DETERMINED TO BE UNIMPRESSED
AN INSIDE LOOK AT TODAY’S PUNK AND HARDCORE SCENE
FEATURING TORONTO’S NOT DEAD YET FEST 2013
BY LUKAS MUKAS
It’s November 12th, 2013. I’m gearing up for Toronto’s 100% DIY punk fest, Not Dead Yet. Bleach splattering t-shirts, polishing boots, taking inventory of cameras and film. Excitement and anticipation for this weekend are the primary sensations, to say the least.
My main goal this weekend is to really capture the true essence and attitude of the current hardcore/punk movement. It’s not 1982 anymore. At this point the statement “we’ve seen it all” holds some truths. Fashions and trends in punk come and go. They mutate and form new looks. Same goes for the actual music aspect of hardcore/punk. Put on a GAS RAG (Chicago) record and you’d assume you’re listening to a band that recorded a blown out record in the 80’s. Even though they recorded in 2013!
So by documenting this weekend’s festival in Canada, it is my attempt at showing that hardcore and punk is still alive and well. Much to the chagrin of our elder “punks” that say “hardcore is dead” in the film documentary American Hardcore, it is very much alive, pissed off and unpredictable.
[SHELBY, JAKOB, AND ZAC]
It’s been two weeks since Toronto’s Not Dead Yet DIY punk fest took place. Bruises, cuts and scrapes have healed more or less. I’m feeling the financial pains from buying too many demo tapes, shirts and mostly the expense of getting 15 rolls of film developed in Chicago. Sifting through photographs and reliving moments really helps justify the money spent.
So my goal that weekend in November was to show the world that hardcore and punk is alive and well; and I feel as though I did just that. Sure, certain trends have died, but that’s the nature of the beast. Certain punk scenes have their own styles; The East Coast has a very specific sound with their bands, West coast punk trying to carve out their own niche in today’s current music scene. And us Midwest Mutants are caught somewhere in the middle of 1981 and today. We all came together for a weekend of music, tape trading, zines, stage dives and a chance to say “fuck you” to main stream music.
[LUKAS (ME) AND JAKOB]
Studded leather jackets are to punks as atrocious patchwork pants are to hippies. Having personally studded many jackets, I can tell you how time consuming and painful (for your fingers) the process can be. But if you put on a Japanese hardcore punk record, like Kriegshog’s self-titled LP, you should have a beautifully “charged” piece of leather to proudly wear while you sit alone in your room re-lacing your boots.
DIY is the main idea that drives the hardcore and punk movement. It’s why either of those scenes even exist. You want to hear a certain kind of band, wear a specific jacket or shirt or have the wildest hairstyle that will surely piss off mom and dad? Then Do.It.Yourself. Sure, nowadays you can walk into the nearest mall to obtain your perfectly ripped jeans and impeccably screen-printed SHAM 69 shirt, but that’s not punk.
To be honest, it’s just down right insulting. Grab some bleach, splatter your own denim and paint your favorite logo on the back. It’s much more satisfying and once again, pisses off the parents for ruining the “nice” clothes they bought for you.
[BEAU OF NUKE CULT AT THEIR MERCH TABLE]
Now to mention Toronto’s current punk scene, one could not discuss it without talking about S.H.I.T. They are a band that leaves little to fuss about. A simple enough band with vocals that are so delayed you’d think you were listening to a record with your head in a trashcan. They most certainly have left a mark in the current hardcore/punk scene. They played the second night of NDY (Not Dead Yet) at the after party show. It was held in a DIY loft space called SOYBOMB that is a big room with the majority of the space occupied by a 4ft half-pipe that is where the bands set up and play in the middle. About 300 punks crammed into this space at midnight, ready to slam into the wee hours of the morning. As I stood at the top of the ramp it was hard to focus on just the band. So many kids were jumping off the sides of the half-pipe, moshing into each other, slipping and falling. The melee of just that was entertaining to watch. However I managed to snap a few photos of what I feel best represents the night’s madness during S.H.I.T.
