Sound And Fury 2022 Was A Moment For Hardcore
Sound And Fury was a real event. If I’d put enough planning and resources into the effort, I could’ve been there. You could’ve been there, too. Maybe you were. If you were, congratulations. By all accounts, you got to be part of something truly special. If you weren’t, and if you pay any attention to hardcore at all, then there’s a good chance you’ve spent the past couple of weeks watching or rewatching the videos, feeling a combination of intense jealousy and dizzy, disbelieving glee. Something like 5,000 people showed up to a park in Los Angeles for two days of hardcore. That’s something that’s possible now, and we know that because it happened. Even if you were not one of those 5,000 people, that’s a great thing.
It’s dizzying to even consider the logistics of staging an event like Sound And Fury 2022. I’m sure professionals were involved, but the people who put Sound And Fury together aren’t full-time promoters; they’re guys in bands. They figured out how to get all of these people together in the same place at the same time safely, and they were able to still make it feel like a hardcore show. It’s not even that the stages didn’t have barricades. It’s that the tiered stages seemed to be constructed specifically with stagediving in mind. (Whether or not that was the idea, people took advantage.) Hardcore has had big-deal festivals before: Hellfest back when it was in Syracuse, Posi Numbers. It has big-deal festivals now, too: FYA, LDB, This Is Hardcore. But hardcore has never had an event quite like this.
The Sound And Fury organizers were able to do all this without relying on ’90s bands, with zero old-head nostalgia involved. Terror played, and they’ve been around for 20 years, but they’re still an extremely relevant band who just put out a sick album. (Terror guitarist Martin Stewart was one of the bookers.) A couple of reunited bands played, but those bands, Superheaven and Pity Sex, have only been broken up for about five years apiece. Their members are still active, and they still sound current. (Weirdly enough, neither of them are proper hardcore bands. From what I can tell, it didn’t matter.) The vast majority of the bands on the bill were young and hungry. Very few of them have more than one album out. Plenty of them don’t even have that.
The booking was so smart, so canny. Somehow, Sound And Fury managed to round up a whole lot of bands that were just bubbling, waiting for a big moment like this. For most of the bands on the bill, this was probably the biggest and best show that they’d ever played. All of them seem to be having a moment right now, and from all available evidence, the crowd absolutely went off for all of them. A little while ago, almost as a thought exercise, I made a playlist of every band on the Sound And Fury bill — not my favorite song from every band but every band’s track with the most Spotify plays, a kind of Sound And Fury greatest hits. That playlist, on shuffle, has been my gym soundtrack for the past few weeks, and that shit goes. When your phone gives you “Weed Pin” into “Excalibur” into “Keepers Of The Faith” into “Toxic Boombox,” you will feel that shit. You will move.
The Sound And Fury lineup offers an inclusive big-tent version of what hardcore even is. Superheaven and Pity Sex were close enough. So were Fiddlehead and Show Me The Body, who could just as easily fit under the indie rock umbrella if they didn’t carry themselves as hardcore bands. Creeping Death and Ingrown and Gatecreeper are death metal. No Pressure and Koyo and Anxious are pop-punk, or maybe they’re emo. Spy and Gunn are raw basement punk. Cola Boyy are sunny, soulful Toro Y Moi-style dance-pop. But all of them had enough connection to hardcore that they fit. They made sense.
Certain moments from Sound And Fury already feel legendary. Speed came over from Australia for the first time, bringing such levels of mosh mayhem that former NBA washout and current Republican Congressional candidate Royce White accidentally turned them into a meme. Scowl began their set with a cover of “Waiting Room.” Magnitude instigated gigantic pile-ons. The Mindforce side project Pillars Of Ivory, playing what I believe was only their second-ever live show, threw blunts into the crowd. First-night headliners Drain sent beach balls and boogie boards and bodies flying. God’s Hate were sheer spectacle — the camo, the ski masks, the enormous Brody King diving deep into the crowd, a move that he doesn’t often attempt in his other job as a pro wrestler. (When Brody tried that same kind of dive on TV a few nights later, in a coffin match with Darby Allin, he splatted right through a table. Pity whoever had to be the table at Sound And Fury.)
