It’s a ritual. Nearly sacred and methodical, each musician has their own pattern. Cymbals stacked and zipped up in padded bags and amplifier cords unplugged and wrapped and wound. One band’s guitars and bass laid to rest for the night as they clear the stage and others are brought out into the lights. It’s all neatly handled in a dark, ceremonial manner as ears rang and eyes watched the performers clear that small stage, like holy shaman at an altar; their part of the ritual over and the next act taking their place.
The crowd at Test Pattern on May 8 stretched across the club and up on to the long ramp that leads into the back of the bar. Opening band Trudge cleared their equipment as Austin-based hardcore band DSGNS (pronounce “designs”) loaded large amp cabinets across the stage. Drummer Keith Hernandez tightened and lugged around his snare drum and the guitarists plugged in and tuned up, silently staring down at their effects pedals. The crowd pushed forward in a semicircle around the stage, watching the musicians prepare. The lights went dim in the club and from amid the crowd the vocalist appeared.
Suddenly, it began.
With a heavy strum on guitars, the opening chords echoed from the amps. The crowd pushed together, leaving space between the front lines and performers for fans who let their wildness show in the violent moshing and dancing for which hardcore is famous.
Only a few measures into the first song, the lead guitarist walked across the stage and climbed up onto the bar, standing high over the crowd as he ripped into a solo. The room burst with music and a dark, pulsing energy that emanated from the instruments.
The Winston-Salem show marked the start of DSGNS’ short-run tour with Greensboro’s Born Hollow, which headlined for the evening. Along with openers Gaffer Project from Roanoke, Va. and Boone, NC’s Trudge, this show brought a night’s revival of the Triad hardcore scene.
One of the most prominent scenes both locally and throughout North Carolina, hardcore music has held a strong fanbase for several decades as a mostly underground scene. From shows at house parties to skateparks and dive bars, hardcore bands have seemingly remained in the background of Triad music. But with Test Pattern’s method of hosting a myriad of genres, hardcore was able to take center stage in one of the most popular clubs in Winston-Salem.
Based in Greensboro, Born Hollow began in 2010, gaining fans with shockingly wild performances that entered the realm of Keith Moon and Pete Townsend’s on-stage destructions — throwing guitars into drums, jumping off amps and chairs, moshing amid wild fans. The group lived up to their reputation at this show, yet beyond the grinding chords and thrashing storm of heavy drums, it’s what these bands drew out from the crowd that makes it something else entirely.
Like punk and metal before it, hardcore takes rebellion and pent-up energy from fans and all is released and left looming among the crowded club.
In the middle of Born Hollow’s closing set, even those on the fringes of the crowd pushed closer. People lifted smartphones overhead to capture videos and pictures of the bodies being thrown around in the moshing storm in the center of the room. Great white lights flashed piercing bursts like fireworks at various moments of the breakdown. The room grew to a sweating heat as the cheers grew in crescendo with the music.
And just as it all began in a sudden moment, the last chords rang and reverberated from the monitors and into the air, and it was over.
The usual post-show exodus for cigarettes and beer cleared the floor, leaving only the bands to catch their breath and begin the process of breaking down their instruments. Drums were stacked and carried off backstage, guitars and microphones unplugged and silenced, but the wildness of the night still caromed among fans as everyone lingered after the music. It was the music that brought everyone out for the night, and the music which held them together thereafter. A revival of a scene which is there for however long the show runs and slips into hibernation, building and building, until the next show when all will be set free again.