Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

A London hardcore gig

with 9 comments

Rucktion Records UKHC Damage Control Max Colson Hardcore dancing pit

The pit opens up for another 'beatdown'

I used to be into UK hardcore in a big way. Back in the day I was going to all of the gigs of the hardcore bands I loved: Knuckledust, Ninebar, Stampin Ground, 50 Caliber to name but a few. So I recently went back to the London hardcore scene and photographed a gig to try and catch up with what I’d been missing out on (cheers to Rucktion Records for sorting me out with everything & cheers to my coursemate Tracey Fahy for allowing me to borrow her flash for this. Much appreciated both!)

This music is pretty raw stuff, crushingly brutal, and an absolutely amazing thing to experience live. It’s also never just about the band on the stage. I guess it’s almost a cliche to say that nowadays, but with hardcore it’s true like no other. A London hardcore gig in its intimacy (they usually take place in smaller venues in London) and the tightness of the crowd (a lot of whom have grown to know each other over time) always feels more like a community event than anything else. Appropriately at a live show the crowd aren’t just encouraged to sing the lyrics, they are given innumerable opportunities to get on the mic and do it themselves. Everyone knows the lyrics and there are a lot of people who also want to show it.

Knuckledust UKHC gig LBU Rucktion Records Damage Control Max Colson

Knuckledust's vocalist Pierre (far right with chain) invites some guest vocalists join in live

I will do a longer post which will sketch out the hardcore scene and its history in a bit more detail, but for the time being I would like to quote an excerpt from the hardcore punk scene’s wikipedia entry as it’s really relevant. This excerpt concerns the dress and style of hardcore punk and is important because it partly explains why you don’t see any goth influences in the dress or the music of the hardcore scene (as you do with most other forms of rock and metal):

“While most early punk rock songs were played with mid-tempo rock beats using simple guitar barre chords in major keys, hardcore broke from this format. Like punk, many of the players lacked musical training (with a few exceptions). The DIY aesthetic of shows being held in small venues on the floors of basements, halls, schools, etc., played into the sound. Much of the style evolved to add to the energy of the live show…

This distillation of punk was further emphasized through dress. Hardcore punk fans adopted a dressed-down style of T-shirts, jeans, and crewcut-style haircuts. The style of the 1980s hardcore scene contrasted with the more provocative fashion styles of late 1970s punk rockers (elaborate hairdos, torn clothes, patches, safety pins, studs, spikes, etc.). Keith Morris comments that ‘the…punk scene was basically based on English fashion. But [the US hardcore scene] had nothing to do with that. Black Flag and the Circle Jerks were so far from that. We looked like the kid who worked at the gas station or submarine shop.’

Prowler Rucktion Records UKHC Damage Control Max Colson TRC

London based band Prowler with a guest vocalist from fellow London band TRC

Rucktion Records Prowler TRC Damage Control Max Colson

Prowler's set explodes into action

Rucktion Records Surge of Fury Hardcore LGHC London Damage Control Max Colson

Belgian hardcore band Surge of Fury perform to the London crowd

Ruction Records UKHC LBU Ninebar Damage Control Max Colson

London hardcore legends Ninebar drop an anthem

Rucktion Records Ninebar UKHC LBU Damage Control Max Colson Photography

Taking a breather

Rucktion Records UKHC Knuckledust Damage Control Max Colson Photography

Knuckledust's Pierre shares the mic (again!)


9 Responses

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  1. How interesting! The “hardcore scene” is totally new to me. I’ve never been to such an event. What are the lyrics about? What kind of people are the members of the bands? Are they optimistic about life?
    I like your pictures, especially the first one (I can get an atmosphere of the crowd) and the three last ones. I am looking forward to more pictures, maybe more personal ones about the kind of people who are involved in it.

    Christina Vazou

    May 5, 2011 at 7:04 am

  2. Hey Max. How did you get on with the flash? I like the 2nd image….reminds me of the photographer that photographed the skinhead scene for The Face back in the 80s…..his name escapes me at the moment also like the ‘taking a breather’ shot too. So flash or no flash whats the verdict?

  3. i think it was Nick Knight also Glen E. Friedman took good images of Black Flag and that hardcore scene….do you know his work?

  4. @Christina – from what I remember lyrics focus on daily struggles, friends, family, unity in the scene although I am hugely generalising. Some bands are politically charged, some aren’t as much; it really depends. There is a lot more than that obviously so please don’t take my words as the final word on that…

    @Tracey – the flash took some getting used to! It definitely works, although I wasn’t able to get much motion blur when I was using it. I think I need to buy one and play around quite a lot. I need the flash for the pit dancing but I need it to show the movement rather than freezing it as it has done above.

    The light was pretty bad at the gig as you can see so it would have been useful if I had been a bit more skilled with the flash. If I can learn how to use the flash to create different effects then it could be very useful. I do like the flash images a lot just because they’re so bright and combined with the right moment they can become striking (I had the head pointing directly at the crowd, I wasn’t bouncing anything!)

    I hadn’t seen Nick Knight or Friedman’s stuff in full although I’ve just googled Friedman on Blag Flag and those pictures of Henry Rollins are bloody amazing…need to check both out for sure. Cheers for all the help!

    Max Colson

    May 5, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    • @Christina – and yes, there definitely need to be closer pictures. The performance on stage is but one aspect of the scene….

      Max Colson

      May 6, 2011 at 9:46 am

  5. well i think flash has a more forensic approach (warts n all) and maybe no flash is a more contemplative look at the scene…..depends which approach you are more interested in? Yes, Friedman’s photos of Rollin’s are ace – I have his book ‘Fuck You Too’ if i remember i will bring it with me next week.

    • That’s an interesting point. You’re right. No flash definitely feels more impressionistic cos of all of the colours and shadow…

      Definitely something to think about in the future…maybe a combination of the two perhaps…Gosh if you could remember the book I’d be forever grateful. I think I owe you quite a lot of beers!

      Max Colson

      May 6, 2011 at 10:24 am

  6. BTW thanks for the mention & link….i didn’t notice that before too busy looking at the images….your welcome anytime!

  7. Nice work Max.


    May 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

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