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Parallel to rock's digitization is its ever-snowballing preoccupation with its own history. Take the Bringing It Back for the Kids Fest, a hardcore punk festival engendered by the reunion-show obsession of the internet age as well as a simultaneous yearning for simpler times.
"Nostalgia really is playing a role in our festival," admits organizer Cliff Wiener. "We remember a time when kids made their own zines, tape-traded, or traveled 20 hours to see a band that only had a seven-inch out. So many of these personal music experiences are just gone from our collective music scene."
Wiener is throwing Bringing It Back for the Kids with his longtime friend and collaborator, Alex Kenny. The pair have been active on the South Florida hardcore scene for quite some time, initially as concertgoers entranced by the intensity and camaraderie of the aggro punk variant. That nascent interest soon flowered into a record label, Undecided Records, which featured releases from hometown emo-mosh heroes Poison the Well as well as nationally acclaimed acts like extrametallic Every Time I Die and sentimentally hardcore BoySetsFire.
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In 2006, Wiener and Kenny founded the nostalgically named 1981 Straight Edge Clothing brand, itself a one-time hardcore record label (though now exclusively dealing in apparel) and the official host of Bringing It Back for the Kids. "Straight edge is a personal choice, and we're here to help make it fun," Wiener explains.
(As a refresher, straight edge is an intoxicant-free ideological wing of punk that finds its roots in '80s hardcore, specifically in a song by the same name performed by first-wave hardcore pioneers Minor Threat.)
Despite the seemingly integral connection the philosophy plays in the organization of the fest and the music of many, if not all, of the acts in the lineup, Wiener says he "wouldn't describe the event as straight edge or vegan." He clarifies further, saying, "Straight edge is a lifestyle that obviously plays an important role in our lives. But it wasn't motivation for the event."
So what is this fest actually all about? What is the "It" being brought back for the kids? "We wanted to provide a throwback experience for a younger group of kids. I always think of hardcore as an ideal rather than a sound. It's about family and brotherhood."
Dedicated to re-creating an archetypal hardcore vibe and atmosphere, the fest relies on a lineup straight out of a previous era. It reads like a who's who of South Florida straight-edge, mosh-metal crossover at the turn of the century with Until the End, Remembering Never, All Hell Breaks Loose, and grandpappy centerpiece band Shai Hulud. Nationally recognized headliners like Evergreen Terrace and Terror saw their heyday nearly a decade ago, although both still find fervent appreciation from niche hardcore audiences.
"In the early '80s, it was Black Flag and Minor Threat," Wiener says of the social-musical lineage from which Bringing It Back was wrought. "In the late '80s, it was Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits. In the '90s, it was Earth Crisis and Snapcase. Then we had Converge. And now we have Terror. Hardcore will always be relevant as long as there are musicians out there with something to say."