“The police came here two nights ago for the first time ever in almost three years of doing shows. The show was already over, thankfully, and everyone got to play but I was served a noise violation. While I was outside with the cops, I heard “Daniel Pelic. 26 Baldwin St. p/k/a [Publicly Known As] ‘Death City.’”
I was there. I was standing in the same basement as the aforementioned Daniel Pelic. I had stood in that basement dozens of times in three years of shows. I can count on my one hand how many shows I missed in that basement. I stood there watching the police speed down the street with their lights flashing. I watched as they stopped in front of the house and stepped out of their cars, guns gleaming in the streetlights. This was not my first encounter of the police shutting down a basement show. This was not my first encounter with another basement no longer “throwing shows.” I held back tears that night watching everyone file out of the basement and into their cars to contemplate what had just happened. It was a surreal moment for everyone. I cried when I read the note Dan posted on MySpace informing everyone he was closing down his basement.
Meat Town USA, (A)merica, Camp Anawanna, The Junkyard Palace, Canada, 21 Jump Street, The Breadbox, Death City
At first glance, this looks like a random arrangement of words, along with a few pop culture references thrown in, but to me, it’s more personal. Each name represents a basement, not just a basement in some house, but also a basement where shows are put together. Each name is attached to a street address; Camp Anawanna is 65 Louis Street, Meat Town USA is 133 Louis Street better known as the house next to Joe’s Liquor store, the Breadbox is the last house on the right on Delafield Street sitting across from St. Peter’s Hospital’s famous neonatal ward and The Junkyard palace is next to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s well known oncology center. Some sit between the best hospitals in New Jersey and some are in the ghetto of one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. Some of those basements still have shows weekly, while some have been closed down due to foreclosure or the authorities requiring their landlords to stop the tenants from having shows. Either way, they are all a place where five or six bands get up to play music and where fifty kids become your family, even if it’s just for a few hours. The music is simple, short, fast, and loud. By the end of the night, your ears ring when you lay down to go to sleep and your hands still shake from the adrenaline. There are kids throwing themselves into a “mosh” pit and other’s standing while bobbing their heads. There are kids hanging from the water pipes in the ceiling and singers flailing their bodies in every direction, untamed by the confined nature of the basement.
I was first introduced to the New Brunswick hardcore music scene when I was 12, maybe 13 at the oldest. I was in 8th grade. I remember going to my first basement show. I stepped foot into it wearing black Converse sneakers, a pair of shoes I still wear to shows to this day. I had a bandana tied around my neck also, something I will always wear or carry with me. These two clothing items are my prized possessions and contain an infinite amount of memories for me. I was in awe. I never knew that this was going on within the basements of houses I had seen so many times before. Hardcore music had been my passion since I was 7. I received a CD of the band Minor Threat, an extremely influential hardcore band in the 1980s, when I was 7 and quickly dove into hardcore with the help of cheap CD stores that no longer exist and mix tapes from kids I started meeting at shows.
I am now 18. I still have my first CD, my first pair of converse and that bandana. Although things have changed in my life, and I’ve struggled to remain in the scene due to college and an impending move to Virginia, basement shows have been an intricate part of my weekends. On any given Monday, when asked what I did over the weekend, my answer hasn’t changed in five years. I went to a show. Each band plays a set containing five or six songs, lasting no longer than 3 minutes each. We joke that hardcore music is for kids with ADHD because everything is so short. At least 6 bands play. The cost of a show? No more than $5. You don’t need to buy a ticket in advance. You don’t need to have a ticket to get into the show. The collection of money is based on an honor code. If you only had spare change, it was accepted. No matter how poor you are, how rich you are, how you dress or how old you are, you were accepted. I’ve paid for shows in pennies when I didn’t have a job but I’ve also handed the guy a $20 bill when I got piad. Other than the strict honor code system, there are two other rules: No Fighting and all shows must end by 10PM. We set these rules for the two reasons, noise violation laws start at 10PM and fighting is just plain dumb to us.
