Steven Blush was there. Whether you envy him or not depends on whether you think getting bloodied by disgruntled anti-Reagan suburban kids moshing to an onslaught of melodyless noise sounds like good times. Blush is the author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History, the recently reissued chronicle of the American hardcore punk scene in the early ’80s, and writer of a 2006 documentary of the same name. He is presenting a slideshow at Sweat Records at 8 p.m. on Thursday night. Whether you love hardcore or hate it, I highly recommend you take advantage of the chance to have Blush, with a historian’s perspective and a hardcore punk’s blackened eye, guide you through a truly radical musical/political/ethical/artistic movement.
I spoke to Blush on Monday about hardcore as a reaction to Reagan, the South Florida scene (the lack thereof), and why kids didn’t take up axes (of the six-string variety) in the Bush years.
Can you define hardcore for the uninitiated?
Yeah, sure. Hardcore was originally called hardcore punk. It comes out of punk rock. There was the original punk rock revolution in the late ’70s, which was everyone from the Ramones in New York to the Clash and the Sex Pistols in England. And it’s great music, but it was something that came out of artistically driven people, people who were into Warhol and Bowie. There were lots of kids around America who loved the music but didn’t really relate to a lot of the themes and ideas. So there’s a movement that grows in America, largely in the suburbs, and it’s called hardcore punk. And it’s taking what the Ramones had started – the idea of speed and energy – as its starting point. I don’t think there was any sort of manifesto or statement about it, but it was kinda like this zeitgeist, like a mindset around the country of all these bands who started to play really fast. It was very striking at the time.
The full title of your book is American Hardcore: A Tribal History. What made the hardcore scene a tribe?
The thing that parallels with this is the election of Ronald Reagan, kinda the start of the Neoconservative movement that we see today. There was a real hyperconformity. If you went to high school or college at the time, everyone looked the same and dressed the same. And I think people were looking for a way to stand out. People were really looking to make a statement: “We are not part of this conformity. We are standing up against this.”