Krishnacore Rallies fans At The Constellation Room, Thursday June 21 st 2018
I am an unbeliever, a materialist, a naturalist, meaning that I don’t believe in the supernatural. For me, the mind, the soul, the spirit are one same thing, non differentiable from the brain… ask any neurobiologist and he or she will tell you that nothing doesn’t seem to survive when matter is not there anymore, when the brain is dead… I need evidence, I am a doubting Thomas and I was born this way.
Punk has always seemed to be in my camp, because the ultimate rebellion has to be the metaphysical rebellion, making the ‘no master no god’ people rallying behind Bad Religion and other cult-deniers, making the nihilists, the anarchists raising their fists in the air, with plain disdain for obedience and docile attitude….but wait a minute…. Human nature being as complex as it is, nothing is as simple as it looks first, and if Krishnacore is a punk genre by itself, let’s go back to the beginning.
On Thursday night, four hardcore bands were playing at the Constellation room in Orange county, home of the hardcore genre, and if I missed the first one (Precious) because the traffic in LA is hell, I was certainly on time for the night headliner, Shelter, a Krishnacore band from New York, which basically invented and defined the genre.
Hardcore shows have always felt a crazy experience for me, and this for several reasons: I am always surrounded by men in shorts, and feel like I am the only woman in the room, then the whole thing looks like a pure demonstration of testosterone power, with muscular (often) bald guys screaming in the mic so loudly that they are about to burst their neck veins. The guitar riffs are all assaults and distortion, the music rushes through the blood of the crowd, the the drumming sounds like shooting guns,… and if I rarely catch any lyrics in this loudness, the meaning of the songs seem really important to the fans, as they scream them back at the face of the singer with a fervent conviction. There are always a lot of jumping, running, crowd surfing, stage diving, fist rising, and the crowd generally participates to the chaos as much as the band. This time the crowd stayed surprisingly calm during Berthold City and Give, the two bands I saw perform before Shelter, but it was not the fault of their frontmen and musicians who were extremely energetic on stage… In particular, Berthold City’s vocalist Andrew Kline was jumping like a rabbit as well as his band mates. Give was also high-energy also they sounded a bit less hardcore to me at the beginning, like a new Fucked Up without Damian Abraham, but once again the yelling and the crazy loud guitars convinced me I was at a punk hardcore show. And when Give’s frontman Crucial John told us this next song was about the future… it was obvious we were far from the punk-no-future nihilism.
These bands come from the straight edge movement, and there is only a fine line between their convictions – regarding veganism, a harmful-substance-free diet and sexual purity – and those of a religion, and this is coming from an atheist vegetarian. This fine line could explain a phenomenon like Krishnacore’s Shelter, who entered on stage at the sound of Hare Krishna chants and the smell of burning incense. When two movements agree on so many points, collusion is unavoidable at a certain point.
The show was pure hardcore though, with plenty of energy, aggressive bass lines, a lot of sing-along, some stage diving, and people becoming very rowdy behind my back, and after 2 men landing on my head, I left my front row spot for good. Frontman Ray Cappo is a charismatic figure, all tensed muscles and even doing a few spectacular acrobatics and jumps on stage. He was holding the crowd at the tip of his pointing finger or athletic shoes and was ‘preaching’ about his philosophy between the songs. He is obviously a Krishna devotee and a bhakti-yoga teacher, who has changed his name to Raghunath, follows and studies the ideologies of the Bhagavad Gita, a 700 verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, and even organizes Pilgrimages in India… This is serious commitment, and these guys – guitarist Porcell is also a Krishna devotee, and the other young guitarist was wearing a traditional robe – couldn’t have shown more conviction. While Cappo was mentioning ‘a song about being a bit more understanding’ or talking about ‘peace and respect all living beings’, he was surely acclaimed by everyone in the crowd.
I must admit it, like most people I have a very cartoonish idea of Hare Krishna people, they are, after all, some pink-robed shaved-head guys, who are always dancing and offering vegan food in Venice Beach, but the Shelter members are no different from Bad Brains and their devotion for the Rastafari believes.. If the punk movement rejected authority, if punk is often associated with offensive wardrobe and anti-establishment views, some of these punks have centered their lives around a rigid discipline, while expressing strong believes, and mostly, they want to change the world with their music… ‘Everybody is spirit, the more we remember the more there’s love’, said Cappo at one point.
Okay, I am still an unbeliever, these people have the best intentions but I don’t plan to read the Bhagavad Gita anytime soon. However, there is certainly something thrilling and even empowering in self-control, and at least I share that feeling with these people.