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Hardcore punk group expresses opinion through song

Photo courtesy of Brian Rocha

Agnostic Front, a hardcore punk band from New York City, will be in Des Moines performing at Vaudeville Mews tomorrow night. This band defined the hardcore music scene in NYC when it began in 1983 and is still widely respected as a musical group today.

Punk music first emerged in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and then in the United States.

“(It emerged in a) context in which there were growing economic problems at home,” said Martin Roth, assistant professor of philosophy who teaches the first-year seminar, “The Meaning of Punk.”

“In the UK in the 70s, there was, literally, piles of garbage all over the place because the garbage collectors were on strike,” Roth added.

Punk was a response to a culture filled with music that didn’t speak to the younger generation’s experience. Upon gaining popularity, it changed the way that this rising generation made music, and the way the generation dressed.

Agnostic Front began touring for their album “Victim in Pain” in 1984 and has been together ever since, with the exception of a four-year break in the early ‘90s when, as Roth explained, “a lot of the hardcore scene disappeared.”

“It’s like (members) Vinnie (Stigma) and Roger (Miret) always say,” bass guitarist Mike Gallo said about the band’s long tenure. “It’s like a bad marriage; they’re doing it for the kids.”

Another reason that Agnostic Front has been together for so long is because they truly love the music they make.

“The energy at a hardcore show is unlike any other show you go to see,” Gallo said. “You can go see any other bands, and they put on light shows and all sorts of stuff like that. With us, it’s just raw energy, you know?”

The stereotype for punk music is that it is made up of angry people complaining over thrashing guitars. This description couldn’t be more false. Historically, punk began as a way for people to express their opinions and stand by them no matter what while they actively engage the audience. It was a way for people to stand up for their own beliefs. Bands today stick to the same principles.

“A theme that comes up a lot is this concept of DIY, which means ‘do it yourself,’” Roth said.

Agnostic Front has taken the idea of DIY into its own hands. The lead singer, Miret, drives the group’s van from show to show. The band also evades big record labels, as stated at the end of the title song of its newest album, “My Life, My Way.”

“We stayed the course,” Gallo said. “Never fell off track or sold out for some bull—- industry.”

It is important for punk bands like Agnostic Front to stay in touch with its fan bases across the country because with so many stops on tour, it gets expensive to stay in hotels every night. Instead, the band members drive vans across the country and stay with the people they’ve gotten to know through the years as a band. They can do this by remaining on smaller record labels and remaining semi-underground.

“Bands like Agnostic Front that have been touring for a long time, when they come to town, they’re in smaller venues,” Roth said. “The fans have access to them. They talk to them before, after, during the performance. They (the band) want to be accessible, and they want to keep the control within the community.”

Agnostic Front undoubtedly keeps the control within the community.

“The best thing about the shows is the crowd participation,” Gallo said. “They are just as much a part of the show as we are.”

The third leg of Agnostic Front’s “My Life, My Way” tour starts tomorrow night at 5 p.m. Other acts performing are Naysayer and The Mongoloids. Tickets are on sale for $12.

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