The Midwest has always punched its way through hardcore and punk. Throughout history in punk, the Midwest hardly ever gets the recognition it deserves. You always hear about how California’s bands were the wild and violent surfers of Orange County. Or how NYC’s skinheads were actual angel dust smoking street kids with nowhere to go but punk. Well, let me tell you something about the middle of America. It’s fucked. Punks here are just that, PUNK. Kansas City’s punkers NUKE CULT are the definition of “ugly people playing ugly music”. But that’s exactly why their 2013 demo, “Join or Don’t”, is so god damn punk and reminiscent of LA’s grossest punk Darby Crash of THE GERMS. Chicago’s “huffers” GAS RAG also completely blew me away that weekend in Toronto. I’ve seen them a handful of times right here in Chicago. But that weekend they really sealed the deal for me as one of Chicago’s finest! Singer, Zach London specifically telling everyone “no pictures”, right before ripping through their set, filled with impressive stage dives by some of the Midwest’s finest slammers, was the perfect way to start their set at the NOCTURNE, in Toronto.
The band I was most looking forward to seeing was Olympia’s own GAG; Some real freaky punk for the real freaks out there. I took a trip out west two summers ago making a stop in Olympia, WA to visit friends and catch a show, leading me to these dudes. Guitarist for GAG, Jose, also sings in a band called WHITE WARDS. I saw them play in Olympia, and they blew me away. So much energy live. So when I found out he played guitar in another band, I knew I’d like it! I saw them (GAG) last summer in Austin, Texas during the fest known as CHAOS IN TEJAS and they blew everyone away. So I was stoked for Toronto. GAG’s first track, “Intro/Squeeze” on the release This Punk Shit is Cool but I hope I’m Rob Zombie When I’m 28 is the BEST intro I’ve heard since the late 86 Mentality’s Intro/Life Trap. Makes even the tamest wanna smash their head into someone else’s.
The last night of NOT DEAD YET was bittersweet. It’s like when you’re watching a great movie and you know its gonna end. You’re excited for the end to see how it all comes together, but then you also know that when it’s over, it’s over. I had been super excited to see the show at Wrong Bar in Toronto. Mostly because Canada’s OMEGAS were playing along with LIMPWRIST, whose members are all kinda spread out across the States. Martin Sorrondeguy (Los Crudos, Needles, photographer and author of GET SHOT) sings for LIMP WRIST. They are an all male, gay hardcore punk band. Mocking straight (hetero) culture and standing up for gay punks everywhere. They are a band you don’t want to miss! Dressed in drag, Martin was like a rabid animal with enough sass to upset even the most “liberal” straight that always refers to their token gay friend when telling people how “open minded” they are. Now the Omegas were hilarious, as expected. Their sets are always filled with great stage banter and glorious “slam skanking”. The singer dresses in the weirdest stuff, with usually some kinda strange shiny bandana tied around his head. This night was no different. Encouraging stages and destruction of the stage really fueled the kids to lose their shit.
There were several bands that played that weekend. I didn’t see every band or talk to every punk, but I caught the shows I felt were the most important in capturing today’s punk movement. The fashion is still a major component of what is “punk”. Now I’m sure some of my peers involved in the scene would disagree and call me a “poser” for saying that but fuck them! It’s true. Fashion makes any subculture a subculture. Otherwise we’d all be wearing whatever our moms and dads told us to wear. It’s angst and rebellion and it has a look. Whether it’s chains and bandanas tied around your boots, studded leather jackets or just a ripped up band shirt. It’s a style of dress that kids in the late 70’s and 80’s started. And kids today continue to do. Some things change but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. Bands still put out their own demo tapes, spray paint or screen print their own shirts and patches. They play in basements to 5 people and tour non stop; making enough money to get from city to city, only to end the tour by moving back into their parents and getting dead end jobs. But that’s the point, playing hardcore/punk for fun. Playing it because we love it or playing it because we hate it. Whatever, we just fucking play it.
photos and words by Lukas Mukas (bloodxshower.tumblr.com)