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New York Hardcore

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Posted 18th April 2009 at 08:59 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

New York Hardcore

Visit the NYHC Myspace here...NYHC

Every city needs a scene where the kids that don't fit can thrive. New York Hardcore is a documentary that examines one such movement, the harsh and brutal bastard offspring of punk rock, metal and Hip-hop that is NY Hardcore. Although in the last decade the style has been diluted by the mainstream, as the rise of Nu-metal took many of the ideas and morphed them into a teen-angst friendly, unit shifting money machine, the uncompromising bands represented in this excellent film show just how diverse and empowering the NY underground can be.

Straight up party band 'No Redeeming Social Value", purveyors of scene unity '25 Ta Life" or Hare Krishna devotees "108"; The Hardcore scene provided a home for many voices, all unified through a love of tough music and an outsider stance.

What makes 'NYHC' stand out from other documentaries about the underground is that it's perfectly watchable by those outside the scene. As Kevin Gill, the proprietor of SFT records, points out during the extensive "where are they now" interviews that make up the vast array of extra features on the DVD, some films about the scene focus on cramming as many live clips from numerous bands as possible, with interviews thrown in as an afterthought. where NYHC differs is it's focus on the people behind the music. Their stories illuminate the music, because where there is genuinely off-mainstream music, there's usually big characters, dysfunctional individuals and the truly committed.


The one man who stands out in this regard is '25 Ta Life' vocalist Rick, a man whose flowing dreadlocks, tattooed body suit and multiple piercings mean that he has to commit to a life in Hardcore, because 9 to 5 employment would be an impossibility. He's a true ambassador for his music, playing shows, putting out records, touring and educating his audience. At shows he acts as peacekeeper, all the while showing his support for other bands.

By taking into account those who didn't live in New York in 1995, the filmmakers have created a movie that acts as both a tribute to a magical time for those involved and a document that can introduce the uninitiated. You don't have to have any knowledge of this music, or even like it, to enjoy the film as it balances live performance and interviews with good editing. I'm not going to be rushing out to buy any of these bands, because the music, although at times excellent, isn't what I generally listen to these day, but that doesn't make the film and the people within it any less fascinating.

A few nice visual touches are thrown in as well, such as slowing down the dance floor footage, taking the controlled craziness of the mosh pits and giving it a certain balletic grace. The wildly flailing arms, Kung Fu kicks and life threatening stage dives are all in full effect but the movie takes the time to explain what could be perceived as a violent and callous free for all. The music and the movement are a vent for urban frustration, giving the kids a pressure valve for their anger. Of course, it's not a rose tinted world, and fights do break out. One is captured on film for balance and interviews relate stories of trouble in the clubs, but in general, the film makes a great effort to show the scene for what it is, a life affirming movement that inspires and pulls people out of the shit in their lives.

The footage in the movie is now over a decade old, so with this new double disc presentation, the producers have gone all out to provide a rounded package both for long term fans and newcomers. By searching out many of the original stars of the documentary, they both put the film in context and reveal the ongoing struggle of the musicians to live their lives and create their art. A full directors commentary gives insight into the production process and the performances in the film are expanded to include over an hour of ear splitting live Hardcore. Numerous deleted scenes and a bittersweet look at the final Sunday Hardcore matinee held at the legendary but now defunct New York club CBGB's round out a package that takes the original movie and places it firmly in the now. This isn't a DVD about punk rock nostalgia but a contemporary document that shows us where NYHC was and where it is going. NYHC is an essential movie for lovers of music documentaries, regardless of taste.

Bonus Stuff...

Here's a great clip from American chat show Donahue, about a New York magazine cover story on New York hardcore, featuring members of Youth of Today, Murphy's Law, Agnostic Front, Token Entry and the Cro-Mags.

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