219 Parramatta Road was the home of one of Sydney’s most important venues, Black Wire Records. A beloved space for many of Sydney’s subcultures, it had (and still has) a profound impact on the cultural fabric of the city.
Black Wire closed in 2018, after a significant rent and rate increase plus a local council crackdown on zoning, following an incident with a café turned bondage club just up the road.
Black Wire was special – an intimate space with tour posters covering the walls, barely enough room to move and a giant bear claw located in the corner for reasons still unknown. It had space out the back, down the stairs, with tables and chairs and greenery where we sat and spoke to our friends between bands. It was more than just a venue. It was a space for community, acceptance and a platform for anyone from any background to share their art and music.
Venues shut all the time. Hardcore music in Australia has always managed to adapt. But, with less All Ages spaces and even less shows being put on across the country, the closure of Black Wire was another nail in the coffin to a seemingly already suffering scene. With the closure of Blacktown Masonic Hall still so fresh in the minds of those involved in heavy music, does the closure of these spaces mark the end of hardcore in Sydney, and Australia alike?
Pocketed deep within suburbia, Blacktown Masonic Hall was the place where many of the hardcore kids today began going to shows. A large variety of bands from overseas, interstate and across New South Wales played to the mix of hardcore and metalcore kids who came out to the countless shows over its eight years of existence.
Blacktown Masonic Hall’s final show was in June 2015. The building went up for sale, and rumour has it that it would be demolished and turned into an apartment block. Reminiscent of your local school hall, the venue was large and memorable for its hanging flower pots over the moshpit and a photo of the Queen directly behind the stage. Like Black Wire, it’s now a relic of the past.
Svetlana has been going to local shows for 8 years. “If I was to describe a Masonic Hall show to someone I would call it wild and unapologetically Western. Everyone knew each other which helped to bring a sense of familiarity and friendliness to every show, and by that same token, weren’t afraid to be rough with each other, even to the dismay of others,” she said.
“Each show began as seeing and meeting friends, and ended with people leaving the venue sore and injured but feeling accomplished -it was part of the culture of the venue,” she said.
While the hardcore scene is known for its often violent and chaotic live shows, it’s about more than just that. It’s also a mindset based on ethics, positivity and a DIY attitude.
“Hardcore has impacted my life in a big way. Without hardcore I wouldn’t have met some of my closest friends and experienced some of my most memorable moments. It has been an influence on me in many ways, and gave me a place of belonging as I grew up,” Svetlana explained.
The closure of these spaces carry negative consequences for the wider Australian hardcore scene. But, new bands, record labels and spaces are popping up to carry the weight of what has been left behind. I spoke to two individuals making their mark on Australian hardcore: Drew, owner of Naked Noise Records, and Sabrina, vocalist of up-and-coming Brisbane band Empower.
Drew started Naked Noise Records out of an interest in how they operate and the organisational end of the music industry: booking shows, promoting and organising releases.
“Hardcore has taught me some valuable life lessons. It’s shaped me to be who I am today and I’m very thankful for that,” Drew said.
“If anyone is saying that Australian hardcore is dead they either A, aren’t paying attention, B in it for the wrong reasons or C, just don’t care anymore.”
Sabrina, the vocalist of up-and-coming band Empower, mirrors these views: “I wouldn’t say hardcore is dead. Sure, it’s not as active and alive as it once was, but it’s still around. At least in Brisbane, I feel like it’s picking up again but it’s hard to say how long it’ll last. We need to encourage others to start bands, put on All Ages shows or even bring their siblings to shows to keep the flame burning.”
For the bands and people like Drew and Sabrina who don’t care about the money or trying to make a brand out of it, hardcore will always live. No matter how many or how few venues there are.
Written by Amanda Louise
Amanda Louise is a writer and photographer based on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. You can view more of her work at http://amandalouise.squarespace.com/