Sound and Fury
A UCLA junior's record label draws the regions' hardcore punk-rock fans out of the underground and onto the stage.
Published Jul 23, 2009 2:12 PM
Not for the faint of heart, but a nirvana for fans of hardcore and punk rock, the fourth annual Sound and Fury Festival returns to Southern California this month. Under the guidance of Sean Riley, a UCLA junior studying philosophy, Sound and Fury is part concert, part congregation and 100 percent authentic.
This year's concert will be held at the El Rancho Community Center in Oxnard, California from July 31-Aug. 2. Riley expects between 1,000 and 1,500 fans from across the U.S. and as far away as Sweden, Japan and South America. The bands — the curdled cream of the hardcore crop — have a national pedigree and include Guns Up! (Boston), Trapped Under Ice (Baltimore) and Blacklisted (Philadelphia).
The festival is an outgrowth of Riley's "1917" record label. (That's not a reference to the Russian Revolution; Riley and his former partner wore "19" and "17" when they played hockey.) 1917 releases vinyl singles, albums and digital downloads for a stable of young, hardcore bands. "When we released our first record, a 7-inch single by Donnybrook, we had no designs on starting a label," Riley said. "But it sold really well, 5,000 copies, so we started trying to sign bands we saw and liked."
Both label and festival dwell in a fascinating musical underground where selling 5,000 records represents success. "It's loud and fast," Riley says, in not inconsiderable understatement. "There are no traditional song structures with choruses and verses, and songs can last anywhere from 20 seconds to three-and-a-half minutes."
To old time punk rockers, the music harkens back to a time when a being a punk defined an outsider social status, not a fashion statement. If anything, the scene is even farther underground today. Riley says that only a few venues will even book a hardcore show and it's not uncommon for touring bands to play locally in some fan's garage.
Sound and Fury (on MySpace and on Twitter) was created to be an antidote to that isolation. After attending a show in Redondo Beach attended by 300 fans that served as the centerpiece for a number of bands' summer tours, Riley and his partners decided to put on their own concert. "We wanted to showcase [1917's] bands and our taste in music," Riley recalls. Held in Ventura, the show drew 700 fans and the promoters broke even on their $20,000 budget. "People had a great time," Riley recalls. "No negative incidents and no fights."
That peaceful vibe seems paradoxical to the genre's aggressive music and lyrics. In actuality, the festival — which moved from Santa Barbara to Ventura for two years before arriving in Oxnard this year — is more about hanging out than causing trouble.
"There is a big social aspect to Sound and Fury," concludes Riley. "These kids know each other online, through message boards, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. Some of them only get together and see each other once a year."