By Josh Sison
I attended my first hardcore punk show in the spring of 2011. I was a senior in high school and had started to discover new music and new genres daily thanks to the advent of high speed internet and MySpace. MySpace was directly influential on Roanoke’s music scene and allowed my group of friends to slowly discover others who enjoyed similar music.
I attended a few metal shows and while very enjoyable, the music couldn’t keep my attention long. This changed the day I went to my first hardcore show. It was a catharsis.
Through the internet, my music taste was ever-growing. My friends and I discovered different bands that we came to understand as hardcore bands. These bands carried themselves with the mentality of punk bands: DIY; but sonically carried more than just the punk sound. These bands had a wide array of influences: Punk, metal, and even somehow, alternative. It was a whole new realm.
One band could sound heavy and thrashy, while another could sound akin to old punk bands. What united them was this DIY ethic. The people in these bands were people, not rockstars. These were everyday people playing music that meant something more than just music; it was a lifestyle. How they lived their lives, to they way that they carried themselves, to their societal values, hardcore was all of this. Everyday we would find new bands that resonated with us, as the people in these bands talked about the struggles that they faced in everyday life.
My first hardcore show in Roanoke filled me with excitement and nervousness. The actual show wasn’t technically a hardcore show because a pop punk band was playing, but I had heard that local hardcore act “TIEBREAKER” was going to play a surprise set. My friend had to drag me to the show because it wasn’t being hosted at a local venue, but at a house. I couldn’t wrap my head around the thought of a show being hosted at a house, where the patrons would be hardcore dancing (a form of moshing). From the moment we walked into the house, we were welcomed.
People were interested in learning about us and how we found out about the show. They had encouraged us to enjoy ourselves, to sing along to the bands, and make ourselves at home. About 20 people packed themselves in a small living room to enjoy each band. I came to that show expecting to just hear music, but left inspired and forever connected to those people.
As time went on, I attended every show that the scene hosted. Most were held at the house that has become a legend in the hardcore scene. “The Big Gay Mansion” or what it is now called “The Big Gay Shanty” (A shed that has been renovated to house underground DIY shows and abbreviated as “The BGS”) is owned by Josh Dickerson. He graciously hosts the shows that most local venues will not accept, due to the “energy” that results from the shows. Along with the BGS, additional house venues, such as the now defunct “Moshment” and “Deadlift Manor”, also hosted many shows. These venues were homes to people in the scene who had opened their doors so bands could play in Roanoke.
As time has passed, more people have connected with the music and the hardcore scene has grown. It has even bridged to other scenes in Roanoke. People who didn’t generally listen to hardcore, started to turn out for the shows. The growth in audiences attracted more bands that wanted to play Roanoke. Compared to other scenes in Virginia, such as Richmond and Virginia Beach, Roanoke hardcore is still smaller but we make sure to send each band home with a memorable experience.
What was once mostly young up and coming touring bands playing Roanoke, turned into more established bands coming to play our quaint little city in someone’s shed or living room. Hardcore fans from out of town also started attending our shows, further solidifying the scene. Hardcore bands started making it a regular stop on their tours, and spreading the word to other bands to book a date in Roanoke. Bands that have played nationwide, in festivals, or even overseas came to play in our basements and homes. A small list includes bands like: Angel Du$t, Naysayer, Protester, Red Death, Fire and Ice, Jesus Piece, Hard Stripes, and Forced Order.
What I appreciate most about Roanoke hardcore, is that it truly gave me a place to feel a part of something and opened my life up to so many different ideas, opportunities and people. I went from just going to shows, to playing in bands, to booking shows. This opportunity is open to just about anyone who comes to a show in Roanoke. Anyone can start a band or start booking shows because this scene is about the people and power that goes beyond music. Roanoke is filled with so many compassionate people. Though we may grow old and our tastes may evolve and change, we stay loyal and grateful to the scene that changed our lives. It’s all about the community.
Currently, Roanoke’s hardcore show output has been slow. There has been a venue shortage due to the BGS not being able to host shows as often, and a lack of a formal venue being present in Roanoke that allows a DIY/Punk ethic for hosting shows. Realistically, the cost of renting a venue is too high compared to the tour package price of most bands. However, there will be two upcoming shows this summer, so keep your ears to the ground, and your eyes peeled for the fliers that announce these shows.
Blue Ridge Rocks will keep you updated about upcoming shows in the tight knit, DIY Hardcore scene!