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Violent Punker Scum and Pittsburgh Hardcore                                                                               Joseph Friedman





A fist flies into the back of my head, its owner a sweaty and convulsing mess of the petite door-girl I’d spoken to a few minutes before. Fucking Invincible, a Providence-based hardcore act, has just taken the stage and the lead singer is belting out some incoherent phrases that the die-hard fans up front with me are yelling along with. Outside, a group of 20-somethings play pick-up sticks on the sidewalk. A few kids lean against my car smoking cigarettes.



Punk Pins



        It was never a secret that Pittsburgh has always been somewhat of an underground haven for punk and hardcore acts. After romanticizing the idea that the city's musically inclined youth were bursting with inspiration from the memories of past blow-your-ears-out successes as Real Enemy, Necracedia, and even Anti-Flag, I entered my new life in the city expecting to be able to walk around any casual night and stumble into a house show. Of course, I was mistaken, and after a few unsuccessful attempts to seek out the subgenre I was looking for, I found myself traveling to Philadelphia every few weeks to get my fix. I was at one of a few-dozen awful house shows in South Philly one night when I saw my neighbor playing backup guitar. They were all decked out in Flyers gear and the lead vocalist was some random jagoff Flyers fan whose neck-veins protruded even further when he was screaming at the game.


        My first hardcore show in Pittsburgh was held in the basement of some random jagoff Flyers fans across the Boulevard in South Oakland. Every few weeks, armed with a keg of Lionshead and a PA system, these guys would get together and watch the game upstairs while everyone else thrashed around and screamed their voices dry downstairs. Young musicians would get together through college classes, most of the time only practicing a few times before playing a short set and never to be heard of again. We would bob our heads through whatever they had come up with in a few weeks and scream along as they covered various hits. By the end of the night, everyone always reeked of cigarettes and negligible behavior.


        Born in basements, spitting and screaming, Pittsburgh’s hardcore scene has begun to emerge into a success unrivaled by these first few shows. Smaller fanbases like Leaps & Bounds and Latecomer led me to even smaller basements with even larger acts like Hounds of Hate and Code Orange Kids.


        After Fucking Invincible energizes the crowd, Code Orange Kids begin setting up. A mother of one of the guitarists shows up, hugs her son, and stands in the back. The Mr. Roboto Project space is by no means a grungy old basement, but the same familiar faces show up. While huge acts like Converge play at the Altar Bar, I would argue that it’s Code Orange Kids that are leading the scene here. Even though they’re young, the group fuck-you’s your face off while still being able to balance their sound with a comfortable lull every few minutes. Their first major record, Love is Love//Return to Dust, featured both abrasive hardcore tracks and droning female vocal breaks allowing you to catch your breath and embrace the melody. While their Deathwish Records release embraces an appreciation for softer sounds, all of their records serve the full and heavy hit that packs venues across the country.


        Even if no one is open to admit it, the Pittsburgh hardcore community is thriving in its close-knit venues and die-hard fans. DIY venues like 222 Ormsby Street and The Mr. Roboto Project certainly see their more intimate nights of a fully booked show with only a handful of attendees, but more often than not, the shows are packed with the same recognizable punks. With the hardcore movement becoming more popular around the East Coast, and with these venues more accessible than one-off house shows, new fans emerge to rush the stage and throw their elbows with the energy of the crowd. Whether its Code Orange Kids playing at Mr. Smalls, or the more garage-rock stoner-punk of C.H.U.D. Missile as an opening act at The Smiling Moose, Pittsburgh punk and hardcore has nothing to do but grow…and eat you alive as it does.






Joseph Friedman was born and raised listening to hardcore music in rural Pennsylvania. He currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, utilizing his free time to make ASCII art and spending most of his paychecks on bad music.