, so now my heart and my head are beating just like that music and I’m so hyped up I can’t stand it. It also doesn’t help that I had a fun little skidding incident on the road coming back from the theater. It had just started raining and the street was slicker than I thought. I was coming up to a stoplight with two cars stopped in front of me. I thought I would be stopped in plenty of time, but a second after I hit the brakes I realized that my wheels weren’t turning but the car was still moving, skidding right into the car stopped in front of me. Luckily, as I was steering toward the left turn lane, which was empty, the light changed, the car in front of me started moving, and the skid stopped, almost all at the same time. But I could still feel my heart in my throat for five minutes afterward.

But, anyway, on with the movie. It was really amazing to see all the performance footage of these bands just roaring, the crowd so aggressive. Also, to know that most of these bands started in 1979-1981, when most of the band members were teenagers, and the whole movement was pretty much dead by 1986. And it was all grassroots, all-ages, play anywhere, DIY attitude. These bands knew they would probably never get airplay on the radio, or sell a bunch of records, or ever be mainstream, and that was what they wanted. They wanted to be the antithesis of mainstream. It showed how a lot of the LA and DC bands were made-up of more suburban and privileged kids who just wanted to rebel against the whole Reagan, dawning of a new America, faux 1950s perkiness, disco & 1970s hold-over rock. But on the other hand, the NY scene was made-up of a lot of street kids who weren’t really rebelling but had instead found a home in the hardcore scene that traveled into their town from LA and DC, which they took to another level. The sections on the NY hardcore scene remind me of Warriors because that was what NY was at the time, before Guiliani turned the city into the family-friendly place it is today.

Two things really struck me, one while I was watching the movie and the other on the road home. The first thing that struck me, while I was watching the movie, was how amazing this time period was for those involved. It is the same thing that struck me when I was watching Nomi song, though this music movement happened about a decade later. But they were creating something out of nothing that was by them and for them. In the hardcore scene, these were teenagers and outcasts making music for other teenagers and outcasts. How often can that be said? Most of the time, the teenage fans of a band or a music movement are a generation behind those bands making the music, because it took the band that long to get to a place where they could be heard. But because they were making their own way at the time among their area and age group and “hit the big time”, there wasn’t that generation gap. But it seems like one of those movements in history that can never and will never be recreated, that you had to live in to really appreciate it, though if you were living in it, you had no way to recognize how big and special and great it really was.

On the drive home, however, I was thinking that, if these guys (and girls, sometimes) were in their teens, maybe early twenties, when they started these bands in 1979-1981, then when the hardcore scene was over in the late 1980s, these guys were only in their mid-twenties. I can’t imagine being 25 and the biggest, greatest thing you ever did, ever wanted to do, is already over. I’m 24 and I definitely feel like my life hasn’t even started, but these guys took chance I don’t think I could ever take. Like touring when you don’t even know what kind of a place you are going to find when you show up, you don’t know how or if or how much you are going to get paid, you have to front your own money for records or tapes that you don’t know if anyone will buy, like traveling to play in other cities and being thankful that you have a place to crash on the floor of another band’s apartment, like knowing that the aggression you bring out in your fans could get you punched in the face, like knowing you could get hauled off and/or beaten by the cops at one of your own shows. And then, just as fast as it began, maybe even faster, the whole scene just disappears. I’m sure that these guys have done other things in the 20 years that followed but I doubt it was easy to try and create a new life after having that life for five years. Especially when you know that you haven’t even lived a quarter of your life yet. You have three-quarters of your life left to live, but the biggest, coolest shit is what you’ve already done. I wonder how many of them just kinda fizzled out, drugged out, killed themselves. I think I’ll try to find the book that the movie was made from. Hopefully it will have more answers about the later lives of these guys. I don’t think I’ll ever like hardcore music. But the movie and the movement it was about is awesome. As in, I am in awe of it. See it, live it, love it.

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