Best of the Archives #1: Rulebound Rebellion

THE ARCHIVAL ARTICLE:

RULEBOUND REBELLION: AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF AMERICAN HARDCORE MUSIC (2010)

THE BACKGROUND STORY:

Sometime in the next few months, I’ll mark a pair of 25th anniversaries, though their exact dates elude me.

First up, in the summer of 1995, I published my initial two articles in Albany, New York’s (now defunct) alternative newsweekly Metroland. I think my reviews of The Roches’ Can We Go Home Now? and Foetus’ Gash albums ran in June or July, though I probably submitted them in April or May, based on their release dates. I wrote for Metroland on-and-off for about eight years, and accumulated about ~750 bylines along the way, while also contributing a lot of uncredited work there, e.g. the “What shows should you go to?” listings/previews every week for a couple of years.

The second Summer of ’95 milestone occurred when I left CompuServe’s RockNet forum, where I had been since 1993, eventually being granted my wizard hat as a SYSOP there. (Check out this old Washington Post article about what it was like then and there). I moved my primary online activities instead to the first version of my personal website, administered by a former college room-mate, about as early as one could do such things. In its earliest incarnation, my site was a repository for the articles that I was writing for Metroland (which did not yet have its own website), interspersed with little bits and bobs and links to other sites that interested me. In early 1999 — after a couple of hosting moves and a server crash that destroyed a chunk of my online content — I registered the “jericsmith.com” domain and began managing the back-end of the site myself, with a little help from a dear RockNet friend. In September 2000, I learned that there was a name for what I had already been doing for five years. And I am still doing it, two decades later.

As part of my 2020 sabbatical year writing activities, I have been going back through the ~1,000 articles currently on this website to clean up and/or restructure things a bit. I would estimate that I have actually posted closer to 2,000 pages here over the years, but some things are time-dependent and later dropped (e.g. mid-year “Best Record” lists that become pointless when I do my final year-end lists), some things are workshopped here and then removed for other non-digital purposes when finished (e.g. 2004’s “Poem a Day” project, 2016’s short story project; I may cull 2019’s Credidero project here shortly too, so read it while you can), and some things just do not add much to the site in hindsight or do not reflect my current thinking, so when I stumble on those, off they go.

Since many/most of us are spending a lot more unexpected free time at home in front of computers these days, I have decided that for the next couple of weeks or so, I’ll post an article a day here from the archives for your entertainment and edification, if you’re seeking such things, and as I find pieces in the dusty backrooms that I think merit a return spotlight on the front-page. The only rules I’m setting on what I’ll feature in this series are that each piece must be more than 10 years old, must be substantial (at least 1,000 words long), and must be a “standalone” item, i.e. no short stories or poems if they appeared in one of those series, and none of the “music tournament” articles that were written in multiple installments, then kluged together upon completion. I’ll post a link to the archival article of the day, and then a background story about it, where pertinent.

While writers are always bad judges of their own work, I personally consider this first archival deep dig, Rulebound Rebellion, to be one of the finest pieces of music writing I’ve ever done. It combined academic studies, freelance writing work, and my own personal activities as a long-time concert-goer into one tight package. By applying rigorous scholarly research lenses to something that I usually experienced and communicated in more subjective fashions, I actually reached conclusions that surprised me, and that I had not actually considered when I started the piece. If you’ve never experienced a hardcore show, and this articles makes you wonder what one looked and felt like (Hollywood never creates believable moshpit scenes, for some reason, trust me) here’s raw video of a brutal 1997 show featuring Section 8 at Albany’s legendary QE2 nightclub; I had interviewed the band around the time of this show, which I also attended:

Watch this space in the days ahead, and let’s see what else we find in these dusty digital boxes over the next couple of weeks!

ARCHIVES! ARCHIVES! ARCHIVES! ARCHIVES!

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