Nov 222010

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Today we have another guest post from our Midwestern correspondent, BadWolf. This one has the potential to ignite some heated commentary, pro or con, so don’t hold back. After all, “ignition” is our middle name (or one of them). So please let us hear from you!]

I feel a great deal of the time bloggers put an excessive premium on the music itself as art.

This makes sense, we are music bloggers, after all. But there’s more to metal than just the song or the album; there is the all-important live experience. Maybe bloggers sometimes ignore the live aspect of metal because it’s more difficult to share via the internet, or maybe because it’s just plain expensive at times.

Regardless, the live arena is where metal was born and what keeps artists afloat. It’s where the musicians we love get the money to make the music we love. And it’s also where metal as a community subculture congregates. Today I want to talk about those two aspects of metal.

But first, let’s talk about hypocrisy for a minute. Not the band, the phenomenon.

Pretty not-metal, right? A professor of mine once told me the first adjective she associated with metal music was honesty. Black metal purists clamor on and on about ‘trve’-ness. We, as a community, put a premium on truth (this has something to do with the endless sub-genre debate, methinks).

So what do live shows, the metal community, and hypocrisy have in common? Straight-edge. That’s what they have in common.  (more after the jump . . .)

Full disclosure: I am not Straight-edge, nor do I understand the appeal—my first metal song was ‘Sweet Leaf,’ for god’s sake. However I do not have a problem with people making their own decisions regarding their own bodies. This is not about the Straight-edge movement. I understand its importance to the history of hardcore, and I respect people wishing to make intelligent decisions with their bodies. This is about what bands espouse live.

I was watching The Acacia Strain live (a report of that show is here) and the band made absolutely no bones about declaring the event ‘Straight-Edge Saturday,’ before culling masses of kids into a hardcore dancing frenzy. I looked behind me and saw an empty bar.

I’ve seen this scene before at a venue in Detroit while seeing Suffokate, where I struck up a conversation with the venue owner. He told me he was pissed, and I should be as well:

‘These bands get these kids out here. They hurt people, get people kicked out, and don’t buy anything at the bar. They are killing your scene.’ (not-verbatim, but close enough).

The man has a point. Metal and hardcore survive because of bar and club patrons willing to take a risk on metal and hardcore shows. Think about it: these shows are full of what most people would consider outwardly violent behavior that often results in injuries or property damage. The only reason these patrons can afford to take the risk, financially, is because most metalheads and punks drink like fish and pull a profit. Metal bands are, at least according to John Cobbett (Ludicra, Hammers of Misfortune), alcohol salesmen.

What intelligent bar owner books an alcohol salesman that encourages you to not drink? The sooner bar owners realize this and stop booking certain bands, the sooner we, as a subculture, start losing variety in our live show selection, which hurts the community as a whole. In the long run, they may be selecting themselves for extinction.

For the sake of metalheads and hardcore kids everywhere, we might be better off if Straight-edge bands stopped espousing their ideology in certain live settings.

This is not a stab at ideology—I love bands that talk about communism, anti-war, and even Christianity. Band members themselves, of course, can do whatever they want. Just as I refuse to hate on Motley Crue for being misogynists while I love women, or Cattle Decapitation for being vegan while I eat meat, I don’t hate on any Straight-edge band for their beliefs (mostly), but there is a critical difference:

Cattle Decap never played a show in a deli while charging admission and giving the butcher a cut. If they did under any pretext other than a form of artistic protest, we would call them out as false. As hypocrites. So why do we tolerate it from Straight-edge bands? I have no idea.

So the next time you see a band call for sobriety at a concert, join me in pondering the catch-22. Just some food for thought.



  1. “Straight-edge”. What kind of idiocy is that?! If you don’t do drugs, that’s great. I don’t either, but go ahead if you do want to. If you don’t do alcohol, you must be silly (or Muslim, or both), but suit yourself. But you know you’re really nuts if you feel the need to invent a special name for it and link it to a Metal(core) subculture. Why?!

    Why do you have to collectively do (or don’t in this case) stuff to increase the group feeling? Isn’t the fact that you like Metal enough to make you part of a group already? Isn’t it about the music and not about wearing black T-shirts, having long hair, behaving like a mental idiot in the pit or about not drinking and drugsing? I can’t help but think that if you need another criterion to define you as a group you apparently do not feel “enough bonding” from liking the music alone. Perhaps these people don’t really like the music all that music, but are just desperately trying to set themself apart, in vein by the way.

    People are crazy. Batshit crazy.

