You’re going to a show tonight with some friends. It’s a genre you’re not actually super into; hardcore. You’re usually into something lighter, less intense, less aggressive. But your friend insists you get into it, he loves this stuff, and you love him, so you give it a go. You’ve heard about the infamous mosh pits, seen clips of people whirlwinding across gaps in the crowd, arms flailing violently through the air. Footage of people diving off the stage into the sea of people before the band.
You gather with your friends and make your way to the bar. The support act finishes and the atmosphere changes. This is it. You’re nervous, everybody around you is so excited, you don’t really know what to expect. The band comes on. Legends of the hardcore scene, you’ve been told. Thunderous applause.
This is the story of my experience with the American Band Fiddlehead, their live show at the Crowbar, and feeling alive again. In an age riddled with chronic loneliness, social isolation, and doing everything in your power to avoid small talk, live music, specifically the hardcore scene, stands as a beacon of connection.
Hardcore is a genre adjacent to punk rock and emo, but is described as more aggressive and “full on”. Serving as a reaction against the hippie movement in 1980s America, the genre goes against the commercialisation of the music industry. Hardcore music is generally more violent and mean, but the mosh pits are unusually kind. Yes, you’re getting thrashed around and knocked over, maybe accidentally punched or landed on. But you’re always getting picked up. Never once have I heard the phrase “I’ve got you, I’m not letting you fall,” except at a hardcore gig, and from a stranger, at that. The pit opens up for you when you fall on your back, you are held up by the caring, sweaty hands of half a dozen random people to keep the show going. To keep the mosh on. The hardcore scene enables a level of connection beyond words. It creates an atmosphere of intimacy, something that is so needed, particularly for men.
In society, it is implicitly understood that men don’t deserve intimacy, and must earn it through status and sex. People turn to misogynistic figures like Andrew Tate and Jordan Peterson because they provide an ideal they can live up to, despite their dangerous and destructive worldviews. You are cared for at a hardcore gig. No questions asked. The Aussie scene in particular is tight-knit, but not gatekeepy. It is the most welcoming group of people I have ever met. Everybody knows everybody, and people turn up to shows without prior organisation. There is the guarantee that there will be a friendly face at a hardcore gig, which is something you can’t really say for a job, or in a class, or on public transport.
The mosh experience is religious. It is a ravenous, primal experience that is not found anywhere else in society. There are no emails, no sense of bothering anybody with your mere existence, nothing to worry about except the immediate care of those around you. It is just you and the all encompassing tidal wave of sound, violent skin to skin contact and the movement of the crowd. The ebb and flow of bodies through the sluggishly hot room. When you get into it, you are bound by a force higher than yourself telling you; “Mosh. Push back. Dance. Scream.” For someone like me who is guarded in every social encounter, a space like this is refreshing.
Fiddlehead began their last song with a few words from the frontman Patrick Flynn speaking to the inevitability of death. He did not say this to intimidate the crowd, to rile people up in an edgy way. “We are all going to die,” he says. “Your parents are going to die, your friends are going to get sick, you are going to get sick.”
“This is a lion’s roar in the face of death.”
And the band comes in, full force. Never have I been so confusingly forced to tears before, let alone whilst two-stepping my way through a crowd of tall, sweaty men. In that moment, I realised that this is what life is all about; living to the fullest, in honour of those that can’t do it with us. So much of life is a distraction from death, we edge around it, not talking about it, why would we? It’s easier to pretend like we will live forever. But Pat reminds us. Hardcore reminds us. That our bodies are fragile and our lives are only held together by intangible social constructs that can (and are soon to) fall apart. What’s real is this; the human neighbourhood.
A few years ago, I lost a childhood friend to cancer. Though she was sweet, and kind, and taken too soon, I have spent the better part of the last few years trying to forget about her. To not think about what I could have done to make her life better in the end. To not think about how unfair it was that she was taken from us.
There is no avoiding death.
I met someone I recognised after the set, a friend of a friend. Both our faces were soaked from sweat and tears. He told me that on that day, 11 years ago, he had lost his grandfather. I told him I was sorry, and he said no, it was a great thing that he could celebrate his life like this, to live on for him.
You are alive! Think about everyone who made you who you are!. Reach out a sweaty arm, pick up your brothers, sisters and siblings. We can only make it through life by looking out for each other, and that is all too easy to forget. Do what we were built to do and love each other, because you never know when you won’t be able to anymore.
This, I think, is what music is all about. Remembering love, and remembering what is worth living for. In my time in the pit, I have been reawakened and broken personal boundaries, and hardcore music has allowed me to genuinely grow into a more confident person. I pledge to you readers to at least give the scene a go. Give some albums a listen, visit a local gig if you can afford the ticket. It’s fine if you don’t love it like I do, but at least take away the fact that there is a community of people living life to the fullest right here in Sydney.