The hardcore scene is thriving right now, but with no shows to attend, here’s 12 great full-set videos of modern-day hardcore bands to tide you over, for this quarantine edition of 'In Defense of the Genre.'
Quarantine sucks for everyone but it's gotta especially suck for hardcore bands (and their fans), who really can't exist to their fullest potential without a room full of constantly-moving, sweaty bodies packed together like sardines. A very small number of these bands have been able to translate their usual experience into livestreams (most notably Code Orange, who have kinda transcended hardcore at this point anyway), but for the most part it's been a lot harder to be a hardcore fan than a Ben Gibbard or a Waxahatchee fan during these times. And if things were otherwise normal, this would be a great time for hardcore. The genre has been thriving more in the past few years than it had been in a while, and there were so many tours and albums we were anticipating this year that might now be put on hold until 2021.
For that reason, I decided to round up great full-set live videos of 12 modern hardcore bands I'm currently very excited about. It's not the same as going to a show, but even watching people rush the stage in a video makes the whole experience more exciting than most of those empty-venue livestreams or live-in-studio sessions. The 12 I picked are all bands who either recently released new music, have new music on the way, or were going to tour/play festivals this year. Here's to hoping we see all of these bands on the road in 2021, but in the meantime, watching these killer live videos has made quarantine suck a little less for me so maybe they'll brighten your day too.
Read on for the list, in no particular order, and since 12 is just a small sample size of all the incredible modern-day hardcore footage out there, feel free to leave some of your own favorite videos in the comments...
Knocked Loose @ Headliners in Louisville, KY - 8/23/2019
Knocked Loose's A Different Shade of Blue (Pure Noise) was one of last year's best albums in any genre, and the day they released it, the Louisville band tore it up at a hometown release show. I caught them a few months later in NYC, which was a seriously insane show, but they look and sound even more insane on their home turf. Bodies are flying all night, and Knocked Loose sound goddamn pulverizing. Their Slayer-tinged riffs are even more menacing live than on record, and Bryan Garris' scream is even more coarse. A lot of these hardcore sets are on the shorter side, but Knocked Loose went hard for over an hour. Even watching this video (shot by MoshPit TV) will make you break a sweat on their behalf.
One Step Closer @ Still Won't Break Vol.1 in Wilkes-Barre, PA - 10/26/19
One Step Closer hail from Wilkes, Barre, the same location of last fall's Still Won't Break Vol.1 fest, and if you thought a hometown crowd would go extra hard for OSC, you thought right. As soon as they hit the first chords of opener "The Reach," confetti was shot all over the crowd, and the minute Ryan started singing, he was surrounded by a mob of fans screaming every word. These guys put out one of my favorite EPs of last year with From Me To You (Triple B Records) and their great new single "Lead to Gray" has me very excited for their upcoming debut full-length, but as good as all those recordings are, OSC really bring those songs to life on stage. They're super tight, they've got boundless energy, and this crystal-clear video (by Feet First Productions) really makes you feel like you're there.
Anxious @ Still Won't Break Vol.1 in Wilkes-Barre, PA - 10/26/19
One Step Closer's pals, labelmates, and recent tourmates Anxious played that same fest, and even with this very short 11-minute set they left a huge impression. These guys do a kind of melodic, emo-tinged style of hardcore that reminds me of when Title Fight were on the rise, or the very early hardcore-scene days of Saves The Day (who Anxious were supposed to tour with this year), and like both of those bands, Anxious seem poised to leave a very big mark not just on hardcore but on music in general. Like One Step Closer, they put out a great 2019 EP (Never Better) and they have an anticipated debut LP on the way, and they come across even better on stage. Their first single dropped two and a half years ago but they look and sound like they've been a band for twice as long.
Mortality Rate @ Wild Rose Hardcore Fest in Calgary, AB - 5/11/2019
If coronavirus hadn't hit, Calgary's stacked Wild Rose Hardcore Fest would've just happened, and hometown heroes Mortality Rate would've played it for the third year in a row. They've got an absolutely vicious approach to metallic hardcore that you can hear on last year's fiery You Were The Gasoline EP, and vocalist Jess Nyx has been a little busy this year too, with memorable guest appearances on one of The Acacia Strain's new singles and on the great new EP from UK metalcore up and comers Cauldron. Here's a video of them playing last year's Wild Rose, where they totally crushed and had the crowd going apeshit for their whole set. As an added bonus, Emma Boster from Dying Wish joined them on stage during opener "Selfish Thieves." Lucky for us, Scoped Exposure captured that awesome moment and the rest of this killer set.
