The Ghosts of Hardcore Past
In 2004, hardcore blew up. Killswitch Engage released what would eventually become a gold record, Hatebreed was nominated for a Grammy and everything changed—again.
Before that, hardcore and metal were the genres of the underground and the bands were kind of like members of a secret society. They weren’t afforded any mainstream recognition, and if you met someone who had also heard of an obscure start-up band like Terror, Every Time I Die or Bleeding Through, you immediately knew you shared a bond. Then, all of a sudden, there were TV shows like “Battle for Ozzfest” and Jamey Jasta was the new host of a revived Headbanger’s Ball.
Local hardcore shows, which had been topping out at 100 people on a good night, were suddenly drawing upward of 400-500 people. Things were good again for Salt Lake City hardcore, the way they hadn’t been since the heyday when Clear and Triphammer were playing shows in the late ’90s. Nationally recognized bands were coming through town all the time and there were so many shows that local openers were starting to get the opportunity to play in front of crowds they’d never seen before.
It was great exposure for bands that were just starting up or had been playing under the radar for a few years. Bands like Pushing Up Daisies, Parallax, Gaza and Clifton were all building a solid local fanbase. Tamerlane and the vegan-straight edge band Cherem—both of which I spent a number of years playing in—were also gaining recognition and being invited to play bigger shows outside of the ones put on by our small circle of friends.
Once that started happening, Blake Foard, member of bands such as Aftermath of a Trainwreck and Skeiff D’Bargg, and longtime show promoter, saw an opportunity to give a little something back to the community through the hardcore scene he loved. “Hardcore, to me, is helping out the people who matter most,” says Foard. “I figured I could utilize my connections and use it for the good of the community.”
Foard has been booking and promoting shows since October of 2000—when he was just 16—when he booked Figure Four and the post- Triphammer outfit Her Blacklist Disaster in a theater in the University of Utah Union building. Having grown up in the scene, with four older brothers dragging him to shows since he was 11, Foard has long since been one of the most dedicated to a hardcore scene that always seems on the brink of collapse. He wanted to use the newfound popularity of the music for something good. That’s when the annual Sub For Santa show was born.
In December 2004, Aftermath of a Trainwreck, Skeiff D’Bargg and Grace from Gallows played the first Sub For Santa show in the basement of Burt Murdock (Wagstaff) Music on 9000 S. and State St. It was a great turnout, and there was a supplemental Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament afterwards. “It was amazing how it all came together,” says Foard.
Burt Murdock Music was a good distance from downtown with really limited accessibility to those without a car, but it was the only option at the time. There was a long string of venues back then, some only lasting for as little as a single show. It’s a problem that Salt Lake City has always faced. A mid-level, do-it-yourself venue for heavier music never existed, forcing a lot of bands to skip the city on their tour. It doesn’t help that Salt Lake is eight hours in every direction from the next biggest city, either.
It got harder to book touring bands with an ever-growing audience to DIY venues that might not even exist by the time the show rolled around. Given a choice between a promoter who does it for a living with money to spend, and a few youngsters with a lot of heart but no way to guarantee anything, the former usually won. Booking and promoting shows is a frustrating endeavor with lots of hoops to jump through, but at the end of the day, seeing a satisfied audience is a reward that can’t be matched.
“So many people come in to the scene, suck it dry and take, take, take, but never want to give back,” says Foard. “Bands break up, promoters realize it’s not as glamorous once they get into the thick of it and give up on doing shows.”
2012 marks the eighth straight year of the annual Sub For Santa show, and this year, Foard has teamed up with Dylan Stout to organize the two-night event. Stout—currently playing with Foard in Cool Your Jets and his own band, Hitchhiker—built and maintains the new local music website slchardcore.com. It focuses on getting show information, videos, band interviews and other great, original content out to the masses.
“After a lot of Salt Lake’s better-known hardcore bands broke up or moved on, kids just stopped coming to shows,” says Stout. “I created the site to inform people that we are still making music and try to bring people back out. The more people there are, the more fun we all have.”
The site is still in its infancy, and Stout has a lot of great things planned for it, including a hard copy zine called Staunch that will feature album reviews, articles and a calendar of events. The first issue will be available just in time for the December shows.
Using his connections from years of booking and touring, Foard has been able to get some great bands back together or even make the drive from out of state to be a part of it. For the 2012 show, a slew of bands that haven’t played Salt Lake City for a long, long time are coming out of retirement. He was able to pull a few strings and get the ever-reclusive Tamerlane out of extended hibernation for a night—which was much harder than one might think, even if the singer is his older brother, Jack Foard.
Cherem is also reuniting, playing their first show in nearly six years. “I moved to New York City in 2007 and logistically, we just couldn’t make it work anymore,” says Bill French, singer and founding member of Cherem, who recently moved back to Salt Lake. “I know a lot of people have these delusions of grandeur that hardcore is supposed to be about massive shows with people smashing into each other,” says French. “When I went to my first show in ’94 to see Bleed, it was 20 people packed into an abandoned trailer. Hardcore has always been what you make of it. The scene is as alive as it ever was.”
With a re-dedicated lineup, French is excited to use December’s benefit show as a new beginning and try to finish what he started with Cherem way back in 2001—not just treating it as a one-time thing.
“For me, the most important part of Cherem was using our music as a vessel for breaking down the myths that surround our way of thinking,” says French. “The idea that we’re individuals separated by air and space and that we’re not part of the collective whole is a flawed and damaging idea. Sharing those ideas through this medium is what I miss the most.”
Maybe the biggest coup of all was Foard’s ability to get early ’90s hardcore band Reality on the bill, too. Reality was never one of the most famous of the early Salt Lake bands, but they were definitely one of the most loved. Fast and dark, the band’s Something Hurts 7”, from local label Flatline Records, is still a favorite among collectors and SLCHC history buffs. “I think we’ve all just missed playing together and playing our songs,” says Reality vocalist Trent Falcone. “We’ve all done other bands since Reality ended, but these songs remain special to us.”
Foard is happy to have a revived scene and is doing everything in his power to make it as great as it ever was. As an added bonus, there’s going to be a very lucky family or two that come along with it.
“If I could get up onstage and let people throw rotten vegetables at me while I tell awful jokes, I would. Instead, I try to get bands that I feel still give a shit about hardcore. It’s always given me a voice, a place to feel welcome and a sense of purpose. I just want to try and give that back,” says Foard. “It’s the one time of year I don’t feel like a total piece of shit because I can make a difference.”
The Sub For Santa show is a two-night event this year. The first night, Friday, Dec. 7 will be held at Kaffeneio Coffee (3300 S. 300 W.) and feature Reflect, Cool Your Jets, Hitchhiker, Prime Oppressor, Willows and Speak Out. The second night, Saturday, Dec. 8 will be held at Club Sound (579 W. 200 S.) and feature Sleeping Giant, Outspoken, Mean Season, One Choice, Tamerlane, Cherem and Reality. Both shows are all-ages events. For up- to-date information, check out slchardcore.com.