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Payback Time: Joe Hardcore is Making Up For Years of Being an Asshole.

June 3, 2011

Image by Sarah Hull. Text  by Lauren Arute.

Joe Mckay’s mother took him to see Metallica when he was 7-years old.

That, in combination with copious amounts of watching Mtv’s Headbangers Ball with his cousins, led to Mckay’s interest in music that went beyond the mainstream.

And his mother booked hardcore shows.

“It was thrust upon me,” he says. “The people who I was interested in were people who weren’t normal, everyday people. They were people who were listening to music that no one else listened to.”

Mckay booked his first hardcore show in Philadelphia when he was only 15-years old.

Now 30, Mckay, known as Joe Hardcore, still books shows, including the annual multiple-day hardcore fest, This is Hardcore. This year’s event is a four-day spectacle starting on August 11.

UPDATE FROM SPRING 2013: We watched Joe dress up like a squire and do battle, medieval style - https://jumpphilly.com/2013/05/03/joe-hardcore-get-medieval

UPDATE FROM SPRING 2013: We watched Joe dress up like a medieval squire and do battle. Click the image to find the story and pictures.

He recalls being taught to resolve his problems with other children, starting at a very young age, by fighting. His mother would drag him by the shirt to the parents of boys he had issues with.

“Your son has a problem with my son,” he recalls his mother telling the other kid’s parents. “Let them fight and settle it.”

While growing up in rough and tumble Frankford, Mckay’s mother encouraged him to go to hardcore shows to keep him out of trouble. The first hardcore band Mckay saw was Sheer Terror. He was 13. And he quickly discovered that shows were a breeding ground for violence.

“It scared the hell out of me,” Mckay says. “It was street-level violence in a show atmosphere, something I’d never experienced before.”

At the same time, Mckay admits that the experience ignited a part of him that did have violent tendencies. Hardcore shows became an outlet for him to act on these tendencies.

When he was a teenager, he attended local hardcore shows with significantly older men, some who had “Made in Philly” tattooed across their foreheads, he says. Although he and his friends weren’t the biggest guys at shows, that didn’t stop them from starting fights, dancing with bricks in their schoolbags, “ninja-kicking” other show-goers and jumping on people standing in the back of the crowd.

The visible scars on his face and neck hint at the years of violence he had been immersed.

Mckay says he eventually built up a high level of apathy toward the world, which grew to the point of sociopathic violence, comparable, he says, to the mentality that soldiers are forced to take on during a war. He began involving himself in fights that he now describes as trivial.

“There was a reasoning then,” he says. “But 30-year old Joe thinks there was no reason. It was stupid.”

Mckay later became involved with Friends Stand United, which the FBI classifies as a street gang. Its members are anti-racist and straightedge, meaning they abstain from drinking alcohol and doing drugs. They resort to violence with the intent of “defending” hardcore shows from various racist gangs, such as white-power punks.

FSU had chapters in cities across the country, including Philadelphia. It is currently no longer present in Philadelphia’s hardcore scene.

Mckay gained notoriety after appearing on the History Channel’s Gangland program.

“I did that to clear my conscience,” he explains. “Instead, I got 8 minutes of infamy. Nobody saw the part where I took the FSU hat off and said ‘I want nothing to do with this anymore.’”

The violence at local hardcore shows is nowhere near as bad as it was a decade ago, Mckay says. He even periodically brings his 14-year-old daughter to his shows.

The whole hardcore scene has evolved, according to Mckay. When Mckay was growing up, he found out about new bands by going to South Street, looking through boxes and boxes of records, reading ‘zines, looking at show fliers and word of mouth.

“Now you can download an entire hardcore library that took me 20 years to get because of the Internet,” he says.

At every This is Hardcore fest though, there is a table with records for sale. Mckay says that will always be there. He feels the new hardcore culture has lost the ability to see, touch, and look through records.

Mckay toured steadily with several different bands, including Shattered Realm and Punishment, for almost 8 years, from 1998-2005. He says he’s grateful for the opportunity to go around the world despite the fact that he doesn’t come from a family that had a lot of money.

Touring was a humbling experience and was one of the factors that led to him changing his behavior at hardcore shows back home. He recalls being in Serbia and seeing first-hand how little its residents had.

The more he toured, the more he realized that fighting and ruining shows could lead to a small town losing their only venue.

Booking bands that kids never had the chance to see before, or standing at This is Hardcore fest amongst a sold-out crowd and knowing that he was responsible for it gives him a sense of pride.

“That’s ten times more rewarding than hiding from the police,” he says.

