Video of This Is Hardcore’s inaugural 2006 festival shows a throng of thrashing, sweaty, shirtless, short-haired men, pitching heads-first off stages as Philadelphia’s own Blacklisted pounds uncompromising beats and stuttery guitar riffs. Fast-forward to August 2012, and much remains the same. Blacklisted will play again on Fri., Aug. 11, as it has in all six of the This Is Hardcore fests; young men will writhe and spasm atop barricade-less, dive-ready stages; and vegan food trucks, AIDS awareness groups and left-leaning political activists will line the sidewalks outside.
Yet, as it turns seven, This Is Hardcore has come of age. A new venue at Electric Factory doubles its capacity. More than 50 bands will perform from Thurs., Aug. 9 through Sun., Aug. 12, including icons like Suicidal Tendencies, Cro-Mags and Gorilla Biscuits, and up-and-coming bands such as Beware, Stick Together and Agitator.
Joe McKay, aka Joe Hardcore, has been running This Is Hardcore since 2006, when, after New Jersey’s Hellfest collapsed, a group of local hardcore fans began agitating for a Philadelphia version. From the beginning, the fest focused exclusively on hardcore. Many of the bands on the schedule are repeat performers. Three—Blacklisted, Cold World and Wisdom of Chains—have participated in all six festivals.
This Is Hardcore succeeds, McKay says, because of Philadelphia’s DIY culture. “You have Andy Nelson from Paint It Black and Ceremony who, when he’s not on tour, will book shows. Greg Daly, when he’s not managing World Inferno Society, he’s booking shows or working the door. Liam [Wilson] from Dillinger Escape Plan, when he’s not on tour being a rock ‘n roll bassist, you can find him at the First Unitarian Church, marking hands,” says McKay. “I think that speaks volumes for our aesthetic and how we go about things.”
McKay says that he’s committed to keeping this DIY spirit, even as the festival grows. For instance, conventional venues like the Electric Factory and Union Transfer had to agree to This Is Hardcore’s “no barricades” policy (to make it easier to stage dive) and allow outside vendors. Even Ticketmaster handled sales at a reduced fee structure.
All of which makes it even easier to love a festival that already offers a lot to hardcore fans. “The 10-year-old kid in me is beyond psyched that we’re going to see Suicidal Tendencies,” says McKay. “The young hardcore kid in me goes, ‘How the hell did we get Suicidal, Cro-Mags, Gorilla Biscuits, Lifetime, Breakdown, Negative Approach, Killing Time all to say yes?’”
Four-day passes to This Is Hardcore are already sold out, but three-day passes and tickets to showcases on all four days remain available. McKay expects more than 1,000 fans on Thursday night’s opening banger and more than 2,000 at shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“This year we’ve got a venue that can hold twice as many people as before, and it’s still hardcore bands on there,” he adds. “We haven’t sold out with the pop punk or the metal core.”
This is Hardcore Festival, Thurs., Aug. 9-Sunday, Aug. 12. $18-$90 (for three-day passes). For venues and times, visit thisishardcorefest.com.
PW's Music Issue 2014