These days, 90% of shows are “The [Cringeworthy Name] Tour,” which consists of 4-7 bands that all look and sound more or less the same making their way across the country (including e-flyer with 125 logos of “sponsors” littered across the bottom). Which I totally get from a marketing perspective, because thanks to the bands being interchangeable it is much easier to market– like if you had NOUNS headlining your djentcore tour but they drop off at the last minute you can just make PLURALS the headliner and problem solved! It’s not like it really makes a difference, right?
For example, this 1994 show was at a church, headlined by a Hare Krishna metalcore band (108), with a uber-PC grindcore band (DROPDEAD) as support and opened by a post-hardcore rock band (SHIFT) whose drummer would go on to play in HOLE and MOTLEY CRUE. The 90s were weird, man.
(photo via Stuck In The Past)
But back in the 90s, that was not the case. Sure, there were some shows where every band was the same (especially in places like NJ/PA with well-developed scenes), but more often than not shows were booked on the basis of “whoever the fuck we can get to play,” because there just weren’t enough touring bands to fill up a bill and you’d take whatever you could get. Also, “the scene” wasn’t quite as rigidly divided as it is these days (although it was still very cliquey, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise).
Which brings me to my favorite example of this, and what might be the best 90s hardcore show I ever went to: a 2-day fest in Indianapolis in 1998 featuring a truly baffling yet amazing lineup of radically different bands that you just would never, ever see today. I just found out that it was co-promoted by our buddy Ryan Downey, who at the time was the singer for the semi-hardline metalcore band BURN IT DOWN and has gone on to become a very respected journalist (Spin, MTV, Alt Press, etc) and manager (Ross Robinson, Zuess, Ben Weiman, etc). As you can see, he’s always been way ahead of the curve, which you will see from this insane lineup:
I don’t remember if they were the “headliner” or not (I put “headliner” in quotes because the scene was way too punx back then to ever use a word like that), but I remember being really stoked to see HATEBREED. This was shortly after “Satisfaction” came out, and they were still in my mind a death metally hardcore band who still played songs with blastbeats in them (such as this one from their demo/7″). They played on the floor and maybe 50-75 people were watching.
To do RACETRAITOR just would really require a whole post of their own, but to make a long story short, they were a SICK metalcore band from Chicago whose entire thing was literally about how awful white people are. Seriously: their EP was called “Burn The Idol Of The White Messiah,” and they called people “crackers.” And at this show, Andy Hurley from Fall Out Boy was playing drums for them in a JUDGE shirt and looked slightly embarrassed when the singer went on his lulzy rants about lynching white people or whatever. But their set was fucking awesome!
And on literally the exact opposite end of the spectrum, there was CHARLES BRONSON. If you’re not familiar, they were a snotty power violence/fastcore band from Illinois who had a bunch of songs about how Victory Records, “jock-core,” hardline, and everything else the above two bands stood for was bullshit. In fact, I remember Mark writing me a letter once and writing at the bottom of it, “I Hate Hatebreed.” They were definitely more at home playing in the basement of a vegan crustpunk “collective,” so to say they were out of place was just a slight understatement lol.
The bizarre clashing of ultra-pc diy punx with semi-hardline, vegan jockcore came to a head after DAY OF SUFFERING’s set. As you may know, they were one of the first hardcore bands to attempt to go full death metal, and by the standards of the late 90s, they did a pretty damn good job. They were also semi-hardline, which meant that they were pro-life (an unforgivable sin in the eyes of the MRR/basement punx crowd). After their set, some girl was lecturing/screaming at the singer of DOS about how he was a cockman oppressor and anti-womyn or whatever the fuck slogans she stole from a hand-screened canvas patch. He tried to have a civil debate with her at first, but she kept getting more angry and eventually he just shook his head like “what-fucking-ever,” turned his back on her and sat down on the curb reading a zine.
And there you have it: perhaps the definitive experience for me in the sad and confusing world that was 90s hardcore. Where the girls looked like boys, the boys looked like girls, and everybody wore jorts.