Mckay proudly admits he is willing to lose money on a show if it means it can help a smaller band gain some popularity. He helped Agitator, a hardcore band from Boyertown, Pennsylvania, by booking them on This is Hardcore last year. The band was subsequently able to tour the Mid-West.

He also feels strongly about organizing benefit shows in times of need.

“I have to make up for the multiple years of being an asshole, starting trouble, and ruining shows,” he says. “It’s my turn to facilitate and administer what goes on. It gives me a chance to re-live my own youth vicariously.”

29 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink
    December 3, 2011 11:31 pm

    He’s still an asshole.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    December 16, 2011 9:17 pm

    Never can respect him again after years of harassment endured by passive kids in the scene. At least he knows he was an asshole.

  3. February 26, 2012 10:07 pm

    Fuck this guy. No respect ever. He had his chance. and fuck FSU.
    they ruined countless shows and have given me a scar I cannot erase.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    March 11, 2012 9:37 pm

    Still a pile of shit

  5. Anonymous permalink
    April 26, 2012 10:55 pm

    everybody deserves a second chance. he doesn’t need your fucking opinions. he’s seen what he’s done wrong and he admits that it was fucked up. you cunts will never know straight-edge if you dont shut the fuck up and quit your pussy whining. fuck all of you for judging a book by its fucking cover. you’ll get yours one day fuckers.

    • Jake Tribble permalink
      November 16, 2012 8:52 pm

      I agree with the first part of your comment. but there’s no reason for petty threats. and you’re giving straight edge a bad name when you say shit like that. have some fucking pride in your life style and quit trashing it with your words.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 19, 2014 10:43 am

      Fuck straight edge, fuck fsu, and fuck you too. If you think that senseless violence is justified in the name of sobriety, then you’re a piece of shit. I’d much rather have a venue full of kids who are trashed if they have the common decency not to attack each other.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    May 17, 2012 1:50 pm

    “you cunts will never know straight-edge if you dont shut the fuck up and quit your pussy whining ….you’ll get yours one day fuckers.” Wow, you rock dude. I kinda think your type of thuggary is exactly what Joe is trying to repent from. I’m not so sure he needs your help defending himself man.

  7. May 17, 2012 6:38 pm

    I think its interesting that people still want to talk trash but have no qualms with being completely anonymous. Joe was an asshole, he ran with a rougher crowd than most. I ran into him in South Philly by Ikea around the time this article was written and I have to say his attitude and demeanor were a 100% different. Good for you Joe, sounds like you hit your stride.

  8. Anonymous permalink
    July 13, 2012 3:24 pm

    Joe hardcore, es un pobre diablo, al muy idiota las pocas neuronas que tiene no le funcionan,

  9. Anonymous permalink
    August 6, 2012 4:31 pm

    I met Joe Hardcore and Elgin James on the T in Boston back in the day. Joe was wearing a white t-shirt that had FSU on the front in letters 2 feet high. He saw me notice his t-shirt and said hello, shook my hand, and asked how I was doing. We talked about the hardcore scene in Boston, and he told me about FSU (which I hadn’t heard of at the time), after I asked if his t-shirt stood for Fitchberg State University. Elgin shook my hand and introduced himself. They seemed tough, but they were also intelligent, cool, and interesting to talk to. If Joe and Elgin really were such terrible violent assholes back then, I never saw any sign of that while the three of us were sitting alone on that train. I’m glad I had a chance to meet them, and that they’re both doing positive things these days.

  10. Anonymous permalink
    August 27, 2012 3:03 pm

    once a pussy always a pussy. not easy to fight without your 20 friends who are all fat and old just like him. Never seen him fight one on one. He used to dickjock all the bands that went through where he booked in the late 90s. typical wannabe. dont trust him, he probably makes tons of money using the hardcore scene. him and his FSU (Fat Stupid Ugly) friends ruined a lot of shows, killed a dude in jersey and destroyed HC.

  11. Anonymous permalink
    August 27, 2012 3:05 pm

    lies. he didnt grow up street fighting. hide behind his friends. had to join a crew of homos to grow some balls. this clown never fought until he joined FSU and then it was 10 on 1.

  12. Anonymous permalink
    August 27, 2012 3:06 pm

    its always those who ruin shows who then join bands or put on shows that then want everyone else to behave. he’s lucky no one knifed him yet.

  13. September 11, 2012 5:30 pm

    Joe just booked us a show last weekend and it was fucking awesome. He took a chance on my band and was NOTHING BUT NICE to me. He was a real cool guy and I am really glad that he is doing what he is doing for Philadelphia music. Joe McKay is good people!!