Even with all those dozens of bands on the bill, you could imagine an alternate Sound And Fury, a whole lineup built entirely out of bands who didn’t play this year’s fest. Vein, Ekulu, Soul Glo, Gel, End It, Restraining Order, DARE, the Chisel, Year Of The Knife, Dead Heat, Inclination — all of them would’ve made sense, but none of them played. Dozens of other vital, important current bands could’ve played, too, and they could’ve gotten huge reactions. Touché Amoré didn’t play. Knocked Loose didn’t play. Turnstile obviously didn’t play. Hardcore is in such a ridiculously good place right now that any festival, even one as beautifully conceived and executed as Sound And Fury, can only scratch the surface, no Sick Of It All pun intended. (A bunch of those bands that I mentioned just played the UK’s Outbreak Festival, another massive affair, and the videos from that are almost as great as the ones from Sound And Fury.)
But there’s one thing that could’ve only happened at Sound And Fury, and that’s Gulch’s last show ever. Gulch only existed for a few years, and they only put out, what, half an hour of music? It didn’t matter. Gulch were a flame that burned fast and bright. On a festival with plenty of potential headliners, Gulch were the only band that could’ve ended the whole thing. Gulch were legends before the pandemic, before they’d even put out an album. A little less than a year ago, Gulch announced that they were ending things, playing a select few final shows and then slamming the door shut. If you’ve ever seen the Oasis documentary Supersonic, a movie that’s required viewing in hardcore right now for whatever reason, then you’ve seen the Gallagher brothers talking about how the band should’ve broken up immediately after playing for hundreds of thousands of people at Knebworth in 1996. That’s what Gulch did. Gulch broke up after Knebworth.
So: Maybe you didn’t go to Sound And Fury. Maybe you wish you did. (That’s my story, anyway.) But something like Sound And Fury can only happen as a kind of culmination — a single event that happens after years upon years of organic underground growth. The bands who played Sound And Fury — and the bands that could’ve played Sound And Fury but didn’t — are the products of local and regional scenes. Right now, somewhere near you, you can find a show that will have the same wild, frantic, cathartic energy, albeit on a smaller scale. If you take part in one of those rituals, you can see that energy at work, and you can help build it. Sound And Fury can only happen once a year, if that. But hardcore is a grassroots thing, and it is constant. Hardcore happens every single day.
Fugitive – “Maniac”
Power Trip were a glorious one-off, a miracle that cannot be recreated. I don’t think Power Trip guitarist Blake Ibanez is attempting to revive Power Trip with his new band Fugitive, and I don’t think anyone would be shitty enough to expect him to recapture that magic. That said, Fugitive’s debut EP has some of Power Trip’s commanding speed, and nobody cranks out riffs like Ibanez. (The band also features Skourge frontman Seth Gilmore, as well as members of groups like Creeping Death and Impalers, but Ibanez produces and writes all the songs.) Even without considering Ibanez’s history, it’s a blast just to hear crossover thrash made with this kind of furious confidence again. First live show looked wild, too. [From Maniac EP, self-released, out now.]
Loma Prieta – “Sunlight”
Bay Area avengers Loma Prieta were a huge part of the screamo and post-hardcore resurgence many, many years ago. Other than a two-song single in 2020, they haven’t come out with any music in nine years. Now, they come back ripping with an 89-second rager, and they’re back like they never left. A sole 89-second Loma Prieta song is a whole lot better than no Loma Prieta at all, especially when that 89-second song is as feverish and instinctive as this one. [Stand-alone single, out now on Deathwish, Inc.]
Mindforce – “Survival Is Vengeance”
Last week, I went on the New York Times Popcast to talk about hardcore, and I had the distinct pleasure of hearing my friend Jon Caramanica, the august Times critic who is just diving into this stuff now, hooting with joy over Mindforce’s “Excalibur.” I know exactly how he feels. “Excalibur” is such a fucking banger. If I were in Mindforce, I would be telling everyone else that we need to play that song three times in a row during every set, which is one of the infinitely many reasons why I’m not in Mindforce. The mere existence of a new Mindforce album is cause for celebration, but this song is so much faster and more feral than I was expecting. If an amusement park played this shit over the bumper-cars speakers, people would die. [From New Lords, out 9/16 on Triple B Records.]
Mortality Rate – “Rosemary”
You know that action-movie trope where somebody commits murder by grabbing someone’s head and jerking it to the side, snapping their neck? That’s what happens to me 13 seconds into this song, as soon as the riff kicks in. Calgary’s Mortality Rate have been out of action for a minute, and now I picture them in the starting block, pawing at the ground, snorting, waiting for the chance to take off running. Jess Nyx erupts onto this thing: “Emaciated! A vagrant forsaken! I’ve seen crows feast on stares that vacant!” I don’t know who or what she’s talking about, but I feel it. [From “Rosemary” b/w “Salt Water” single, out now on Wild Rose Records.]
