When my friend Alex from my Harmonix days announced on Twitter that his first show playing drums for the NYHC band None Above All was coming up, I thought it would be fun to surprise him, see him do his thing, and catch up a bit. And it was! His band was on first and I figured I’d split when they were done. But as soon as I got there, the room’s overwhelming majority of black faces made it apparent that this wouldn’t be the run-of-the-mill hardcore show I had expected.
While it’s always been a mostly progressive scene, hardcore has never been all that diverse. Its white-dude standard-bearers aren’t without good intentions, but they haven’t inspired all that many non-white, non-dude people to get involved (despite one of the most legendary hardcore bands being made up of black Rastafarians). When G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) appeared a few years ago, fronted by a trans woman, I was thrilled to have such an electrifying reminder of how much more urgent and furious punk rock can sound when performed by people with a legitimate claim to grievance.
This show had a similar energy: agitated music directly reflecting the psychic strain of systemic marginalization: Peggy Garner, the Haitian Revolution, the African Holocaust, none of them as distant a memory as they’re widely believed to be.
I’ve been trying to make my ears more available to music representing a broader range of perspectives, and honestly I haven’t been very successful. This show was a pleasant surprise and a much-needed shot in the arm.
The AfroPunk Festival takes place every summer within walking distance from my apartment. I’ve never gone, mainly because big outdoor festivals stress me out (or so I tell myself), but maybe it’s time to reconsider that.