20 Watts

Scene Around Town: Straight Edge Rampant at the Westcott: Black Sheep Squadron, Mindset, Not Sorry, Reason and Ghost Ship by laoppedi

Black Sheep Squadron

Black shirts, edge X’s and spin kicks separated the believers from the bystanders at Syracuse straight edge Sunday night at the Westcott Community Center. Clad in their best scene shirts, about fifty young people from as far as Toronto and Vermont came in support. Featuring Black Sheep Squadron (Black SS), Mindset, Not Sorry, Reason and Ghost Ship, these hardcore bands spouted lyrics promoting taking a stance and living a life of independence.

Prying themselves from the new Call of Duty video game, Syracuse locals Ghost Ship took to the front, with Curtis Lepore at the helm. Red-faced, Lepore shook his fist and squinted his eyes as he spat out, “We won’t be bought, we won’t be sold, we’ve had enough,” in their anthem “Enough”. Despite being sick, he bounced and growled in the faces of the head nodding bunch, delivering dissonant but driving vocals. Only a band for the past few months, the hair-tossing bassist, jumping guitarist, and forceful drummer banged their heads in perfect unison to their double-kick peddle beat.

As a result of a family plagued by alcohol and drugs, Lepore choose a life of straight edge because he was turned off by the behavior. “Our first song is called “’Never Abandon Ship’ and that’s about, basically staying true to our promise that we make to ourselves and no matter how rough things get we wont succumb to substance and remain straight edge,” Lepore said. He goes on to explain that that everyone has their own beliefs, but straight edge is their driving force.

Covered in a black hoodie, Chris Smith of the four-piece Reason from Buffalo, New York, trounced about the floor in a two step serenade that never let up. Ripping through song after song, the drill of the drum set moved a third of the crowd to destroying the floor in hardcore dance moves and circle pits.

All the way from Seattle, Washington, John Twentyfive (yes that’s his last name) of Not Sorry spewed quick shouts of lyrics about people who makes a conscious effort to think about what they put in their bodies. Taking a moment to break from his fight to maintain his microphone from the gang pouncing on top of him, Twentyfive dedicated their song “Learned” to his mother’s 21 year victory over addiction. “Looking back on what they did, this is how I want to live,” he belts.

Maryland’s Mindset busted right into their set, lead singer flailing around the room, proclaiming, “Whether you want to light the way or watch the world burn, you’ve got to be a spark!”  Collectively, the pit tore across the floor in punk passion. Coaxed for an encore, the lead singer leans back and screams out a high pitched shrill, igniting the room in a 4/4 time fury.

With each set, the level of brutality rises. Black SS tops the night with band and crowd melding into a community-core of screaming, kicking, pushing and chanting. Vocalist Chuck Hickey is pushing 6 years rocking the hardcore scene. For him, the music is an outlet for things he hates — be it drugs or people.

“Straight edge to me is just logical,” Hickey said after the show. He doesn’t think straight edge makes someone a good person, but sees alcohol as a false experience that stifles exploration of who we are. “[Straight edge] frees up who you are and your personality too. It lets you flourish to become who you are.”

Hickey believed in edge before he knew what it or hardcore was and compares it to people who were born homosexual. When he sees young kids supporting the belief of clean living, he feels they have opened positive doors for their lives.

“The hardest things about being straight edge is realizing that things in your life, even when you are straight edge, that hold you back and keep you from being the best person you can be,” Hickey said. “And to look at that and to say ‘I don’t want that’ you have to be a free thinker, you have to be open minded to the idea that you’re going to be different for the rest of your life for all of these people because you have noticed that this is not the way that you should be and not the way people should interact with each other.”

On this night of community and commitment, each band took time between songs to give shout outs to the other musicians, thank the crowd for showing up (especially those from miles away), and to offer props to those took the time to X their hands in support of the scene.

— Rhema Hill


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