On the Time I Accidentally Attended a Hardcore Concert

It was a dark and stormy night the evening I accidentally attended a hardcore concert. A severe weather warning was out for the city of St. Louis—similar to many others the midwest would encounter the winter of 2018. I almost didn’t make it. I almost chose to stay back in my college town, filling up on pizza and fountain soda, and spending way too much time arguing with friends over what to watch on Netflix.

But what would be the fun in that? In the end, I decided to brave the weather, and I’m sure glad I did because otherwise, I never would’ve gotten to experience the sheer shock and rush of adrenaline that comes with watching one’s first hardcore concert.

Keith Higgins, Phil Rasinski, Lauren Kashan, Conor Mac, and Lance Donati of Sharptooth. Photo from newenglandsounds.com

Perhaps you are wondering how I can claim I “accidentally” attended this concert while simultaneously admitting my willingness to go. But the thing is, I didn’t think I was going to a hardcore concert. I had it in my head that I was going to see my favorite broody boys—a little band by the name of As It Is. I was aware that there would be another band opening for them. But I was not aware, however, that two other groups would also be playing—one of which would come to change my perception of hardcore music forever.

The small venue the show took place in should’ve been my first clue. When I arrived at Fubar in downtown St. Louis, I was astonished to find myself surrounded by such a strong sense of music history. Indie and punk posters covered nearly every inch of the red brick walls, and as I read the rest of the room, I quickly came to the conclusion that leather was the standard attire. It was the kind of place that screamed “we eat nails for breakfast,” and the first thing I thought as I walked through the doors was, Oh, God. I don’t belong.

I opened my mouth, ready to vocalize this thought, but my sister beat me to it. “Oh gosh, Maggie,” she laughed nervously. “This is the most… hardcore thing I’ve ever done. What have you gotten us into?” I would soon be asking myself that very same question.

The opening band came and went with a bang, but the strangest thing was that they kept referring to another band by the name of Sharptooth. At this, my stomach did a little flip-flop—and not in a good way. Prior to buying my concert tickets, I had seen Sharptooth scheduled to attend multiple tour dates. Knowing nothing of the band, I did a little research to get a feel for their sound. After several seconds of listening to some very, very heavy metal, I decided indefinitely that Sharptooth wasn’t for me. So I went ahead and purchased a ticket for a time and location where they specifically weren’t listed. I guess there must’ve been a mixup in the marketing though because I stood astonished as three burly men with big beards suddenly took the stage.

The fiery redheaded lead vocalist of Sharptooth—Lauren Kashan. Photo from craigbidiman.com

The strum of electric guitars and a pounding drum set filled the air. I had convinced myself I’d hate every single second, when, out of nowhere, a fiery redheaded woman appeared and started spitting out lyrics.

My jaw fell through the floor. I thought I was seeing things. A female leading the vocals for an otherwise all-male metal band? Now that’s just not something you see every day. Perhaps even more astonishing though were the words that came barreling out of her mouth. She sang about things like women’s rights, mental health, and the ever-increasing need for kindness and love. There were moments where she stopped to explain the meaning behind each lyric. One song had been written about her tragic experience with sexual assault, another in response to the heated climate of the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

Amid all the screaming and shouting, I discovered a couple of things. The first being that Lauren Kashan, the lead vocalist of Sharptooth, can really sing. After the show, I happened to overhear her explaining to a fan how she actually targets sound from two different places in her vocal cords. Talk about raw talent.

The second thing I learned throughout the course of this culture-shocking experience was that I actually appreciated hardcore music. Thanks to the weight of Lauren’s lyrics and her insistent call to human compassion, I began to view the genre in a whole new light. Before I had dismissed hardcore music as an angry—and even silly—sort of shrieking, but after seeing Sharptooth, I felt otherwise.

Anger was used as a tool to propel people in a better direction. Songs were about opening the floor to create conversation and promote positive change. It was a truly enlightening experience to watch Sharptooth live, and I can’t wait to see all that they’re up to next. I might have happened upon this hardcore band by accident, by my interest going forward is out of pure intent.

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