First off, DIY metal and hardcore is a growing underground of incredibly talented metal and hardcore bands that host shows at various houses around their areas. The shows are entirely Do It Yourself (DIY) and are usually organized by the bands themselves or by local organizers through Facebook. At least in Boone, where we are both at Appalachian State University, organizers will find local and touring bands to come play and charge cheap door fees (usually $3-$7) so that each band, especially the touring bands who usually request a guaranteed payment, can get a little bit of money from the show.
Our experience with the Boone scene has been almost overwhelmingly positive! Boone has an incredibly tight scene where bands all know each other and consistently show up to support each other. Older bands support newer bands as they start playing more shows and gain attention. Many bands and their members, for example, the members of Trudge, one of the older bands in the area, are vocal about safety, respect, and diversity within the scene and acknowledge problems within society and metal in general as far as social advocacy and decency. The music tends to address both personal and political issues including family struggles, oppression, corruption, and substance abuse.
How I got here (Elena): If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I would be listening to metal or going to the kinds of shows I do as often as I do, I would have told you flat out no. This year though I started going to shows and bringing friends with me because I wanted to support my brother. My oldest brother James, known as Jeel, has been a lifelong lover of music and metal and is an incredibly gifted musician and one of the guitarists of Trudge. He is also in Etiolated, Darth Cannabis, and Plow. The first few shows I went to, I only went because Trudge was playing. However, as I went to more and more shows and became friends with more people in the scene, I started to love metal and listen to it independently. For me, shows are a cathartic experience and help me relieve tension and frustration. I am at shows to support my friends and their bands (Shout out to Basilica (Formerly Golgotha) and Anthony Council in Neglected) and to listen and move with the music. When a band is playing, listening to them is my #1 priority. As soon as music starts, I am no longer anxious about the other people around me, I am fully absorbed in the music and feeling it. I tend to be relatively mobile but I cannot currently participate in moshing due to a combination of social anxiety and recovery from spinal surgery. However, just because I can’t mosh, just because I can’t beat ass or do any of the things usually happening in the pit, doesn’t mean I don’t care or that I don’t want to. I am here to listen to music that I love, to support my friends, and for catharsis.
How I got here (Gab): Before this past August when I started school at Appalachian, I had never been anywhere near Boone let alone any of its local music scenes. Regardless, after a while, acquaintances I had made would make mention or have very brief discussions of the hardcore and metal scene. Because I was so socially anxious at the beginning of freshman year, I never sought out going to any house shows or events in the community, partially because I did not have a group to show me the ropes. It all became sort of an urban legend to me. To be honest, it didn’t really bother me simply because I felt I “outgrew” hardcore, and metal was a genre that, in the past, I had vehemently assured people I did not enjoy. However, second semester I started floating through friend groups and ended up at a show at a house deemed the Post Office. The show wasn’t hardcore, but that was where I really first ran into Elena, who was there with several of our other friends Lauren, Abbey, and Alex (before they were my friends too). Most of us were very…lit. I went in the “pit” with our friends Alex and Abbey, and ever since then I have been to several shows with them all. The first metal show I went to with them was at Westview, a house inhabited by the members of Trudge. My brain hurt at how much I enjoyed the music. I just got lost in it. I realized screaming and swinging arms were not triggers of anxiety, but could sources of release. Ever since January, I have realized that I fucking love this scene and the people I have met through it.
SO, though we both love our scene and are in constant awe of the incredible talent we are surrounded by, we have a few problems we would like to address:
1. This is a space that is not always accessible for femmes, meaning the space is predominantly dominated by men and masculinity with an emphasis on masculine toughness and aggressiveness.
For example, on more than one occasion, both of us have had men push us from where we are standing or move directly in front of us without even reasonable consideration for personal space. I, Elena, have been forced to stand in puddles of beer for entire sets because some white man decided that his space was more important than mine. Also, we have observed that, when cutting through the crowd by the door, men will intentionally choose a path that displaces women over a path that displaces other men. We are both huge lovers of music, especially metal, and especially Boone metal. We both are at shows to participate and have attended shows almost weekly for the past four months, Elena for the past 8. We have as much of a right to stand toward the front of the non-pit (wall) as anyone else. We are not outsiders. Just because we are femme and we might not look like who you would expect to see at a show does not mean that we don’t belong. Masculine space is not more important than femme space. Masculine space is not more important than femme space. MASCULINE SPACE IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN FEMME SPACE.
