This Is Hardcore XI: “I Get Choked Up Thinking About It.”
Text by Tim Mulhern.
Jesus Piece guitarist John DiStefano helps ship his band’s merchandise to their fans.
Keeping track of the addresses of the orders ready to ship – an increasing number of them from states across the country – is solid evidence the rapid rise in popularity the band has experienced since forming in July of 2015.
“I’ve never been in a band that has had such a reach before,” DiStefano says.
A love of hardcore and metalcore brought DiStefano together with vocalist Aaron Heard (right, shot by Mina Lee), guitarist David Updike, bassist Anthony Marinaro and drummer Luis Aponte to form Jesus Piece. The band’s brand of abrasive beatdown hardcore landed them spots on major festivals and a devoted fan base across the country.
Their success, the band says, started with support from their friends.
“This band was started just for fun with friends playing music,” Updike says. “I think right now, what it was, what it is, how it’s going to be, is always friends-oriented.”
Like many bands in Philadelphia, Jesus Piece burst onto the scene playing small, DIY basement shows in and around the city limits, but quickly traded those spaces for larger, out-of-town festival stages.
In January, the band made their debut at FYA Fest in Tampa, Florida. A two-week tour in June with their friends in Buried Dreams, a hardcore band based out of Boston, brought both bands to Sound and Fury Fest in Los Angeles.
Jesus Piece’s success has not come without challenges. The band is learning to communicate as a group and Updike says he and his bandmates continue to learn more about one another each day.
“It’s more of a relationship than a friendship,” Heard says.
“To think about me as a teenager and going to This Is Hardcore and seeing these bands and now it’s like, we’re on it,” Updike says. “I never in a million years thought that would ever happen.”
Joe McKay, known in the scene as Joe Hardcore (pictured above in a shot by Jeff Fusco), started This Is Hardcore in 2006 at the now defunct Starlight Ballroom. The fest blossomed into a four-day showcase with performances at the Electric Factory and Union Transfer.
Ten festivals and more than 200 bands later, classic hardcore legends Youth of Today, Integrity, Gorilla Biscuits and Turning Point top this summer’s bill.
“It grew because what we did was honest,” McKay says.
As the popularity and size of the fest grew, so did the number of people McKay looked to for help.
“I definitely think as we diversified who was involved in the festival, we grew to be a more well-oiled machine,” McKay says.
In 2009, Sunny Singh (pictured above in a shot by Mina Lee), founder of hate5six, a database for live hardcore and punk videos, approached McKay to assist with documenting the festival. After parting ways with the company who previously filmed the fests, McKay asked Singh to return each year since.
Through filming shows and festivals in Philadelphia and around the world, Singh continues a long tradition of visual documentation within punk scenes.
“I got into hardcore punk from just watching live recordings of VHS tapes,” Singh says. “So for me to be able to pay that forward, makes it all worth it.”
Madi Matthews, the creative director for This Is Hardcore, spent summers attending the fest long before she began working closely with McKay on graphic design and branding four years ago.
This year, Matthews’ band Year of the Knife performs at the fest for the first time.
“Integrity is one of the bands we are most inspired by, so it’s just going to be crazy to open up for them,” Matthews says.
Honoring hardcore’s past and anticipating its future remains the focus of This is Hardcore each year.
The fest allows a newer band like Jesus Piece to realize dreams they didn’t think would turn to realities so soon after forming.
“It’s genuinely surreal to all of us,” Heard says. “It went from playing a basement to playing places that a lot of bands have been trying to do for a long time.”
Furthermore, reunions like Turning Point’s provide newer generations of hardcore fans with an opportunity to appreciate the genre’s rich history.
McKay emphasized the importance of the band’s closing performance to the Philadelphia area, particularly within older generations of hardcore fans who spent their formative years listening to their music and attending their shows.
“I get choked up thinking about it,” Mckay says. “I don’t think we’ll ever do anything better.”
Here are a few pics from past This is Hardcore fests: