20 Watts

Live Free, Diehard: In tough economic times, Syracuse’s hardcore fanatics keep this scene kicking at any cost (Pt. 2)

But DIY comes at a cost. From 2000 to 2005, when the band stopped touring, John Wayne’s Severed Head was putting all the money they had into shows, self-released CDs and merchandise production.

“On tours, we were lucky if we broke even. For the most part, we could collect food from other bands, whoever we stayed with, so that we could keep our costs down and just get enough money from show to show,” Weldon says.

Things grew more difficult when the recession hit, says local promoter and talent buyer Matt Dunn. Dunn has been a staple in the Syracuse scene since the mid-90s: he was a co-promoter for the original Hellfest, a now-legendary hardcore festival, and has continued booking shows ever since. On a national level, Dunn has seen hardcore make huge strides in prominence and popularity as stores like Hot Topic and festivals like Ozzfest and Warped Tour have embraced the genre. In the past three years, however, the econom­ics of music have been rocky.

A survey conducted by Leveraging Invest­ments in Creativity, a nonprofit artist-support group, found that more than half of the country’s artists experienced an income drop from 2008 to 2009. Musicians tended to fare better than other groups, but putting music out on a major label is much different than booking your own tours. On the hardcore scene, Dunn says, “making money” just means breaking even.

“Fifty bucks a night for a ‘core band play­ing after a six-hour drive isn’t even going to get Taco Bell into the belly,” Dunn says. “Sure things have gotten a bit better over the last year, and hopefully will continue to do so, but summer 2008, fall 2008 and even a little in spring 2009 – it was rough.”

Despite the difficulties, Dunn, Macneil and Weldon believe that the recession has actually benefitted hardcore. Promoters and venue owners know that fans don’t have the extra money to spend on shows, so they keep ticket prices low for both bands and concertgoers.

At the same time, economic difficulties have made the hardcore community stron­ger, perhaps because the musicians on the scene these days must devote themselves to it heart and soul. When his band first started, Weldon says, the punk kids and the hardcore kids were very segregated. However, they’ve grown closer together the last ten years. The communities are now interwoven, and every­one gets along better than they used to.

Hardcore has become a network of people who have all fought similar battles.


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