  2. I somewhat agree with Niek already.

    But let me put it this way:
    My sister doesn’t drink, do drugs, or even have sex. It’s no because she’s straight edge, it’s because she has no interest.

    I, on the other hand, love and indulge in all three…and i fucking love it.

    But neither is a philosophical stance. And anyone who bases their life around something so simplistic as the idea “i shall not have fun with substances” is not worth my fucking time.

    so fuck straight edge.

    if you don’t wanna do drugs or alcohol or have sex, good for you, but it’s no more a “lifestyle” than anything.


  3. I’ve got to step up and provide an opposing perspective. I’m pretty far on the other side of the spectrum from Straight-edge (crooked edge? jagged edge?) but I do respect the movement and the culture. It’s been around a long time and was an integral part of the emergence of hardcore out of the punk scene — and a reaction to a lot of self-indulgent, self-destructive behavior associated with that scene. It’s about respect for yourself (and your body) as well as respect for other people, other creatures (a lot of Straight-edge people are vegetarians or vegans), and the planet. And it does bond a lot of people who’ve had some tough times in their lives together into a mutually supportive community.

    For me, complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol goes too far, and there’s a self-righteousness about some Straight-edge adherents that’s pretty off-putting. But even though it holds no interest for me personally, I wouldn’t dismiss it quite so quickly as crazy. And though I agree completely with Niek that people ought to be independent and secure enough not to need group membership as a way to define themselves, sometimes, for some people, that’s better than the alternative

  4. Yeah, I think this movement is silly, especially because it’s associated with Christianity. I’m as Atheist as it gets, but I don’t smoke or do drugs (never even tried), and I drink moderately but never to the point where I’m piss drunk. I think metal is about being yourself, so I would disagree if someone told me metal is about listening to heavy music and getting piss wasted. I think it’s all about being yourself, doing whatever the fuck you want to do. If you do drugs, that’s fine, as long as you’re not harming me, and vice versa. It’s about tolerance and acceptance. Overall, I think letting people know that you don’t have to smoke, drink, or do drugs to be “cool” is a good thing, but associating it with the church (which I’ve seen in so many news reports/articles about it) is just silly. Religion ≠ morality. Get it people.

  5. This very issue drove most of the sXe hardcore scene out of Boston and down to Providence, where I’m sure they’ll also be driven out due to lack of venues willing to book them. I’m not complaining THAT much (my dislike of hardcore is known far and wide), but it sucks to see a scene squashed before it even gets a chance to blossom. Good job to the FSU for preemptively screwing the scene.

    That said, I saw an edge band open up for some grind acts back in college. I didn’t know and had been pregaming – stumbling into a straight edge crowd while drunk and high is the most terrifying way to learn about a scene. :\

  6. I must say that I don’t mind straight-edge as a concept. What I do mind is someone over-living the concept, which consequently affects all of us. True story: I went to see Converge and one of the openers (who I didn’t know) was straight edge. Since I didn’t really care for what I was seeing, I got a beer and stood at the back of the main area. Some kid walked by me quickly, flipped the beer out of my hand and made for the pit (or lackthereof – but hardcore dancing versus moshing is a topic for another day). Needless to say I was pissed.

    I love metal and hardcore simply for the fact that a lot of it is counter-culture. Sure, I don’t wear spiked gauntlets but I like black metal. I don’t wear flat-brimmed hats but I like deathcore. I certainly don’t have plug earrings but I like hardcore. What I’m trying to say is, I love seeing all that stuff, and I love the fact that “normal” people don’t get us. What irritates me is that straight edge is now a fad, and not something a lot of these kids really believe in. If they did, I think they could embrace the lifestyle without encroaching on mine.

  7. I don’t have a problem with straight edge, just some of the people who consider themselves to be. Like any identifiable group, there are going to a minority of assholes who give off the wrong impression. Sometimes it’s just a certain attitude, but sometimes people go way too far and if you’re not with them, you’re against them.

    But to the specific topic at hand, I’m on the fence about what BadWolf has written about.

    First, if a venue has agreed to let you play, you should seize the opportunity, but not assume that you can call the shots. A straight edge band is going to have a mixed following, probably with more fellow sXe than not. If there’s alcohol present, should that really be a problem? It’s not like anyone’s forcing you to go to the bar. Straight edgers can get along with non-sXe – at least those who aren’t total bastards about how they live their lives compared to those around them. And that’s how it is with most people, regardless of setting. IT’s just a few that ruin it…

    On the other hand, if someone is allowing an sXe band to play, shouldn’t they make some adjustments as well, knowing how the band (and a large portion of their audience) feels? Sure, maybe there’s no revenue from beer and drinks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still sell stuff. Having enough around to make mixed drinks isn’t enough. Be able to cater to the people in your bar/club/hall/whatever. Wouldn’t hurt anyway – not everyone that goes to a bar drinks beer or liquor. They go to be with friends and some don’t drink, for whatever the reason.