2. In addition to being a primarily masculine space, metal generally tends to be a white space, and this scene is no exception.
(Gab) Living in white-ass Appalachia, I am very used to being one of few, if not the only, people of color in public spaces. Also, as someone who has been into various “alternative” music genres for several years, I very quickly came to understand that a lot of the music I liked was considered “white.” Being a black person in these scenes, I have gotten used to the occasional look or two from people. Again, I am used to being the one splotch of color in a sea of blank paper. I have accepted that I do not “blend in” simply because of my race. Unfortunately, sometimes my experiences go beyond just not “blending in.”
Recently, I went to a house show and the line-up, of course, was sick as fuck. I was excited as always and Elena was also excited (as always) because Trudge was playing along with some of our friends in other bands. There would also be guest bands who weren’t from the Boone scene, including some people from different scenes nearby. Now, if you’re not familiar with these types of things, different scenes have different etiquettes and different styles of getting down and dirty. Most of the shows I have been to in Boone exhibit typical hardcore dancing and, mainly, push pits. Elena and I, along with our other femme friends, feel super comfortable at these shows, enough to participate and chill at the wall of the pit. Within Boone, there is some diversity between the houses as far as the bands that play and the crowds they attract. This last show we went to had a lot of people from outside scenes, a different crowd than normal. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. I have only been around this shit for like 4 months, so I am by no means an expert on anything. However, since I have been consistently and frequently coming to shows, I feel like I am not necessarily a stranger anymore. Despite this, at this show, I felt unwelcome, ironically because of people who are not native to Boone.
I am not shitting you when I tell you that the same small group of people kept fucking LOOKING at me. Like, I get it, it’s Boone. Yes, I am black. I don’t think it takes too long to establish this. I came blacker than usual, rocking the fuck outta my Reeboks and twist-out. I know, I do not look like the typical hardcore femme who is pasty as fuck with dark ass makeup and Expire merch. But I came here for the same reason most of y’all fuckers did: the music. That’s all that should matter, right? WELP, apparently not to these people who were making me feel like more of an outsider than they were.
I’ll start off by talking about the nice girl I met at this show who was part of this group. Honestly, I didn’t have a problem with her at all. She was super nice and, not gonna lie, at first I thought she was flirting with me. However, it turns out that she talked to me partially because she seemed to assume I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. Now, I don’t blame her because I always look like a deer in headlights. However, she kept suggesting I move away from the wall and further explained how the pit worked. This was not my first rodeo. This particular crowd and pit was rowdier and definitely more rough, but I didn’t have a problem with it. At least until it continued and the others continued to stare at me.
At one point in-between bands, I went outside to unwind a little bit. As I was walking by, I overheard one of the members of this outside group talking about what was presumably the hardcore scene in general. The exact words I heard, and I quote, were:
“…All of these people are coming into the scene and ruining it”
My black ass immediately went into defense mode.
Now, if you know Elena and me, and our friends, then you know we ALL do not match the hardcore archetype. I had a feeling that this elitist dude was definitely talking about us. Firstly, this guy kept staring at us, particularly me. Like, every two seconds it felt like. My friends and I made up part of the wall, as we try to do. We know what comes with it, in Boone at least. Maybe some minor contact, but not much. But THIS dude. THIS dude literally comes for us more than a few times. I think I accidentally scratched the shit out of him at one point because he would not back off me.
It was like a message to me that was either testy or explicitly saying that I did not belong there. And that, of course, feels really shitty. It feels really fucking shitty as a femme of color to have your worst fears possibly confirmed. The fear of automatically being written off in a community that I have grown quite fond of. I never talked to the guy, but I didn’t need to in order to know that I was being alienated. In fact, it was actually confirmed three times. Three different people, who weren’t part of the scene or any band performing, decided to further alienate not just me, but others they felt were not “in.” They took the mic and decided to let everyone know that there would be no consideration for the safety of others and that you just had to fucking deal with it.
