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Relative to the universe, rock 'n' roll is a recent phenomenon.
Though the exact moment the genre came into being is difficult to pinpoint, the following is undeniable: It's genesis was a distinctly American occurrence, which took place near the beginning of the 20th Century. And almost immediately, the genre became loaded with subgenres, which themselves became loaded with subgenres.
Fast-forward to the metahistorical, overinformed digital era. Man has almost entirely abandoned the physical trappings of rock 'n' roll. The preferred format is the MP3. Synthesizers and laptops can mimic any instrument and sample any pre-existing sound bite. DJs don't use real records anymore, opting instead for software, such as Serato, and automated beat-matching.
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Parallel to rock's digitization is an ever-snowballing preoccupation with its own history. And that's the precise point we run into the Bringing It Back for the Kids Fest, a hardcore punk festival engendered by the reunion-show obsession of the Internet age as well as a simultaneous yearning for simpler times.
"Nostalgia really is playing a role in our festival," organizer Cliff Wiener admits. "We remember a time when kids made their own zines, tape-traded, or traveled 20 hours to see a band that only had a seven-inch out. So many of these personal music experiences are just gone from our collective music scene."
Wiener is throwing Bringing It Back for the Kids with longtime friend and collaborator Alex Kenny. The pair has been active on the South Florida hardcore scene for quite some time, initially as concertgoers entranced by the intensity and camaraderie of the aggro punk variant. That nascent interest soon flowered into a record label, Undecided Records, which featured releases from hometown emo-mosh hero Poison the Well, as well as nationally acclaimed acts such as extra-metallic Every Time I Die and sentimentally hardcore BoySetsFire.
In 2006, Wiener and Kenny founded the nostalgically named 1981 Straight Edge Clothing brand, itself a onetime hardcore record label (though now exclusively dealing in apparel) and the official host of Bringing It Back for the Kids. "Straight edge is a personal choice, and we're here to help make it fun," Wiener explains. "We strive to create a positive atmosphere in our community. We give people an outlet to let people know their feelings about drugs and alcohol in the form of a T-shirt."
(If you need schooling, straight edge is an intoxicant-free ideological wing of punk that's rooted in '80s hardcore, quite specifically in a song by the same name performed by first-wave hardcore pioneer Minor Threat.)
Despite the seemingly integral connection the philosophy plays in the organization of the fest and the music of many (if not all) of the acts on the lineup, Wiener says he "wouldn't describe the event as straight edge or vegan." He clarifies further, saying, "Straight edge is a lifestyle that obviously plays an important role in our lives. But it wasn't motivation for the event."
So what is this fest all about? What is the it being brought back for the kids? "We wanted to provide a throwback experience for a younger group of kids. I always think of hardcore as an ideal rather than a sound. It's about family and brotherhood."
Dedicated to re-creating an archetypal hardcore vibe and atmosphere, the fest relies on a lineup straight out of a previous era. It reads like a who's who of South Florida straight-edge, mosh-metal crossover at the turn of the century with Until the End, Remembering Never, All Hell Breaks Loose, and grandpappy centerpiece band Shai Hulud. Nationally recognized headliners such as Evergreen Terrace and Terror saw their heyday nearly a decade ago, although both still find fervent appreciation from niche hardcore audiences.
"Hardcore will always be relevant as long as there are musicians out there with something to say," Wiener asserts, his logic an almost textbook party line of punk's value since its inception. And well aware of the social-musical lineage from which Bringing It Back was wrought, Wiener offers the following history lesson: "In the early '80s, it was Black Flag and Minor Threat. In the late '80s, it was Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits. In the '90s, it was Earth Crisis and Snapcase. Then we had Converge. And now we have Terror."