The Godfathers Of Hardcore trailer begins with Vinnie Stigma saying, “You’re a band, you know what that means? Once you’re in, you can’t get out.” Is he talking about a band or a gang? Those two concepts have always been separated by a thin line for legendary New York Hardcore band, Agnostic Front. In this new documentary from Ian McFarland, the chaos of that hardcore scene, and the band’s role in it, are distilled to their purest elements.
Roger Miret and Vinnie Stigma are lynchpins of the New York Hardcore (NYHC), and their band Agnostic Front played a key role in defining, shaping and establishing the cultural code of conduct for the movement, not to mention the sound and look. When it comes to ’80s New York culture, most of us know about the gang culture of the Bronx that paved the way for hip-hop.
But there was a lesser-known, equally dangerous and creative movement that followed in hip hop’s footsteps, New York Hardcore, a rebellion against the softening of punk rock and downtown culture into New Wave. If you grew up in Manhattan during that era, NYHC was unavoidable — the skinheads, the suspenders, the hoodies and bomber jackets. They roamed the streets of NYC’s Lower East Side, and when you saw them coming, you got out of their way.
What hip-hop was to the Bronx, NYHC was to the Lower East Side. Both movements were not only dangerous and exciting, but also creative and incredibly DIY. The influence of that DIY culture motivates me and many of my friends to this day. Step inside UPROXX headquarters and you will see a framed collection of all the great NYHC 7-inches hanging on the wall. Those 7-inch covers still inspire us with that “fuck ’em let’s just do it” spirit — the spirit that was Agnostic Front — and it’s that spirit that same spirit that makes Ian McFarland’s documentary come alive and work so well.
For non-music fans, there are two things that make this documentary a must-see. The first is Agnostic Front guitarist and de facto leader, Vinnie Stigma, He’s a huge personality that I can watch all day, and even if you’re unfamiliar with the culture, Stigma will immediately suck you in. He’s like every Martin Scorsese-directed Joe Pesci character combined, but with a mohawk. And for what it’s worth, this band is still going strong, 11 studio albums into their 30-plus year career. Few other lynchpins from the hardcore movement have survived like they have.
The second must-see element is contained in the way McFarland captures the relationship between Agnostic Front’s singer Roger Miret and Stigma. It’s the perfect yin and yang of a duo — the blueprint for any great business co-founders, bandmates, or even a marriage. And for those of us music and culture lovers, this is the history of New York hard-core; what it means, its significance, and a detailed look at its rebellious and creative DIY legacy. For over 35 years later, Agnostic Front has been led by Vinnie Stigma and Roger Miret, are they are still going strong.
The film is scheduled to have it’s World Premiere at this year’s DOCNYC Festival on Saturday, November 11, 2017. If you get the chance, support and learn about the movement and culture by grabbing a ticket here. The history of counterculture in America has never been more relevant than it is now, and drawing upon these roots is essential to facing down whatever comes next in our country’s future.
To learn more about the film go to godfathersofhardcore.com.