The Fuck Hardcore Shows Manifesto

Late last year, whilst meandering through the day’s crop of Tumblr posts, I came across the “Fuck Hardcore Shows Manifesto”. The original post and blog appear to have been taken down, possibly due to the amount of attention, number of comments (many aggressively negative) and reposts it received. Fortunately the nature of Tumblr is such that once something is out there, it tends to stay out there. Here’s a copy of the original post in full:

it’s one of those things where you avoid something you take issue with for a while, and then suddenly find yourself in the middle of it, and it catches you off guard, ill-prepared, and you start fuming.
i went to see envy at reggie’s last night (amazing, by the way!). one of the opening bands was trash talk. it was funny, because the first two bands were some instrumental band from belfast and touche amore, and although kids were going nuts and singing along, it was no big deal. then trash talk came out. immediately, a huge pit formed in front of the stage, squishing almost everyone else back against the back wall. and then the familiar scene began.
pacing back and forth, posturing aggressively, stomping, kicking, punching, violently flailing arms. two dudes accidentally knocked into each other and started posturing at each other and shit talking, needing to be separated before a fight. kids crisscrossed the room, performing one of the most extreme versions of macho masculinity ever to dilute the political bases of punk rock. because this violence isn’t even raw and reactionary; it’s planned, staged, practiced. it privileges machismo unquestioningly. it privileges the antiquated notion that dudes can’t control themselves and need to blow off steam violently because men will be men. it’s such an obvious fucking farce.
when i watch this shit happen, i think to myself, of COURSE i felt like a weird outsider a lot during a certain time of my growing up in punk… all of my friends were dudes and we always went to hardcore shows. i couldn’t win, because there was barely any room for a different way to enjoy shows; you either had to perform the type of violent masculinity going on in the pit, or stand in the back and be accused of being a punk rock girlfriend who only holds coats and can’t hang with the big boys (or find a way around that which is still privileged, like taking photos or tabling). and either way you’re pitted in competition with other girls, because the dudes compare you to the other girls involved on a scale of who’s conforming to hardcore dude standards the best, most worthy of being accepted into their group on their level, on their terms. the prevalent thread at hardcore shows is a dichotomy of macho fucking bullshit.
the weird thing is that i love a lot of hardcore music. i love listening to it, and i always have, especially amazing bands like sick fix which subvert these standards as much as possible from within the genre. i just can’t fucking stand how this stuff is often acted out at shows.
pop punk dudes may often be sad misogynists, but at least i can go up to the front where i can actually SEE a band during a pop punk show and sing along and know i’m not going to get punched in the head by some beefy posturing asshole who probably has a tiny dick*, a nike shoe collection and is an aloof jerk to the women he dates. that’s why i got INTO punk, to get away from that mainstream dude mentality of entitlement and privilege and to be critical of that kind of performance. to be faced with it is a slap in the face, literally. and i’m not fucking interested.
i know that people who like going to hardcore shows might read this, and may disagree with me or be super offended. that’s fine. you should think about why exactly that is though. you might think, jen doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she just doesn’t get it. wrong, i do know. i’ve been going to hardcore shows for 10 years and i’ve performed all of these roles at some point, and seen them performed. i’m interested in subversion and revolution, but not the kind that involves dick measuring contests. radical counterculture politics like veganism and straight edge lose meaning when they are performed in such an oppressive environment without questioning it.
*this part was later addended as it was not intended to be a value judgment on actual dick size

This resonated with me a bit. Now, I’m male (and also white and hetero) so in terms of experiencing the raw end of privilege I can only try and imagine living with that and constantly enduring it in a scene that is a major and defining part of my life. But I’m also a small, skinny guy, and now that I’m a bit older I’m not really into the pit any more. And it is a shame that this means I’m relegated to the back of the room at a busy, active gig because there is rarely room, even on the sidelines, to just get a decent view and maybe dance a bit or just enjoy the music in my own way, thanks to over-enthusiastic people who feel the need to try and drag you into the pit, who fling people or are flung into you, or just don’t care where their fist, elbow or foot ends and your body begins. It’s pretty depressing to consider, all the more so when you think of the rare instances where the people enjoying a pit take inordinate care to only involve themselves, or hardcore dancers who have an almost preternatural ability to flail and stomp yet never come into contact with anyone else – people who actually take care to respect personal space.