What We Do Is Secret For A Reason. HCHC. ACAB.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about a “basement show” or the “Hubcity Hardcore scene,” I am not surprised. HCHC stands for Hubcity Hardcore. It’s plastered on every wall of every basement. Most kids involved in the scene have it tattooed somewhere, painted on their jacket, or ona patch sewn onto their pants. It’s a sign that “Yes, I am in the scene.” The acronym ACAB stands for something more offensive. Look it up. There is one slogan in the scene. It is “what we do is secret for a reason.” Everything in this scene is word of mouth. The address is not posted on MySpace or Facebook. It is not on Ticketmaster and it is surely not on a poster hanging up at your local record store. Although, there are flyers posted around at records stores but you’re closest idea to an address is “Ask a punk!” or “You know where it is.” There are clues on the flyers to the location for each basement. If you see “RNJ”, that means the flyer was made by someone named Richard NJ, one of the older punks in the scene and biggest advocate for basement shows, and the show is being thrown at his house. Sometimes the name of the basement is on the flyer, but you have to know the address or ask someone who may know. You learn these things as you become more involved in the scene. If you walk up to any house in New Brunswick, NJ, you would think they’re all the same. There is no reason you would know there is a concert in the basement, until you go into the backyard. A slew of kids are outside waiting to go in and see the show. We don’t call them concerts. They are shows to us.
You wonder why you're hated? Well, let me tell you... at times your power trip goes a bit too far. That’s how the story goes... because you wrote it. If the story folds then you'll rewrite it, won't you? I think you will. Protecting you’re a**. Serving your ego. Now I understand why people... now I understand why some people... they call you a pig.
The New Brunswick authorities have tried to shut down basement shows for years. In the 5 years I have been going to these shows, there have been to a handful shut down by the cops. It is never due to violence or fights, unlike the violent appearance the shows have. It is the authorities showing their authority. They have to make a stand that they still have control over what goes on in what they consider their city. Although, we, as a scene, have made a stand. They cannot stop a subculture that has lasted this long. They will not stop a scene that has flourished in a city considered a ghetto. We consider the city ours, and there will always be a struggle to control what goes on.
We’ve never said the cops don’t have a legitimate point though. These shows are illegal. They are thrown in basements where the capacity is only about 20 people and at least 50 kids show up. I’ve been in basements with 110 people, squeezed tight next to someone I’ve never met before. I’ve been in basements with 6 other people watching a band play. Either way, I never felt as if I was in danger. The question remains, if these shows were legal, would I still go? Yes. I would. But, would the authorities give out permits to open up venues to throw hardcore shows? No. They wouldn’t. The reason is simple, hardcore music is based on “sticking it to the man!” The cops don’t want to make a truce with the younger generation in the city but that is part of the charm of such a culture. The lyrics in hardcore music revolved around political revolution, social justice and personal freedom.
The irony in the situation is, if you sit down with a written copy of the lyrics to songs, you would see that there is a clear and rightful message to them. The rise of straight edge culture in the hardcore scene started in the 1980’s and faded by the 90’s but is still very prevalent. Straight edge means, you don’t smoke, you don’t do drugs, and you don’t engage in promiscuous sex. Some people take it further into refraining from caffeine, and becoming vegetarian or vegan. Some bands I’ve seen in basements are straight edge, others are not. No matter what they’re personal choice is, everyone agrees on one thing, “fighting is not the answer.” More so, violence is just plain stupid. There is an unwritten rule; known by everyone, that fighting at shows will get you thrown out. The cops never understood the unwritten rules of the hardcore scene, nor will they ever take the time to consider that this is a good scene.
We are born with a chance (Rise above)
We're going to rise above, I am going to have my chance (Rise above)
We're going to rise above
We are tired of your abuse, try to stop us it's no use
Unlike what parents and authorities think, this scene is not a bad influence on kids. It is the exact opposite. It is a family. It is where I’ve learned valuable life lessons. It is where I found my friends and my home. Everyone sticks together. When the authorities shut down a 3 separate benefit shows for one of the member of the scene who was diagnosed with cancer, we scrambled to find alternate locations and to change the names of basements so the authorities couldn’t stop the benefit shows. We called Rutger’s University to host a show, When I broke my hand at a show, the owner of the house found Band-Aids and did his best to tape it up for me. When I got overly thirsty and couldn’t afford water, Jimmy, the owner of Meat Town USA, fed me from a ladle in his kitchen because he didn’t have a cup. This scene is a positive influence on everyone and anyone involved. It’s where people go to socialize and blow off steam from the workweek, either as an employee or student. It’s where, for a few hours, kids can be themselves and not worry about impressing anyone.
This scene may never make it to the main stream and most people will never understand it, it remains a strong, influential place for young and old “punks.” The authorities should start worrying about the drug and gang problems in the city rather than trying to shut down something so great. The police will always bash heads with the kids in the scene, and we will always say how we hate the authorities for trying to ruin our fun. There will always be an on-going battle between the older generation and the younger kids. However this scene is the most positive influence in any of the members lives. So why don’t we throw away this hate and rock tonight?