Amazing. My black ass, though on defense mode, does not feel the need to prove anything to these people. I am not about to be kicked in the face by some 250 lb cis white guy who is trying to let us know that he’s hardcore and angry as fuck JUST to prove that I have a right to even be there to enjoy the fucking music. And that’s the thing. That show and that crowd made me realize that sometimes, the music and even the fucking safety of others is not valued. It turns into a dick-slinging contest. I’m just not with that shit. That’s not what I’ve gathered Boone to be. As for the real outsiders not respecting the space, they can stare at my twist-out and my Reeboks and FUCKING DEAL WITH IT because my BLACK ASS is not going anywhere. (:
3. An explanation of moshing, but mostly our opinion on crowd killing.
Let’s start with an explanation of the most common forms of moshing we tend to see at local shows. The least aggressive and most common is hardcore dancing, which includes things like the two-step and generally does not involve people having physical contact with people who are not hardcore dancing. Then there are pushpits, my (Elena’s) favorite kind of pit. Pushpits happen when the wall forms a circle or a U shape around the pit and people in the pit generally just aggressively frolick around and push and roll off of each other and the people in the first layer of the wall. The wall’s job is basically to push people back into the pit and, when a part of the first layer of the wall, it is understood that you will have contact with the people in the pit and that it may be kind of rough, but you have signed on for that. It is possible to get hurt doing this, but only if you’re a dumbass.
Recently, and by this I (Elena) mean at the show that Gab talked about in the last section, people have started doing something called crowd killing. Side note: a few months ago, I actually went to a show at one of the home venues for the small group of people Gab talked about. Anyways, crowd killing is basically when the people in the pit start more aggressively hardcore dancing, landing punches, hits, and kicks on people not just in the pit, but in the crowd. The result is lots and lots of bruises typically, but occasionally we have seen and heard of people losing or chipping teeth, getting concussions, and ending up with other injuries. Crowd killing and that level of aggression in hardcore dancing would be 100% A-ok, fine and dandy if the people doing it only hit the other people in the pit and their friends who are in the wall. If you are friends with that person, you signed up, you signed the waiver, good luck. HOWEVER, if you do not know the person you are hitting and that person is not in the pit and hasn’t been in the pit all night, don’t FUCKING hit them.
Crowd killing is not a form of moshing that is common in Boone. The older bands and people in the scene have always seemed to have a respect for the physical space of others and we have never felt unsafe due to the moshing at shows before. We have even seen people kicked out for overly aggressive behavior, such as landing actual hits. There is a visible difference in the styles of dancing and moshing that the people closer to the Boone scene tend to practice and the style of the people who have started coming from other scenes. When you are visiting a venue that is not one of your local venues, it should be common sense to adhere to whatever mosh etiquette the scene you are visiting uses and, if you don’t like it, shut the fuck up about it. This is why I (Elena) didn’t complain or talk shit about the moshing I saw at the only non-Boone DIY venue I’ve been to outside of my friends until AFTER I left the show and only to say “Wow, that was rougher than I am used to and I don’t know that I like that”. When you are visiting a local scene that is not yours, please respect the space.
