Hardcore Punk as Potent as ever in Washington, DC – aka our Damaged City
It’s almost 8 p.m. on Friday night when Japanese punk rockers, Milk, take the stage for the first time at the Damaged City Festival. With short cropped hair and glasses, the lead singer launches the band into a fast and furious hardcore rhythm, leaping and lunging, belting out lyrics in Japanese, and energizing the audience into a frenzy of fist pumps and mosh bumping. When he pauses to catch his breath, he confesses to the fans in broken English, “We always wanted to play this festival. It’s our first time in the United States. We thank you SO much.” Of course, this heartfelt admission sends the crowd into even more enthusiastic clapping, cheering and moshing. “Moments like this,” according to Chris Moore, a founder of the festival, “make it all worthwhile… it almost brought some tears to my eyes,” he says with a laugh and a smile.
Chris Moore, and his bandmate, Nick Candela, from DC’s own hardcore band, Coke Bust, came up with the idea of the festival some seven years ago while touring in Europe. “We knew the DIY [Do It Yourself] punk culture in DC was still strong,” explained Moore, “but we had started to notice that other touring bands had been passing over the city, possibly due to a lack of suitable venues back then, and we also wanted to make the shows accessible for ‘all ages’ because so many young people identify with and make punk music.”
Not to mention that DC has a storied history in Hardcore punk, starting some 40 years ago with Discord Records, Minor Threat,Bad Brains, and then on to bands like Fugazi, and many more offshoots/variations of punk that have originated in this town.
Now in its seventh year, this underground festival is going strong celebrating punk culture and, in the spirit of the DIY community, including the independent labels/records, friends and family, national and international bands. What started as a two-day event at St. Stephen’s Church is now a four-day festival every April, and this year featured bands from four different continents. As Moore explained, “We didn’t want to pigeon-hole the bands as just being hardcore so, we have been expanding to include bands that fall within the lines of punk.”
Some of this year’s highlights were: Milk & Low Vision (Japan), Rotten Mind (Sweden), S.H.I.T. & Mil-Spec (Canada), The Wound & Frisk (UK), Raw Brigade (Columbia), and Impulso (Italy). Not to mention a wide variety from all over the U.S. and DC: Despise You (LA), Inmates (OH), Haram, Krimewatch, Hank Wood and the Hammerheads (NY), Torso (CA), Night Birds & Screaming Females (NJ), Body Pressure & Bad Sports (TX), Regional Justice Center (WA), Coke Bust, Asesinato, Aertex (DC) and many more.
“Punk rock is always evolving,” said Moore, “and for me it’s about sharing ideas without limitations. This festival is a space for people to share ideas and to connect, it’s a community and everyone is welcome.”