    It’s a two way street. Unfortunately, egos, arrogance and bad experiences tend to trump common sense.

  8. Hm, well I never thought about the bars making money off the metal bands, and straight edge bands playing in bars. To me, it does make sense not to smite those who are booking you by discouraging business for them. The bands think they are doing a good thing, if there is something good for the world, why wouldn’t we spread it? But, sometimes I guess it is a little far such as what Dan said about his beer, that’s just plain rude. Lol

    Personally, I don’t classify myself as “Straight Edge” although I guess one can say I hold the same ideology. I think if I were to start calling myself that, it would turn into me doing it to be apart of that community than to do it for myself. And quite honestly, I don’t really see Straight Edge groups associated alot with Christianity, I think they are as Un-Christian as other people, but they just have Christian-like beliefs.The Bible doesn’t condemn them, but the overindulgence in them. SE just says none at all, which is far more radical. and I think alot of them aren’t even Christian. lol I’m not sure, I’m not big on the hardcore scene.Well anyway, I don’t have a problem with other people drinking, or smoking, or whatever, but I don’t like drunkenness or drugs, and whatever.Those things, in my opinion, are stupid honestly. I don’t think drinking is bad like the SE people do, but I feel like SOMEONE ELSE sees what I see in those things, for once. It’s just kind of nice to know I’m not alone, though I don’t regard myself as being apart of that group because I almost see that group as stupid too because it’s full of so many people who think they’re straight edge, but they’re not, or they do it because of a band they like, or just because it’s “cool”. There must be some people who take it seriously, and therefore I don’t feel as alone viewing those things the way I do, because usually I am, lol. But I don’t really have strong feelings for it, I regard it as any other scene present today that I don’t really care for, therefore I don’t pay much attention to it haha.
    Anyway back to the topic of the post, yes the bands should tone it down unless they don’t want to be booked, lol. And some people, both on the far end of Straightedge spectrum and those who are within the straightedge community, should, well, grow up.

    • “There must be some people who take it seriously” — yes, there are, which is one reason I have some respect for sXe as a movement, even if it’s one I’m not a part of. But it’s also true, as you and others here have said, that there are a lot of people who call themselves straight-edge who are judgmental about other people, who are obnoxious about it, and who just want to be part of a herd, “because of a band they like, or just because it’s ‘cool'”. And that’s not cool.

  9. Make no mistake. When it comes to bands playing venues, there is no point from the owner’s perspective other than to sell alcohol. It is how they are going to make $. They don’t need to cater to anyone else because its a bar, not a comment box. The nature of music and business is symbiotic, and while yes, it is all 100% about the music, the music could never go anywhere w/o the business. It is imortant to respect both sides of this. From a personal perspective, I do not drink at 27 due to being in possesion of a fantastic alcohol problem for which sobriety and discipline are the only cure. However, that being said (or written, whatever), something I came to understand very early on in my sober path was that my experiences were my own, not everyone else’s. It seemed as though it would be retarded for me to assume that everyone else should adopt my worldview and practices that I developed through my own personal shit. Knowing the difference between how you must live and what everyone else does (which is not up to you) falls somewhere in the arena of respect, which is way more important than whether or not someone wants a drink…

    • “Knowing the difference between how you must live and what everyone else does (which is not up to you) falls somewhere in the arena of respect, which is way more important than whether or not someone wants a drink…” I think that’s the moral of this story in one sentence, and extremely well said.

  10. Just wanted to add, as a person who does live sXe, I agree with the general idea you’re conveying here. In STL at least, we actively look/ plan for venues that don”t contradict the message. Is it always feasible? No. But it is something we think about…

  11. I Guess people will always hate what they can’t understand.
    like to say straightedge people started then associated with metal? They don’t know roots at all and sound dumb lol.
    And to say its ruining the scene? thats dumb
    I’ve learned if people wanna go to a show and get drunk, they’ll do it at an edge show as well as any other.

  12. Face your ass, if you like to fill your ass drug, alcohol, drugs, having sex without a condom is your problem. In fact so much shit to say could only come from idiot who believes in the existence of an imaginary being called god, wake up to your demented science. Hypocrite, you defined your personality as well, because the straight edge know much what we feel and do. And fuck you before I forget, send me an e-mail; torture.nightmare @ and we’ll talk more!
    Edhy Metal

  13. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.

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