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"There's conflicting accounts of what happened, but he basically yanked some kid down that was crowd-surfing, gave him a chastising -- or he just pushed some kid the wrong way or grabbed some kid the wrong way. I did not witness the beginning of the situation, but they jumped on the guy and gave him a real good beating to the point where his eye popped out of his head. People in crews were involved, but people who just wanted to be part of the excitement were involved as well."
King says that the incident was settled without the help of police or attorneys, and by keeping information from snoopy media types. King and the Mason Jar held benefit shows and paid out of their own pockets for the man's medical bills, and even got him a job at the Mason Jar, at the time. I was not able to reach him for comment.
Despite the hardcore scene's volatile reputation, that's the only incident I've heard of that caused serious repercussions in the scene, causing promoters and venues to rethink their involvement with hardcore shows. King actually stopped booking hardcore shows for a while because he was so disheartened by the situation.
There was a specific crew that was blamed for the incident at the Mason Jar: the straight-edge crew 24. I spoke to a member of 24, who asked that he only be identified as Myc, about the Mason Jar situation.
"My friends were blamed for that, but half of the people involved weren't even in 24. Everybody only wanted to hear one side," Myc tells me. "It was a big drunk asshole who didn't like little kids bouncing off of people."
When I ask Myc about 24's reputation, he replies, "To be dead honest, we've gotten a bad rap. Any young kid that calls themselves straight-edge and does something stupid gets blamed for being in 24, whether he is or not. Nine out of 10 times, it's none of us."
The managers and owners of the clubs that host hardcore shows have the best perspective on how volatile the scene actually is. Leslie Barton, manager of the all-ages, no-alcohol venue and art gallery Modified Arts in Phoenix, says the incidents of violence are sporadic and not endemic. "It's like anything else, there's instances where shit happens," she tells me. "But given the number of hardcore shows we have here, the percentage is really low. There's months when we practically have nothing but hardcore shows."
Because of the few instances of fights at the shows, Barton requires the promoters who bring the bands to Modified to provide security, and she sensibly removes the art from the walls. But she does think the hardcore scene is self-policing to a great degree, especially because of its violent reputation and the prospect of not having venues that will host hardcore shows.
Jake Slider, co-owner of Neckbeard's Soda Bar in Tempe -- another alcohol-free all-ages venue that has a lot of hardcore shows -- has been around the local hardcore scene for years, formerly working security at other clubs, including the Clubhouse. "Do we have the violence? Yes. I hate it more than anything," he says. "The younger ones try to make a name for themselves with the older guys who are running the hardcore and straight-edge scene."
Slider's threatened to halt hosting hardcore shows when fights have broken out previously, and the older members of the crews seem to have taken the threat to heart. "The crews are policing themselves much more now, and I have some crew members on my security staff. They could lose their job, and it makes them see how bad [the violence] can be. These kids in the hardcore scene are starting to realize it, the older people in the scene, and they're saying to the younger ones, 'you better not fuckin' lose this for us.'"
Exactly, says Tyler King.
"It's time for us to take back some of what is ours, time for a bunch of guys who've been involved to take back their scene, for the kids to take back their bands, take back the clothes they wear, take back the places they hang out -- everything."
I agree with him. In an inherently violent scene, the participants should be policing themselves and providing for themselves if they want it to retain the free-spirited ethos that the scene was born with. That seems to be exactly the case these days with the hardcore scene in the Valley. And besides that, removing a crew shirt from someone bent on brawling isn't going to chill him out. The hardcore scene belongs to the kids; attempting to regulate them will only aggravate their anti-authority attitude.
If anything, I see the presence of the kids in crews at hardcore scenes as a positive factor. The older members of these crews are smart enough to put a leash on the younger ones who get out of control. It's a unique synergy that ought to be encouraged.
Will Anderson, of AMJ, says some of the 24 kids are his best friends. "I don't really see them as gangs. I see them as friends hanging out, who happen to be wearing the same shirts. There's fights at every show, not just hardcore shows."