They started out as heavy metal kids, so many of them, but they were looking for something more.
Loren W. Lepre remembers his first exposure to hardcore music, punk rock‚??s younger, brawnier brother.
‚??It was 1993. I was 17 years old. It was me and a couple friends hanging out. I didn‚??t even know what hardcore was. We get to this venue and there‚??s these early Pennsylvania hardcore bands playing, No One‚??s Hero and One Shot Deal. I walked in with my metal t-shirt and my stone-washed jeans, and the bands were playing inside a cage. I was like, ‚??What the hell is this?‚?? That was kind of my birth date. That‚??s when I found where I really belonged. I found my tribe. Metal music wasn‚??t speaking to me.‚?Ě
What did speak to him? Lepre credits the positive messages of perseverance and unity at the heart of most hardcore music with being the primary attraction.
A former Carbondale local, Lepre has since gotten into filmmaking, founding Philadelphia area-based company Average Superstar Films with fellow hardcore fan Mark Devito. The duo recently decided to dive headfirst into their first feature, a full-length documentary about the history of Pennsylvania hardcore, imaginatively titled ‚??Pennsylvania Hardcore: A Documentary.‚?Ě
‚??Pennsylvania is overlooked when compared to scenes like the ones in New York City and D.C. and Boston. I just feel it‚??s time for our story to be told,‚?Ě Lepre said. ‚??The thing is, notice I didn‚??t say Massachusetts? I said Boston. There, it wasn‚??t really the whole state. Just them in Boston, making noise, making their own sound. The problem with PA is that the bands were all spread out and they didn‚??t have one sound. They were all different. That‚??s a good problem to have, but we got lost in the shuffle.‚?Ě
In true DIY hardcore style, Lepre and Devito have paid much of the documentary‚??s costs out of pocket. Now, they‚??re trying to raise additional funds through Indiegogo, with the fundraiser cutoff date being Sunday, Feb. 17.
At the time of this writing, Lepre has already interviewed 183 different members of the Pennsylvania hardcore scene, both bands and fans, with the entire eastern half of the state and much of the west already covered. He hopes to have the finished product screening throughout the state by this summer.
Among Lepre‚??s interviewees is Aaron Ferranti, who discovered hardcore through crossover thrash bands S.O.D. and D.R.I., straddling the line between metal and punk. Once Ferranti‚??s own crossover was complete, he went on to become a founding member of Scranton-based groups American Youth and Side Over, two of Pennsylvania‚??s first hardcore bands.
‚??People today say to me, ‚??You guys were some of the first guys to do something like that in this area,‚?? but when we were doing it, that wasn‚??t something we ever thought about. It was just something we did with our friends,‚?Ě Ferranti said.
‚??There were pretty much just the two bands in Scranton at the time, (my band) Side Over and Option. We used to play a lot of shows together. Then we started playing around more and we met a lot of kids in Wilkes-Barre and Stroudsburg and we found out there were bands down there playing the same stuff as us. Then we started playing out of town with bigger bands, and bigger bands started playing here. Pennsylvania in general was always a Mecca for hardcore bands and punk music because everyone was so open to the music here.‚?Ě
As time went on, the scene grew, surviving mosh pit injuries, a short-lived influx of racist skinheads (‚??The ‚??youth crew‚?? kids came in and basically drove the Nazis out,‚?Ě longtime punk Matt Grey of Wapwallopen remembered.), and the closing of landmark venues like Sea Sea‚??s in Moosic. It thrives wherever it can, in bingo halls and roller rinks dotted throughout the Wyoming Valley, or on the international stage where bands such as Kingston‚??s Title Fight, Wilkes-Barre‚??s Cold World, Stroudsburg‚??s Wisdom in Chains, and Nanticoke‚??s Strength for a Reason have received much positive attention.
For Strength for a Reason vocalist Karl Kivler, though, where Pennsylvania‚??s hardcore legacy thrives the most is in the lives lived by its adherents.
‚??The message has always been about friendship and brotherhood. That‚??s something we still carry in our music today. Living with integrity, it‚??s a lifestyle,‚?Ě Kivler said.
‚??We write songs to show we‚??ve gone through tough times, too, and music can help us get through it. I have letters kids wrote me about the stuff they‚??re going through that‚??s had them almost to the point of committing suicide. All it takes is one letter like that, for someone to say, ‚??You saved my life,‚?? and it‚??s like, ‚??Wow.‚?? If you can touch just one person, it‚??s amazing. You can‚??t find that anywhere else.‚?Ě
To learn more about ‚??Pennsylvania Hardcore: A Documentary‚?Ě or to support the film, go to averagesuperstarfilms.com and indiegogo.com/pahcdocumentary.