Anyway, I shouldn’t go on about this too much as there is an element of white whine about it and my experiences are only superficially comparable to those of the author above. But both of us would benefit from more thoughtfulness from all members of the punk and hardcore scene.

Perhaps the answer – outside of wider social change that might significantly alter gender relations for the better –  is simply to both offer and demand respect for each person’s punk rock? No one wants to play the role of the scene police, but equally some people need to understand that what they interpret as being core to the experience of punk rock – whether that’s aggressive, violent moshing and slamdancing or the politically engaged activist aspects of the scene – won’t always be shared by others. But so long as space is given to these mutual and often overlapping spheres, hardcore as a whole will be a stronger, more unified and more welcoming scene – precisely the sort of outsider role hardcore punk initially represented.

Comments
4 Responses to “The Fuck Hardcore Shows Manifesto”
  1. Jonathan M says:

    I stopped going to gigs because I was tired of the people.

    I wanted to hear bands play live but all too often this meant having to put up with exactly the kind of ridiculous macho posturing that the manifesto describes. what ultimately disgusted me was the complete selfishness of it. The belief that it’s okay to run into people who are not actually moshing, the belief that it’s okay to start moshing at the back because you can’t be arsed to push your way to the front.

    I remember once going to see Fu Manchu and they were supported by One Minute Silence and the singer started berating those of us who were there to… you know… listen to the music.

    Arseholes.

  2. Sarah says:

    It’s a shame the post had to be taken down, because I’ve seen a few people talking about this lately, and it’s definitely an issue.

    It’s so unpredictable, too, which bands and which crowds are going to be violent and which will be fine; I went to two Menzingers shows in London last year and one was fun, energetic but not violent and the other was terrifying and I ended up standing against the back wall to avoid getting punched in the head.

    I feel irrationally affectionate towards bands who try to stop this stuff happening, though (like RVIVR). There’s no reason why some people should get to be dicks and ruin shows for everyone else.

  3. Shaun CG says:

    I still go to a lot of shows but much of the time they’re fairly quiet – one of the pros/cons of living in Brighton – which means that rammed pits and fraying tempers aren’t such a problem for me. On the other hand, there are still the really popular shows where personal space is obviously not a consideration for most of the people present.

    I never used to be bothered by this sort of stuff; when I was younger I kinda liked the unpredictability of it all. Case in point – I saw One Minute Silence myself when I was about 17 at the London Astoria. It was absolutely mental and although I cowered near the sidelines I really enjoyed it. But that, I think, was a headline show, not a support slot, and if there was any berating I don’t remember it.

    As you say though, Jonathan, it’s the selfishness that rankles most, and that’s particularly ironic coming from One Minute Silence, a band that traded very strongly on their anarchist politics and ethos.

    Sarah, I remember when I was in my teens and I read about At the Drive-In’s Omar and Cedric walking out of gigs when the audience refused to listen to them and stop being violent. At the time I was a bit bemused; now I have a lot of respect for it.

  4. Rachel says:

    I don’t mind being a bit friendly with my neighbour’s personal space, but the excessive shoving is something I’m not a fan of – especially when I forget the chain I usually stick on my glasses to prevent them just…flying off my face when it gets a bit rowdy. I’m fairly solid, so generally I’m not badly affected by some of the violent behaviour that goes on but I find lately I’m more and more concerned for the younger folks who end up getting pushed around because they’re littler and lighter. :/

    I saw Frank Turner and Feeder a couple of weeks ago (yeah, they’re not hardcore, but still) and the crowds there were generally the same – mostly excitable but with a small group of guys that were seemingly into pushing the rest over.

    I’ve found that if I can be RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT at the front, at the barrier, it’s pretty good. No squashing, no getting pushed around plus a really great view. Though that does involve turning up in enough time to secure that kind of spot.

    Best band instruction I’ve heard about crowd movement was at 30 Seconds to Mars – they do a bit at the end of the gig where they get some of the crowd up on stage to dance with them. And the only way to do it? “Could those of you guys who wanna get up here like.. crowdsurf really gently to the front?”