The Screaming for Change Experience
"In this day and age, (hardcore) bands are judged by the amount of blood and sweat that goes into their music, but it doesn't mean anything until our communities come out, show support and become a part of the music. We will not be a music that faded away into obscurity. We are a movement." - Unrestrained (right before Mikey jumped off the PA into a raging crowd)
The Big Heavy crew went down to Bristol, Vermont this past Friday and Saturday to check out the third annual hardcore and punk festival "Screaming for Change." This year, the festival had the best turnout yet with more bands and more people in attendance than ever before. Thirteen bands played the first day at The Hub teen center including Bristol's own Ground Zero and internationally touring acts Strike Anywhere, Another Breath, and Maintain. Outside the high energy venue, there were tents scattered around the park where fans were relaxing in the sun and shredding up The Hub's skatepark.
It was my first time attending Screaming for Change and I have to say I am super stoked I made the trip down. The distortion and the amps were all the way up, drums were crashing, and the bass was shaking the room during every set. It was the only time I have ever felt completely justified wearing earplugs for an entire day. For someone that has listened to very little hardcore or punk in general, I now understand that it really helps to see these bands live to appreciate the music. The raw energy that went back and forth between the crowd and the bands was mesmerizing. During the Unrestrained set, the lead singer just jumped into the crowd and the whole room yelled the lyrics at the microphone. It didn't matter if it sounded good, it didn't matter if the music made any sense, all that mattered was that the whole room was screaming and making the music together as one. Seeing the amount of sheer tension that was built up, and then the total and complete release that followed was a truly gratifying experience.
I talked with Ted Winworth, lead singer for Another Breath, about what Screaming for Change means to him. "The music reinforces the community, but I am much happier to come here and talk with my friends than anything else. Some people lose their minds over finding the next cool band but that kind of goes against what this is really all about," he said. Ted noted that he feels like the hardcore community is like his family, especially some of the other bands playing at Screaming for Change. "Touring bands can have a more emphasized feeling of family because you run into each other in places like California, Arizona, or even in Europe somewhere." Another Breath will be calling it quits after some final shows in Fulton, NY (their hometown) on August 26 and at The Lost Horizon and Badlands in Syracuse, NY on the 27th and 28th respectively.
The sense of family seemed to be what everyone at the festival was really after. After talking to many of the musicians and fans I got the sense that people were there for the hardcore community first and the music second. One longtime hardcore music fan and musician, Dawn Graham, took it even further. "Fuck the music," she said. "It might as well be a top 40 band playing in there. I love this scene because it has a purpose. It changes from place to place and the message can get lost but it is all about coming together and seeking actual change, the music is just the tool of expression." Dawn addressed the crowd during one band's set and handed out flyers to raise money for her friend who was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. "Anthony Poynter: the punkest dude alive," as it says on the flyer has been a strong advocate for hardcore music for a decade plus. He has taken in bands on tour, fans on tour, and fought for hardcore shows to be open to all ages.
Cancer was not the only social issue addressed during the festival. Bands went on rants about anything from supporting same-sex marriage to sexual violence to unfair tactics used by the military to access high school student's personal information. All the rants were met with vigorous applause and "fuck yas" by much of the crowd. Here is an excerpt from the lead singer of Unrestrained in the middle of their set. "You could walk down main street naked and when someone puts their hands on you and you say no, thats when it needs to stop. Nobody in history has ever asked to be raped. I think the biggest problem we are facing right now is understanding love and compassion, and I don't care how not tough that sounds." By far the most emphasized social issue was that of cruelty to animals. In the back of the venue, the merch tables were littered with informational booklets on the lives of modern day livestock and the harsh conditions in which they are forced to live. Stickers were for sale with sayings like "Don't be a wooly bully, never wear wool" and "Don't be unkind to swine". There was a full spread of vegan food and deserts made by Sabertooth Vegan Bakery including maple "bacon" cupcakes (that were absolutely delicious) to raise money for the teen center.
After acoustic sets by Ghost Robot Ninja Bear, The New & Very Welcome, and Graverobbers, many fans retreated back to their tents or watched some films on The Hub's projector by the skatepark. Everyone had smiles on their faces and sweat dripping down their nose as they crowded out of the Hub.