Has it been twenty-five years already? Hardcore wasn’t the most inventive idea to begin with, but somehow tons of bands even today can draw big crowds without adding much of anything to Minor Threat’s formula. How, you ask, is it possible that crowds can tolerate so many unimaginative power chord permutations for so many years? I’ll first remind you that most people are conformist idiots who crave feeling “in” on something, no matter how idiotic it is…can’t believe you forgot that fact. But hardcore, besides being pretty worthwhile in itself (I won’t deny it, I’ve got a big ol' soft spot in my heart for this stuff), has a few tricks up its sleeve to prop itself up.
Now, if we’re talking about hordes of people doing something dumb, we’re gonna have to talk about the heroes who blaze trails – there’s nothing like the power of genius to mold the mundane into greatness. Derivative of derivatives Ray Cappo still commands a following after over twenty years, having brought little more than charisma to a nearly dried up right coast hardcore scene. Ray was pretty incredible. In the late 80s, he snarled out Youth Of Today's positive straight edge lyrics to straight-laced floorpunching punkers…this “spirit of ‘88” wave of hardcore cleverly combined deviant hardcore sounds with conservative values. Maybe I should reemphasize that word ‘snarled’: Ray’s growls are fucking bizarre, as compelling as they are cavemannish, not quite like any other vocalist I’ve heard.
Like hardcore forerunner Ian Mackaye, Ray Cappo used anthemic music and force of personality to popularize an ethical program. Straight edge became increasingly orthodox as uniformed crew cutters devolved. YOT’s “No More” would’ve been the inauguration of vegetarianism into the straight edge book of order, besides making for a hilariously awesome music video.
Ray and some others of NYC’s hardcore scene progressed beyond the limits of straight edge ethics entirely: by the early 90s Hare Krishna was a major facet of straight edge culture. Ray himself founded Krishna conscious Equal Vision Records to release his new band Shelter (EVR also released 108’s Holy Name album, the closest a straight edger’ll ever come to an acid trip). Tough guy mosh masters Cro Mags...slightly modified Krishna's stereotypical image. Even classic straight edge headquarters Revelation Records began to release Krishnacore, including Cappo’s other Krishna themed band, Better Than A Thousand. Today Ray Cappo is no more: Raghunath Das is a yoga instructor and raw foodist based out of Los Angeles.
So my advice to you is watch out, man! Be wary of finding yourself stage diving onto a pile of thirty white dudes with the same haircut, all pointing their fingers and screaming the lyrics to a song about principles they don’t understand. Hardcore shows are very fun and hardcore is great to listen to, but if you go too far the next thing you know you’ll be handing out pamphlets in an airport or jumping up and down in a field while wearing a white saffron robe. Be yourself. Use your head. Good luck.