On the edge


Nothing characterizes the Hardcore music scene more than “the pit.” The wild group of young men, anywhere from early teens to late thirties, wildly flailing, kicking, chanting and bleeding. To the outside observer this is a violent fight, but in fact this is a style of dance and release for a tight knit community.

When you ask the average person about hardcore music, they generally muse about straight edge or fighting. It seems there is a general consensus that the hardcore music scene is violent, hypocritical, and tightly interwoven with the straightedge ideal.

Corey Dunn, also known as xCoreyx, approaches the pit, pushing his way through the crowd of people, only stopping for the occasional high-five or hug. He approaches the thicket of people at the densest part of the crowd, in front of the stage.

The Valley is a pivotal scene for the hardcore community.  It is a growing community, but the industry as a whole is plagued by violence and misconception. There is a certain unanimity that the hardcore scene, particularly the local Valley scene, is incredibly violent.

Kids show up to shows and venues for the mere excuse to beat people and start fights. That everyone is straightedge, and if you are not you run the risk of being “punished” for not sharing the same views, is a misconception that those who are part of the scene would disagree with.

When the band starts to play, Corey’s demeanor changes drastically. His lighthearted smile turns to an intimidating frown and he begins to dance. Flailing wildly, throwing elbows, arms, legs and knees, anyone not paying attention gets hit. The occasional dancer falls to the ground, grasping their nose, or stomach, from the blow of a fellow dancer.

David is at first incredibly intimidating, large, not necessarily tall, but wide. His bulky frame is accentuated by his gruff beard and dark skin.  He sports a camouflage jacket, baggy shorts and a black band tee. The outfit is completed by two-inch gauges dangling off the side of his head.  He then opens his mouth and proves to be soft-spoken, quiet and reserved. David is the lead singer of the hardcore band Heavy Hitters, and sees the violence and hypocrisy in his local hardcore community as tarnishing the true ideals of strength through community.

Though Corey may inflict serious pain to one of his fellow hardcore community members, it is all smiles.  Yes, there are those who clearly want to hurt people.  In particular there are two young men, most likely in their mid-twenties, heads shaven, wearing dark sunglasses, who seem to go out of their way to hit those younger than themselves. Corey, and the rest of the men, both teen and adult alike, turn on the two. After several blows they leave, holding their wounds, embarrassed and defeated.

“A lot of kids go there to… well basically, fuck shit up. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve done it too,” David admits. “But I tell the kids basically, don’t hold back, let it all out. Go ahead, punch someone in the face, whatever makes you happy.”

This all sounds quite brash, but David explains how the community is unified this way.

“It all depends on the show you go to. If you’re going to a real hateful band, and it’s just a room full of hate, it’s gonna be punch or get punched. But if you are going to a more positive band’s show, you shouldn’t expect to get punched.”

Though this all seems in line with the unanimously shared view of Hardcore, David explains that it is about community more than anything.

“The hardcore scene in the Valley, most of the time is just your friends, and soon enough they become your family… You can count on them… but there’s those kids who show up to the show, who just wanna be the biggest bad ass and just ruin every little part for those other kids… But I think, as you get older, you start going to shows and you think, fighting is really stupid. There’s no point in it. I just like going, spending time with my friends, and watching the bands.  I wanna pay my respects to the bands, and not ruin everyone’s night just because I wanna be a hard ass.  That’s really what it’s all about, the kinda music it is, your stuff about the scene, that’s all that matters.”

David continues “If you really like the scene, not just being there for fighting, you’re gonna try and make the scene stronger. Get more kids at shows and not get them beat up.”

So perhaps it’s not all about the violence.  Community is obviously a major contributor to the scene’s draw but the violence had to originate from somewhere. Corey believes he has the answer.

Corey, wearing a white tang top with pink spray-painted “edge” on the front and three Xs on the back, is almost livid with the people who come to shows merely to fight.

He, like David, believes hardcore is only about the music, community and family of friends.

Corey is the 19-year-old lead singer of the local hardcore band Consider Her Dead. “We are really terrible,” Dunn admits “except in Lompoc, we’re like gods in Lompoc!” Dunn is referring to a small community in Northern California where the band plays regularly.

Dunn’s modesty is comical due to his in-your-face personality. Unlike David, he is much less soft-spoken, trailing off into long stories and rants.

“For every fucking one shitty show, where there are a ton of fights and cops need to get called there are like, twenty fucking million where everyone goes, everyone has a good time and it’s all good. At the end of the day you hear about that one show… it’s seriously—it’s like rap! One fucking rapper gets shot then all of a sudden rap’s this fucking dangerous thing where every show you go to people have guns and shit!” It’s hard to keep from laughing, but despite Dunn’s demeanor he knows what he’s talking about.

He begins to explain that the media over the years has cast a bad light on the hardcore scene.

“You watch the fucking Discovery channel and one fucking documentary makes straightedge out to look like a gang… or you see something like Boston Beat Down… a documentary about this crew from Boston, called FSU (Fuck Shit Up) and that entire DVD is just fighting at shows… and it’s like that’s all people see. They see the fights at the shows, they don’t listen to the words people are saying, because at the end of the day people had to fight for their scene.”

This is where Dunn begins shedding some light on where the violence originated.

“A lot of Nazi kids use to come into the scene back in the day… like the late 80’s… trying to take shit over.  So now you’re at your shows, and then groups of kids try to come in and take over your shit. So it comes down to you needing to defend what’s yours, you needing to defend your scene, and you needing to defend your right to come to that venue and have a good fucking time.”

Dunn admits that he has fought for this reason, and alludes to the fact that this is the type of violence that still exists in the scene today.

“In Hollywood that’s where you’ll run into a lot of problems like that. There’s older dudes that just go to a show, because they hear a metal band’s playing, and they get drunk and run into people. There’s a lot of metal heads who are like ‘metal or nothing, you don’t listen to the same music as us, you’re a faggot, blah blah blah, you’re a problem.’  I mean, I’ve been to shows where there’s like some guy ‘wow, look at that guy dancing over there,’ and I’m like ‘well why?’ and he’s like “well look at him with his fucking stupid kicks and punches’.  What people don’t realize is that’s our way of having fun. I don’t do that kind of shit to hurt people, I do it because I have fun doing it.”             

So put all preconceived conceptions aside. It’s important to understand, that these kind of people that “invaded” the hardcore scene, are not looking to talk. So ultimately it leads to violent confrontations. Dunn says, “People just

don’t know how to be there, people don’t know how to protect themselves, so of course they’re gonna get hit.” The violence is merely a product of self-defense.

David may not agree that this is why he fights.  But it is obvious that regardless of the history, their form of release stems from an earlier time of conflict. Residuals of these conflicts still affect today’s scene and despite any outsiders opinion, it’s clear they will continue their way of life, and defend it no matter what.

David concludes, “For anyone who reads this, if you’re free anytime come check out some shows at the Cobalt, it’s open anytime to all ages. He laughingly continues, “Hopefully you wont get hit in the face, but I can’t make any promises.”