I’m not talking about extreme or dangerous travel. I’m talking music… Hardcore; with its heavy riffs that spark off some crazy internal surge of intensity – seemingly out of no-where, an emotional explosion, when everything stops, nothing matters and it’s just THIS. You either get THIS, or you don’t. I listen to, and love a lot of types of music, but nothing comes close to THIS for me. I didn’t choose it. I just heard it, and that was it. I loved metal and punk, but the first time I heard Hardcore? Changed my life. The politics, the messages, the subversive way of thinking, the DIY ethics. It blew my mind. London hardcore, from what I’ve experienced, is probably as gender equal as you can get… (doesn’t mean there aren’t issues of course..)
What I’m attempting to say though, is unsurprisingly summed up a little better by one of the best Hardcore bands out there, 31 years and counting..
Listening to Hardcore gives me strength when I need it, helps me put one foot in front of the other, especially when I’m travelling and feeling a little anxious and alone. And when I’m just feeling good? It makes me feel invincible, free, finer than fine. Turns slow, uncertain steps into some sort of walky-mosh-dance when I feel the world is mine. Even if the world at that moment is only this happy place in my head, where the music is.
Hardcore shows provide me with an escape from the day to day, the negativity of the world, a place to release rage, to recharge. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve thought I just should go home, stay in – I’m tired, I’m stressed, I don’t want to see anyone – but gone to a show ‘just for five minutes.’ Step through the doors and that’s it, I’m home, I’m with my family, I’m smiling inside and out.
When the 7/7 bombings happened in London, I was stuck underground for about an hour at Kings Cross station, eventually walking out to the chaos of ambulance sirens, sobbing people and total confusion. I spent most of the day in a daze and walking back from work that afternoon, down an empty Oxford Street, watching the large screen tv’s playing the news on loop felt as if I was in a disaster movie. Merauder decided to still play their gig in Camden that night, and so the show went on, to about 40 of us. Some support band members (Ninebar) walked, guitars on backs, from south of the river to play. Goosebumps appear when I think back to the atmosphere of unity, friendship & worldwide support I felt that night. That’s my hardcore family.
Because of music I’ve travelled to places I otherwise wouldn’t have, and met so many wonderful, wonderful people. It’s pretty incredible to be part of something where, when you are at a festival, standing in a field of thousands, you bump into people you know from all over Europe, the USA, Australia and more… You may only see them once a year if that, but you see them. Everywhere. Every country I go to. And almost always, welcoming you with opens arms.
At the time I was growing up in Hong Kong there was no hardcore scene, just a couple of punk and ska bands. So to see it growing, and being nurtured and brought together by Unite Asia has been incredible. I can’t wait to get to know it better and be more a part of it. One of my oldest favourite bands (SOIA, see above) recently brought a Hong Kong Hardcore band, King Ly Chee as support on part of their US Anniversary Tour last year – I felt overwhelmed with pride and excitement.
So there’s my little homage to Hardcore. To the people I’ve met and the places it’s brought me too. Here’s a little selection of hardcore fuelled adventures…
<Helsinki, Hamburg, Netherlands, Lisbon, Warsaw, IeperFest >
HELSINKI, Finland –Wisdom in Chains @ PRKL Club, Nov 2014
One of my favourite bands ever, ever, ever got flown out from the states to play a one off gig in Helsinki at Anterok 6 so I figured I too should fly myself out there.
I’d taken a day trip to Helsinki from Tallinn years before but hadn’t visited Suomenlinna which is only a 15 minute boat ride from the city centre. A fortress spanning several islands, it’s construction started in 1748 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’d heard it was stunning, actually I believe my flatmate called it the ‘most beautiful place on earth’ and as Helsinki was covered in a blanket of snow when we arrived I was expecting something magical.
Leaving my roommate in bed to nurse her hangover Humpty & I headed to the pier making a few snow angels on the way.
