No need to whisper: 'American Hardcore' awakens Sundance
with brutal honesty
By Jeremy Wilkins
February 2, 2006 | The names Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins
and Paul Hudson may not mean anything to most, but they
meant everything to a subculture of youth in the early
MacKaye, Rollins and Hudson were the singers for Minor
Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains, three of more than
30 bands highlighted in the 98-adrenaline-crammed-minutes
of the Sundance Film Festival movie, American Hardcore.
This brutally honest documentary of a socially defiant
music scene stems from a book of the same name published
by Steven Blush (Feral House) in 2001.
Blush, who was a hardcore show promoter, college-radio
disc jockey, indie label owner, band manager and tour
coordinator, became part of this scene when he moved
to Washington, D.C., to attend college.
Paul Rachman, American Hardcore's director,
also found the hardcore scene as a college student,
but in Boston. He began documenting this movement, which
was quickly becoming an underground phenomenon, with
his Super 8 camera. While still in college he directed
music videos for Bad Brains, Gang Green and Negative
The two were aware of each other through their involvement
in the hardcore scene, which was spreading to misfit
youth throughout the nation. Call it chance, fate or
what you will, but Blush and Rachman ran into each other
in New York about a year before Blush's book was to
be published. When Rachman heard what Blush had been
working on he said he instantly had a vision and knew
Blush's book would be perfect inspiration and material
for a film, and after discussing things, both got to
work on the film.
Combining dozens of interviews from members of hardcore
bands, promoters, producers, photographers, artists
and participants, with live footage from shows and hundreds
of still photos and concert fliers, American Hardcore
creates a vivid idea of what life in this underground
scene was like and what it meant to those pushing it
American Hardcore is a movie made by people
who actively followed hardcore from its infancy until
its death and experienced the energy of what happened
in this music scene and culture starting around 1980
and ending in 1986.
It is narrated by the loud, fast and eardrum-piercing
screams of the bands that created the music and the
scene, demanding to be heard. If they weren't acknowledged
then, American Hardcore ensures they can and
will be now.