Dying Wish @ Wild Rose Hardcore Fest in Calgary, AB - 5/11/2019
And speaking of, here's Dying Wish's own set from last year's Wild Rose. Dying Wish also have anticipated new music on the way, and if you're unfamiliar with this Portland band, get into them now. They bring back the melodic, At The Gates-inspired metalcore that boomed in the early 2000s, and they do it without any of the cheesy elements that bands sometimes had in that era. The riffs are both gut-punching and infectious, and Emma's scream is fucking ferocious. As captured in this hate5six video, she and the rest of the band seriously bring it.
Sanction @ Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA - 2/29/20
One of the tours cut short by coronavirus was the Sanction / SeeYouSpaceCowboy / Vamachara / Typecaste tour, and here's Sanction at one of the last shows that did happen before things had to come to an end. The Long Island band's '90s-style metalcore already sounds pretty skull-crushing on their 2019 debut album Broken In Refraction (Pure Noise), but that's even more the case live. This is the kind of shit that makes you uncontrollably punch the air in front of you, and it's no surprise that the people in attendance were doing that very thing. The dimly lit video (by 197 Media) only makes them seem even more threatening.
SeeYouSpaceCowboy @ Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA - 2/29/20
And here's Sanction's tourmates/labelmates SeeYouSpaceCowboy at that same show. Seeming "professional" isn't necessarily a requirement in punk, but it doesn't hurt either, and SYSC just have this way of looking and sounding like they're ready to be the biggest band in the world. Even watching on YouTube, they seem larger than life, like they'd already be prepared to headline arenas if they ever got that kind of break. No need to get ahead of ourselves though -- they're pretty damn amazing in small, packed clubs.
Shin Guard @ Kame House in Louisville, KY - 1/8/20
Shin Guard pull from emo, screamo, hardcore, metalcore, and more (and the new stuff they recently previewed is like mathcore/deathcore), and they sound good doing all of it. Their tour was cut short before we got a chance to see them in NYC, so this video from Chicago earlier this year will have to do. They're playing on the floor, wearing hoods, with the crowd huddled around them, and the super intimate, DIY vibe of it looks like something straight out of the mid '90s. I have a feeling that, once tours start up again and Shin Guard's new stuff comes out, they won't be playing tiny spaces like this for much longer. But for now, it's awesome to see them at a show like this.
Higher Power @ Back to School Jam in Jersey City, NJ - 9/7/19
When Higher Power swung through NYC earlier this year, Jimmy Wizard was having some health issues so he wasn't his usual self, but he promised that they'd be back soon. Well, obviously they won't be, but here's a video (by hate5six) of them in typically high-energy form at last year's Back to School Jam. This was literally one day after they released lead single "Seamless" off their 2020 Roadrunner debut 27 Miles Underwater, and they did rip through that one, but they mostly stuck to songs from their 2017 debut album Soul Structure, and the crowd ate up every minute of it.
Initiate @ Chain Reaction - 12/19/19
Cali band Initiate have been around for a bit, but this year's Lavender EP is proving to be a bit of a breakthrough for them and one of 2020's finest EPs. It shows off a little bit of a post-rock influence, but mostly it's tough, furious hardcore and the band is tough and furious on stage too. TandA Media shot this video of them in Anaheim late last year, and it's a relentless 16-minute set that really shows off how intense Initiate's energy is. You could never accuse this band of being statues on stage.
Vein @ Electric Factory in Philadelphia, PA - 7/27/18
Vein took the hardcore and metal worlds by storm with their 2018 debut album Errorzone (Closed Casket Activities), which seemed simultaneously influenced by late '90s mathcore and late '90s nu metal, and was a key album in the little "nu metal revival" that's been happening within hardcore. Errorzone is a total sonic assault, but seeing Vein play those songs live with constant movement on and off stage is sensory overload. It helps that this incredibly shot video manages to look as manic as Vein sound.
Drain @ LDB Fest - 2/8/2020
Santa Cruz's Drain dropped one of the year's most talked about hardcore LPs, California Cursed, in April on Revelation, and we're very bummed out that they aren't able to get on the road and support it, because their live show looks fucking nuts. 197 Media shot them earlier this year at LDB Fest, and they and the crowd are in constant motion for the entirety of this 12-minute set. I wish it was twice as long, but when you go this hard, the crowd might've been out of breath if they played for any longer.