Descending from the boat on to the island felt as if I was stepping into an enchanted Scandinavian fairy tale. (I am aware Finland isn’t in Scandinavia.) I’d first seen snow age 12, on a skiing trip and was shocked at how cold and wet it was. My attempt to bring some home in a bottle was thwarted when my friends pointed out to me that once melted, it would no longer turn into snow again.. The sight of snow still takes my breathe away, and invokes in me a sense of inner calm. I spent a very happy, peaceful day exploring the fortress walls, bunkers and tunnels. Feeling the cold crisp air mixed with warm sunshine under the atmospheric blue and cloudy white skies was the perfect remedy to recharge for another night of (very) expensive beers, hang outs with friends from all around the world and dancing to the mighty, mighty Wisdom in Chains.
We almost went on a pub crawl as well, but on discovering you had to pay a cloakroom fee as you entered each venue, regardless of whether you used it or not, the idea was abandoned. I also almost got hit by a tram.
Turnstile/Ignite/SOIA – Persistence Tour @ Hamburg, Jan 2015
During my first Hamburg trip in 2012 to see Cocksparrer, I spent most of my time in dingy bars drinking Mexicaners/bloodshots, aside from the afternoon I spent sipping mulled wine whilst mooching around the Reeperbahn’s Christmas Market. Seemingly festive at first Rach spotted amongst the woollen socks and wooden toys there were some larger, plastic, brighter more exotic looking variations too…
This time I wanted to explore Hamburg a little more, and specifically climb through the Russian Submarine U-434 and check out the grounds of the legendary St Pauli Football Club.
I was, naively I suppose, surprised at how claustrophobic I felt walking through the submarine. Still, I kept myself calm and had a lot of fun clambering through the hatches from one compartment to the next, banging my head each time without fail. WITHOUT FAIL. It was a really interesting experience and despite it not actually being a WWII U-Boot, I couldn’t help shouting in my head, ‘DAS IST THOMPSON!’ whilst crawling around.
For those that don’t know St Pauli Football Club (est. 1910) emerged in the 1980s as being a left leaning, all inclusive, socialist club with a Jolly Roger flag and a penchant for parties in and around the stadium. It has since gathered a huge cult, following, especially in the punk scene. Sat on the tube a few years ago I had a young man take a ‘sneaky’ picture of my cleavage (I could see what he was doing in the window reflection.. ) and when confronted I was told it was the St Pauli FC top he was interested in… The stadium was incredibly cool. The graffiti, stickers and slogans made me wish it was my club. Since that trip I I found out that my Mum had actually lived in a Displacement Camp just outside Hamburg in 1946 so perhaps I could claim it as my own…
LISBON, Portugal – Hardcore Pool Party @ Alcochete: Sept 2015
For reasons unknown to me know, Lisbon was never really on my list of cities to visit. THANKFULLY I loved the idea of a Hardcore Pool Party, and ended up there by default. With a couple of days to spare before the bands, beach & BBQ I decided to explore the city, first jumping on a cycle tour before testing out the other transport modes – trams, funicular, and feet!
Aimlessly wandering around the cobbled streets feasting on pastries, specifically the pastéis de nata (custard tarts) made me a very happy lady indeed. Strangely I suppose, I think of these tarts as a Chinese food, as they are sold everywhere in Hong Kong. I assume brought to Macau by the Portuguese and then at some point made their delicious way over to my home town!
In the spirit of challenging myself to re-try experiences that ‘I don’t like‘ I thought I’d pop into the free Museu Colecao Berardo Art Museum before hitting the beach. Something inside me changed that afternoon and I was a convert to art galleries. Room after room, piece after piece, my eyes, my heart, my thoughts, my emotions – were bouncing around all over. The colours, the depth, the intensity, the chaos, the peace – AHHH Monsieur Berardo, I cannot obrigado you enough for sharing your collection. (That sounds much dirtier than intended!)
Exhausted, I spent the next few hours on the beach and in the sea – just a 15 minute train ride from the station near my hotel. I ended the evening eating more Portuguese pastries whilst wandering around a pop up night market on Rossio square.
