WORDS BY JOSH DERR. PHOTOS BY: ANNE SPINA & WASS PHOTOGRAPHY
GORILLA BISCUITS PHOTO BY: WASS PHOTOGRAPHY, GRAPHICS BY: JOHN FRANKO
Any attempt to capture the scope, spirit, and impact of any major music festival
in an article is doomed from the start. That goes double for This is Hardcore. That said, I'm doomed.
I have been attending This Is Hardcore since its inception in 2006, having missed only a few. I remember waiting in line with a friend for that inaugural year, not knowing quite what to expect. Having grown up in the rural Northeastern PA punk and hardcore scene I started going to shows at 14, and by the time the first TIHC rolled around I had been living in Philly for 2 years, so I thought I had a handle on what the scene was all about and what to expect at shows; when in reality I was just beginning to get it - and that first year left me speechless, sweaty, and wanting more. Thankfully, through the hard work of a few key players, the availability of awesome venues in Philadelphia, and worldwide ticket sales, there has been more to get.
Each year in the weeks leading up to TIHC there is a palpable excitement in the hardcore community; people around the world planning their yearly haj to our hardcore Mecca that is Philadelphia; sharing stories of years past and hypothesizing what may come this time around. For many, TIHC has become a sort of 'Camp Goodtimes' for the scene, where old friends reunite, new friends are made, and the driving force behind all of this is an appreciation for the music that brings us together. But it's not just the music, it is also the message and the spirit. Something that people outside the community don't understand, it's the organized chaos of a mosh pit during All Else Failed, the slamming together of bodies as they push and pull to grab the microphone during any given song, the understanding that though we all come from a different place and may have differences in opinions - that we are all together in a single moment, and that is all that matters. It's the spirit. It's the breath of our collective life in that place and time... It is HARDCORE.
AUGUST 4th, 2016
I walked into the Union Transfer about halfway through the lineup - just before Maximum Penalty took the stage. Immediately I felt a rush of euphoria as I realized that "It's here - I have all weekend to enjoy this." Toward the end of Maximum Penalty, I headed upstairs to find a good spot along the rail for Down To Nothing, Code Orange, and Burn. Proper stage dives for Down To Nothing, Code Orange obliterated everyone, and Burn destroyed! Last up was Youth of Today. I headed downstairs and got a solid spot in the center rear of the venue and watched as Ray lead the band through their set in front of a crowd that couldn't have had any more energy. Afterward I hung outside and kicked it with Garrett from Year Of The Knife for a bit before rolling home - I even ran into a few friends from abroad - Day 1 was barely wrapped up, and I was already feeling the comradery that the fest brings each year.
YOUTH OF TODAY. PHOTO BY: WASS PHOTOGRAPHY
FRIDAY, AUGUST 5th, 2016
Being that Friday's lineup was an auditory wrecking ball, I really wanted to get there early, but as with Thursday things happened that delayed me from getting to the fest until about halfway through the show. I missed Eternal Sleep by mere minutes. Upon coming into the Electric Factory, the first thing I noticed was a barricade about halfway back on the floor, separating the pit from less ornery fest goers. At first, I will admit that I was super bummed on this barricade. One of my favorite things about having TIHC in a venue that size is watching an enormous pit open up and seeing the entirety of the crowd move and get mushed around. To me, that movement is a physical representation of the space we all share at these shows. However, throughout the weekend I noticed many less people walking around with bloody faces, broken noses, facial bruising and the like than years past - and I can only attribute this to the barricade. If you were on one side, you knew to be on the lookout for a 300 pound angry sweat monster who just wants to wreck your day, and on the other you could tip toe through the tulips or whatever.
ALL OUT WAR. PHOTO BY: ANNE SPINA
Throughout the night I lurked around merch booths and drank some good cold brew. I sat for awhile at the Get Rad Clothing booth and talked with those guys about the scene, the fest, and the state of hardcore at large. We reminisced about what it was like for each of us growing up in the scene and shared stories from our respective hometowns. It always amazes me how similar the stories are, especially since pre-internet there was no immediate exchange of information between local scenes. Nothing beats a solid TIHC talk.
I don't have time to give a full review of each band individually, but I feel compelled to say that Integrity's set was a regular dust up down front. From where I positioned myself in the balcony it looked like an old west bar brawl without the piano player, just fists, feet and faces flying around in the haze from a fog machine placed somewhere on stage. The show ended and I packed myself out with slightly worse hearing than I went in with, ready for Day 3.
SATURDAY AUGUST 5th, 2016
Marathon time. Anyone who has ever been to TIHC for the whole weekend will tell you that there is something special about Saturday. I boil it down to the fact that we are all at a hardcore show from noon til after midnight and it's usually really hot and crowded, so naturally people get a bit wacky. But it's not just a show. It's This Is Hardcore; part show, part flea market, part medieval knights sparring in a ring. Saturday is usually my favorite day of the fest. Not just for the bands, but because people have settled in. Old friends have gone through the initial "Hey it's been so long!" stage and are back to just coexisting and being comfortable, merch tables have broken into their reserves, and the crowd has limbered up and is ready to show out. Added bonus - my wife and I spring for a babysitter on Saturday of the fest each year so she can make it out, I always look forward to our TIHC date night.
Saturday's lineup was stacked start to finish - no rest for the weary. Strength For A Reason. Rude Awakening. Lifeless. In a row people. Get real. Now here's where some of you will want to tune out for a line or two. Even though we had to break out early to get home to relieve the babysitter, we were there for the “rant” and all I will say is that Gorilla Biscuits played a killer set from what I saw and I have not burned any old Revelation comps in anger. I would like to get more into this, but I don't want politics and negativity to play a part here, however it would have been dishonest to ignore it completely.
TIHC CROWD WARMING UP FOR GORILLA BISCUITS (CLICK TO WATCH)
Saturday was a success. Somewhere around the dinner break I spoke to Chris Streigel (in case you don't know he's a big part of the fest and you should all thank him for his hard work) and he told me that he felt he could finally relax a little as the fest was running itself, and everyone was having a good time. This to me is key to the success of this fest in particular. Not only is it a well oiled machine, but the machine is controlled by people who are a part of this scene, who understand it's idiosyncrasies, who truly care about putting together the best possible hardcore festival, and who get that sometimes you can step away from the helm to enjoy yourself and what you built. That makes all the difference.
KILLING TIME. PHOTO BY: ANNE SPINA
SUNDAY, AUGUST 7th, 2016
Heavy. Sunday was loaded with barn-burners; Jesus Piece, Blistered, All Else Failed, Strife, Ruiner, Turning Point, the list goes on. Sunday was a weird day for me. I knew I'd have to cut out after Strife because I needed to get up super early for work the next day, so I was bummed on missing the last 4 bands, but I was also stoked to have one more day to go off before settling back into my usual routine. I missed Jagged Visions, but was there just in time to see Timebomb play. One of the greatest things about the lineups at TIHC every year is seeing the evolution from the openers to the headlining bands. Each day has a unique vibe to the lineup where somehow different styles of hardcore are represented, but there is a cohesion throughout the day that holds it all together. Much respect for the ability to pull this off while keeping people's interest.
I spent a portion of the afternoon eating tacos and making sure to talk to everyone I knew before we all went our separate ways for another year. TIHC has proven to me the resolve of our community - I have met and become friends with people from all over the planet, who live so differently from myself and each other, who all have their own struggles, yet for some reason we migrate to this one place each year to in order to raise each other up - swinging our fists, kicking, jumping on top of one another in a primal release of energy where negative becomes positive and a little controlled violence becomes a peaceful demonstration of our shared experience. I really can't explain how much the hardcore scene has done for me personally, but when I stand back and take a look at the faces of the people around me at TIHC, I know that I don't have to explain it; it's already understood.
Huge thanks to the whole TIHC staff for doing it big every year, and a special shout out to all the PAHC bands who played the fest and held it down for the home state.
Worldwide Hardcore is In Effect. We are a family, don't lose sight of that.
ANGEL DU$T. PHOTO BY: WASS PHOTOGRAPHY
CLICK BELOW FOR RACHEL WASS' TIHC 2016 VIDEO RECAP