  14. Jake Tribble permalink
    November 16, 2012 8:49 pm

    I think its so funny that people sit here talking shit about Joe being a pussy yet they stay anonymous. still scared fellas? Its easy to be the big balled trash talkers when no one knows who you are. Everyone deserves a chance to make a better life for themselves. “Its never too late to change your ways, you get a brand new chance with each new day.” That was written by a straightedge hardcore band. you guys just sound bitter. Life is too short to live with hate in your heart. DON’T KNOW YOU JOE, BUT I’M PROUD OF YOU. YOU’RE DOING GOOD FOR THE HARDCORE SCENE. DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY.

    • TommyHunter permalink
      December 6, 2012 7:03 pm

      Joe hardcore does incredible things for the hardcore scene all u haters suck. I’d love to meet the guy. And even though he’s changed his ways he could still fuck all u pussies up lol

  15. Anonymous permalink
    March 24, 2013 3:08 am

    Glad I never had to be part of a gang to stand up for myself in a scene chock full of gangs. Screw that, that’s crap for weaklings and idiots. And my name is Jeremy Carnes, from northeast Ohio, vocalist and bassist for the band Stonebreaker.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 29, 2013 11:10 am

      Seems like a legit dude who’s trying to right his wrongs, fair play

  16. July 26, 2013 12:15 pm

    Joe Hardcore is a straight up guy, met him in Europe with the entire Shattered Realm band. Awesome guys to talk to, hang around and play with. If you have beef with him it is your own problem. I have nothing but good impressions from him and his guys.

  17. Ruining HC permalink
    August 10, 2013 2:02 am

    I just watched Joe and 6 overweight bouncers kick the shit out of a 90lbs kid who was dancing, meanwhile 2,000 kids are spin kicking each other in the face. Get fucked.

  18. Anonymous permalink
    September 22, 2013 7:54 am

    what a clown… out of shape punk with absolutely no fighting skills without his other 10 buddies that have no clue how to fight…Oh ya Im Mike Dines I work at OC Muay-Thai in Seal beach Califonia… come and visit me MR.Hardcore… I would love to have a little mat time with you 1 on 1…

  19. Dave Maloney TROY, NY permalink
    January 25, 2014 2:20 pm

    Yea it’s pretty funny when the anonymous talk shit. Got respect for the ones that talk shit who aren’t anonymous but that’s not the point. I’m from TROY, NEW YORK and we got one of the best Hard-core scenes on the planet. We also have an F.S.U. chapter in TROY, NY as well. I’m not in it, but I’m friends with a few members and I’ve never been disrespected by them. I know a few members quite well and I know for a fact that if you show respect, you’ll get it in return. And what’s all this fat slob shit about? Yea, there’s some big dudes in the “CREW” but not all of them. Good job Joe, keep up the good work. TROY-CORE for LIFE!!!! HARD-CORE for LIFE!!!!

  20. Anonymous permalink
    January 27, 2014 11:11 am

    Kudos to Joe for growing up. I have known Joe for almost 20 years. He’s done some bad, but a lot of good. Violence has been in this since the beginning. Maybe some are not old enough to remember where this all stemmed from, and what the allure actually was. Of course, some took it too far, but it is what it is. Like him or hate him, he’s doing great things for the scene and the culture.

  21. Ronnie mccall permalink
    March 13, 2014 3:11 pm

    Politics and young kids have ruined my music scene in my area ,virginia beach, therefore i dont attend shows unless its the old school loval bands reunion show. What the fuck happened to the love of music and when did it turn into who has a naysayer breaker on and whis knockin 14 yr old kids out at their first show for not knowin anyone. ITS MUSIC NOT PROVING GROUNDS. Very stoked about TIH this year. See you there. 💀

  22. Anonymous permalink
    April 4, 2014 3:18 am

    everybody fucks up one point in their life. i grew up in frankford also and it was hard not to get involved in bullshit or gangs and shit. it takes a man to look back at his life and admit wrong and it takes a bigger man to repent and make shit better!!!

  23. Anonymous permalink
    April 30, 2014 5:27 pm

    Fuck all you. LONG LIVE FSU nc

  24. Anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2014 7:58 pm

    FSU are a bunch of pussies. They have to fight in packs. They don’t say shit if it is only one or two of them.

  25. Anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2014 8:02 pm

    Elgin James, Hardcore Joe and Bruce St. Gelais all are worthless. St Gelais and Another waste of space, Lyle Bliss killed someone outside a bar near where I used to live. St Gelais is a piece of shit. Got arrested AGAIN 2 years ago for robbing a college kid.These dickwads hate college kids because they are jealous that the kids make something of themselves and have successful lives. Meanwhile these losers like St Gelais are stuck in shitholes like Troy NY and offer nothing to society. PSU pussies stand united.

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