Regulate – “Why Can’t We?”
I’ve never seen New York’s Regulate live, though I aim to change that soon. (They’re playing Richmond in September, with Vein and Candy, so I’ll get my chance.) But it’s inspiring just to watch videos of them playing, to see frontman Seb Paba backflipping and careening his way across these tiny stages. You can’t hope to capture that kind of energy on video, and you can’t really get it on record, either, but they’re trying. “Why Can’t We?” is a straightforward fired-up youth-crew ripper right up until the breakdown, when a jungle breakbeat suddenly shows up to the party. That kind of touch might seem showy or forced if most bands did it, but Regulate make it sound as natural as breathing. [From Regulate, out 9/30 on Flatspot Records.]
Sonagi – “Blue Ticket”
Ryann Slauson already leads Closer, which is absolutely the sickest band, and now they’re also out front in Philadelphia’s Sonagi, which is also the sickest band. That’s a lot of responsibility for one person, but they’re pulling it off. Apparently, Sonagi draws inspiration from therapy and sci-fi and stuff, but you don’t need to be on that wavelength to plug into a track like this. You just need to feel that primal screamo thunder in your bones. You need to close your eyes, breathe deep, and feel the cathartic carnage exploding in your soul. That’s not work. That’s just following your instincts. [From Precedent, out now on Get Better Records.]
SpiritWorld – “Moonlit Torture”
Integrity’s Dwid Hellion is the guy who pretty much invented violent, mysterious, occult-obsessed metallic hardcore, and when his grainy roar appears on this song, it feels a bit like a torch-passing moment. But Las Vegas’ SpiritWorld were bringing their own form of towering evil before they got a Dwid feature. And even if Dwid wasn’t on “Moonlit Torture,” these brain-squishing riffs and disturbing-ass lyrics would still do serious damage. This band is out here screaming about “They took my ears! They scraped my head! They cut off my arm! But I’m still not dead!” We might need to come up with a term for something that’s harder than hardcore. Hardercore? I think I need to workshop this one some more. [Stand-alone single, out now on Century Media.]
Violent Way – “Our Stand”
When I saw Buffalo oi power trio Violent Way play Richmond’s Big Takeover Fest a couple of months ago, frontman Nick Terlecky started off the set by explaining that Violent Way are — I’m paraphrasing here — “not a fucking hardcore band.” (He wanted the crowd to move up and to stop standing in that horseshoe-shaped moshpit formation. They did, and then everyone wrecked each other anyway.) Violent Way truly aren’t hardcore. They’re old-school oi, and they sing almost exclusively about being skinheads and beating people up, which is always fun. The songs are always fun, anyway. Actual skinhead brawls can be impressive, but I don’t know if I’d call them fun for anyone other than the most enthusiastic participants. But Violent Way are close enough to play a hardcore fest, so they’re close enough to appear in this column. “Our Stand” features the Chisel’s Cal Graham, whose unhinged screech pairs with Terlecky’s stolid grunt like champagne with strawberries. Let the oi revival march on. [From Bow To None, self-released, out now.]
World Of Pleasure – “Carbon Copy”
Between the return of Mortality Rate and the new EP from her new band World Of Pleasure, Calgary screamer Jess Nyx has been busy these past few weeks. Based on those new records, I can’t tell which of Nyx’s bands I like better. They’re both extremely fucking hard, but they’re hard in different ways. Where Mortality Rate goes for metallic crunch, World Of Pleasure is just unhinged fight music in the best possible way. World Of Pleasure is Nyx in militant straight-edge vegan mode; on “Carbon Copy,” she teams up with Despize’s Shaun Alexander to scream about indulgent masses: “Poison yourselves in harmony! Culture in a downward spiral! Will it be worth it when the cloth you bear is stained with blood and bile?” I know they’re talking about me, but I’m still like, “Yeah, motherfucker!” [From World Of Pleasure & Friends EP, out now on Wild Rose Records.]
XDeliveranceX – “For I Am With Thee To Deliver Thee”
Speaking of vegan straight-edge violence, here’s the new UK band XDeliveranceX, here to gutwrench suplex us through a table made out of our own destructive consumption habits. I know that metaphor doesn’t really make any sense, but this still hits hard enough for me to imagine myself lying unconscious in a shattered pile of spicy Popeye’s sandwiches and indica gummies. I’m into the idea of At The Gates, if At The Gates were here to make me feel really bad about myself. [From The Ultimate Sacrifice EP, out now on The Coming Strife Records.]