Personal note from Elena: I have had many discussions with the people I know who are even more deeply tied to the scene than I am and have found that there are varying opinions on crowd killing. So, to the people I have had conversations/arguments with about it who disagree with me, I understand. I know I am new here and can’t talk trash about things I don’t know about, but let me explain my personal stance on crowd killing: I am here for the music which I feel by moving around looking like a piece of seaweed in the ocean or something and by low-key headbanging. While I understand and gladly accept that I will get roughed around and I will probably field a few hits, I am not here to get bruises from people I don’t even know when I’m standing in the second or third layer of the wall. I would love to push pit mosh and get in there, but I have some physical health issues that prevent me from doing that. I had spinal surgery almost 4 years ago now but have had complications with the tech literally holding my spine and pelvis together in the last year. Because of that, I have limited mobility and strength that I am building and am getting a lot healthier, but I just can’t currently risk getting hurt in the pit. Having said this, I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable that I don’t want to get hit and that I ask people to mind the space they are using just enough so that I, standing behind a row of people already, don’t end up with bruises on my head, arms, and legs like I did last show. If you want to crowd kill and beat the crap out of your friends and people you know or people in the pit who, by being in the pit signed up for it, go for it. Have a blast and I won’t say a single word. But seriously, don’t hit random people you don’t know because YOU DO NOT KNOW THEM OR THEIR BODIES and people should not be excluded from a music scene because they are worried about their bodily health and safety.
Another side note: At the show we keep talking about, my friend who visited from out of town was directly targeted and punched twice in the face by the same person. The punches were directed at his eyes even though he has glasses. His glasses were knocked off both times and he ended up needing new ones. It was his first show and I watched the person look at him, wind up, and punch him. WTF guys.
If crowd killing does become a part of the Boone scene, we ask that people please consider the fact that though, yes, coming to a show means you signed up for some amount of rough physical contact, that people do not make it so that those of us who don’t want to be punched in the face and stand a row or two back from the front line of the wall don’t get punched in the face.
4. If you want people to ever come to shows or bands to gain popularity, don’t be an elitist prick.
Once again, let’s bring it back to the mother fucker we quoted earlier. He is the epitome of the elitism we are talking about, and it comes back to the issue of automatically viewing people as “outsiders.” So, what does it really mean to be an “outsider?” Well, for people like baldie, it could mean many things, including things we have already discussed. You must look and act the part. But here’s the problem: there is no Hardcore Bible that explicitly states what these requirements are. We do NOT have to prove to you that we can be at a show. We do not have to be your manic-pixie-dream-girl wet-dream to enjoy the damn music. It seems that the elitist, purist attitudes especially affect women/femmes in the scene. So much so that a lot of women/femmes internalize these attitudes and in turn police and put down other women/femmes. Elena and I have had many interactions with girls who not only brush off unsafe and hypermasculine behaviors but also defend them, despite the fact that they are perpetuating a type of environment that also excludes them inherently. Women/femmes in the scene have to work twice as hard and put up with twice as much shit to be taken seriously at shows. We have seen a girl get injured because some guy twice her size did not feel responsible for his own limbs flying through the air. The girl, who is pretty damn tough, shook it off, but imagine what shit would’ve been talked if she expressed any pain beyond what she did? Imagine if she cried? Her musical taste, knowledge, and interest would be invalidated. In fact, to an extent, she felt responsible for the weight of the situation and even apologized for reacting.
At the end of the day, the hardcore and metal scene in Boone is a music scene. Music should be the focus and priority at shows, not displays of aggression and toxic masculinity. People who are there for the music should not be made to feel like outsiders because they do not fit your standard for what they should look like. Things like crowd killing take the focus from the music and put the focus on whatever is happening in the pit, which should just be a reaction to the music. If you want to crowd kill, like we said earlier, go for it, but don’t just hit people you don’t know. You are, in fact, responsible for where your fists, feet, and body go as well as the energy you bring to the space. If that energy is elitist and exclusionary, especially towards femmes, POC (read black people), queer people, or any other marginalized groups, politely fuck off. This scene is supposed to be a scene of inclusion and acceptance. It is supposed to be a safe space for catharsis and music. Do not make assumptions about people and do not treat people as if they do not belong or are not allowed to be in the space. We are there for the music just like you should be, don’t assume otherwise. We know, the pit is the pit, and you’re probably bound the get fucking hit. But that’s not the whole issue. You are not entitled to this space any more than we are.
We love the Boone scene to death and absolutely love the friends we have made and are in awe of the talent we are surrounded by constantly. This is not a hateful jab at hardcore culture or a call to “end pits” or some whack shit. It is simply to address some things that are wonky. We do not want to stop coming to shows because we no longer feel welcome.