I spent the next day exploring the town of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, 40 minutes train ride away and most famous for Pena Palace, it’s pastel coloured fairy tail turreted castle complex. I much preferred climbing around the very grey Castelo dos Mouros but the whole area, felt quaint and peaceful, and despite being packed full of tourists was worth the effort to get to.
I fell utterly in love with Lisbon in those few days. The warmth and helpfulness to an often flustered foreigner, during what was a personally tough weekend, is one I will never forget.
WARSAW, Poland – Trash Talk (& STYG) May 2015
I decided I wanted to go to a gig in Poland, and when I saw £50 return flights to Warsaw on Trash Talk’s date I figured it had to be done. Overall a crazy weekend filled with fascinating history, amazing food and incredibly friendly, fun people. With a late arrival straight from work I headed to a bar for a couple of beers before bed. The waitress felt sorry for me sat alone and introduced me to her mates who spoke English, who then took me to a local rock bar for more drinks and laughs.
Next morning I joined the Communist Walking Tour (free, but always pay eh…) before a tasty Polish hangover lunch at Local Vegan Bistro. I spent the afternoon wandering around alone and when I reached the Warsaw Ghetto monument wall I remember wanting to touch it. I don’t know why. But I closed my eyes and took a few moments to imagine what it was like with the Jewish population imprisoned in those walls, living in hell yet not yet knowing the true horror of what would become their story. I then headed to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Initially, hearing that they had reconstructed the old town fully I thought it might feel artificial and soulless, but after seeing the footage of, and learning about the total destruction of the city I felt whilst walking through it as if I was in a beautiful living working memorial, recognising the past but full of hope, vibrancy and positivity.
It happened to be the ‘Long Night of Museums’ where entry was free and kick out time was late. I wandered around outside taking in the colours and sounds looking at the street exhibitions whilst eating Oscypek (see below.) I headed into one art museum before being laughed at by my dinner waitress for my total overexcitement and happiness of being served three types of vegetarian pierogi (Polish dumplings) before accidentally heading into a gay nightclub and dancing the night away.
Sunday was spent in bed eating McDonalds until kick off, (stay classy Weeze) when I managed to find a pub with a super friendly bar-lady who put the Arsenal game on for me after an argument with her shitty, misogynist boss about it! Throughout the whole weekend I was greeted with smiles, warmth & good chat. Walked across to the other side of town, over a bridge to Klub Hydrozagadka, and spent the evening listening to bands, drinking beer, selling merch & chatting. All of it was worth the 3am wake up to fly straight back into work..
NETHERLANDS: Sheer Terror, Rotterdam, Feb 2015
The show was on a Saturday night in Rotterdam, so I thought it rude not to stay with my Cousin in Amsterdam the night before. Beers and fondue on the Nieuwmarkt sounded irresistible.
And then I thought I might as well go and tour the ICC (International Criminal Courts) in Den Haag, because, well, that’s the sort of stuff I like to do… Sadly there wasn’t a trial on at the time. So many war criminals, not so many trials. Still, the tour there, and at the Peace Palace was really interesting. Three cities, three days – a lot of good food, beer, chats, facts (facts are fun!) & laughter.
IEPER/YPRES, Belgium – IeperFest, August 2011
A weekend hardcore festival with the ladies you say? In Belgium? Where exactly? Ieper? As in the WWI battlefield area… Fields of poppies Ieper? Yes? Ah this sounds interesting, I shall go….
I decided this trip, and my tour of the Battlefields of Flanders, deserved it’s own post. You can read that here:
There is only one way to end this post. Knuckledust. I remember being sat on my bed, age 14, 1996, listening to a cassette tape of their first EP, thinking WHAT IS THIS MUSICAL AMAZINGNESS?! I remember dragging my then boyfriend to see them play The Peel at an all day fest. (Incidentally, he now loves them.. haha) I remember turning into a fan-girl when I first met them at the Verge a few years later. Haha. Embarrassing I suppose, but totally deserved! What they have done for London & UK hardcore is immeasurable. The joy they, and their influence, work and support of the scene has brought me – also immeasurable.
Check them out: