Risks Make Better Memories Than Nostalgia: Sound and Fury 2022
Followers of Jankysmooth know that Sound and Fury has always been my favorite festival in Los Angeles. The feeling of being onstage and seeing a barrage of young people charging a band was incomparable among all of our precious and diverse music scene. The openness of artists to share the stage and microphone with their beloved fans made me an instant admirer of hardcore. Growing up a metalhead, I came to the realization that live, nothing touched hardcore. The constant flow of love between audience, artist and promoter made me feel part of something larger than myself, no matter how outgoing or shy I was. And it wasn’t just the scene that I found a home in, it was Sound and Fury specifically. It’s not common that artists constantly show an outpour of love to a promoter but at Sound and Fury, artists had a special connection to the festival that made them constantly thank Riley, Martin, and Madison by name during their sets. After all, these guys weren’t just the people that got them a gig, they were friends that gave them a platform for their art when few else would. Sound and Fury gave Anaiah Lei a platform to go from iconic stage diver to drummer and guitarist then finally coming full circle, to front man of Zulu before our very eyes. They gave Drain a place to headline a major festival in the prime of their youth, when they thought the band was ready, not when it made business sense to do it. Sound and Fury let everyone know Northern California hardcore matters. They took a risk building their festival on thematic power, instead of business sense and it paid off. Sound and Fury made Fiddlehead the most rapturous and tender post hardcore to make emotions reach a fever pitch. Their list of contributions goes on and on and all these strides were made in the name of hardcore, not self-satisfaction. Sound and Fury always gave back to the scene that spawned them until they were the be all, end all curators of that scene. People have the utmost trust in them, so that’s why when they announced 2022 was taking place at Exposition Park instead of the traditional indoor experience, people had faith in Sound and Fury’s risk. Not just because of their impeccable track record but because we love Sound and Fury enough to always root for them to win.
Brain Dead helped produce Sound and Fury this year and their presence can be felt. For those not in the know, Brain Dead is an artist collective that represents many of the things that modern hardcore loves, be it fine art, wrestling, street fashion, art cinema, Magic the Gathering, video games and of course, hardcore and metal.
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Before this festival, I would argue hardcore belongs indoors. Many of the reasons I loved Sound and Fury hinged on its setting. Specifically, the Belasco theater. The Regent years were great too, but the opulent and elegant Belasco served as the perfect contrast to a street-culture gathering. The way all the windows would fog up with the audience’s collective sweat reenforced the idea that we were all one. Theoretically, this feeling couldn’t be recreated outdoors. At Exposition Park, just having the option to sit and lay back is a plus to some, but it removes the imminent violence and pull of the pit which was ever-present at Sound and Fury years past. You didn’t have much a choice those days, buying a ticket signed you up to be an active part of the show.
Day 1 at Sound and Fury, as I considered what frame of mind I would review this festival with, I couldn’t help but shake the desire for nostalgia. How much I wanted to compare this year to the past and beg them to return it to the Belasco in a future where not a single soul still gave a fuck about Covid. By Day 2 though, after soaking so much of it in, and seeing all the differences from the perspective of press, artist, and audience, I realized there is no going back. The only way to view Sound and Fury 2022 isn’t by comparing it to its own past but instead by comparing it to other major outdoor rock and roll festivals, be they Knotfest or any Danny Winmer presents ordeal. Once you enter this framework, you realize the revolutionary risks taken by Sound and Fury to change the outdoor festival format. Something as simple as having a platform in front of the stage instead of a photo pit is a huge departure from the norm that will send ripples of influence throughout the festival world. Sound and Fury operates on trust. “We will not provide a barrier between fans and artists because we love and trust each other enough to know we will never intentionally harm each other.” That is the underlying ethos of Sound and Fury. Then beneath that ethos is the understanding that “hardcore fans are their own fucking security”. Do you think other rock festivals would ever do such a thing? Probably never. They fear their audience. Now as pictures and videos of Sound and Fury go viral and the music world watches the dissolving of barriers between artists and audience in envy, which festival do you think young people will gravitate to? Freedom, youth and summer at Sound and Fury? Or old bands playing old sets in old frameworks of mind at old festivals? Sound and Fury 2022 was a new framework of mind. Out with the old, in with the new. Adios Regent and Belasco, we loved you dearly, now it’s time to shape the future of hardcore. Constantly reinventing yourself allows for new waves of fans to be there at “the beginning”.
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Maggot Stomp Showcase at Resident
Youth, Freedom and Summer are the three pillars of Sound and Fury which can never be removed no matter where they take their moveable feast. I stay young because I go to Sound and Fury. At thirty-five now, I have less wrinkles even though I can’t stop smiling while I’m there. I started my festival with the first very pre-show at Resident, a Maggot Stomp death metal showcase. Sound and Fury’s use of The Resident has always been perfect, booking amazing bills for a small room, most iconically their Iron Age after show from 2018. At the Resident, you can enjoy the show, the company, the fresh air in the patio and a variety of tasty drinks on tap from beer to palomas. I wanted to see the first set of Sound and Fury’s epic return…and Doomsday were incredible. Death metal with plenty of crossover groove, jive, and kinetic energy, you could slam, mosh, and headbang to so many moments of this overwhelming and badass sound. It reminded me of Ekulu’s Belasco performance from Sound and Fury 2019. Thrash with death metal vocals infused with hardcore PMA. Not sure I should use the PMA in the context of death metal so how about we start using DMA, I’ll let you fill in the acronym yourself.
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This lineup was stacked, with San Diego’s Mongrel performing next. These guys were a rapid-fire assault on all my heavy metal senses, thundering drums and guitars soon parted for a grizzly, jagged vocal to lay atop the sonic flurry. Blackened death knows no better purveyors than Kommand, who deliver especially dominating vocals and chugging blasts of guitar and drums. Sentenced 2 Die were the standout band for me this evening, binding their hardcore/death sounds with hints of nu-metal that harkened back to Fear Factory with melodic vocals and guttural growls mingling together. Terminal Nation were just as heavy as they were political, sending a brutal message that this system isn’t malfunctioning, it’s actually designed to harm minorities. Creeping Death at The Resident was one of my Sound and Fury highlights. Imagine telling someone you saw Obituary in a small bar the size of a closet. Okay, I’m exaggerating, The Resident is a bit bigger than a closet but for Los Angeles, this venue is as intimate as it gets and Creeping Death are a band that will someday be playing massive venues. These guys are among the most dynamic groups around in young death metal, infusing their sound with a rock and roll attitude and rhythm that makes Cannibal Corpse for the jukebox. The whole Resident was bouncing off the walls for the boys from the lone star state.
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1720 Kick Off Show: Candy’s “Heaven is Here” Record Release
Before the festival’s epic return, Sound and Fury promoted two shows at 1720, making it the unofficial home for Sound and Fury when it ain’t summer in Los Angeles. 1720 has already become our city’s metal and hardcore hub, it seems no other venues are hosting the caliber of extreme shows they are. That’s why a 1720 Sound and Fury kick-off show was the perfect event to preview the festival’s return as well as host a diverse lineup that culminated in Candy‘s Heaven is Here record release. Sound and Fury has always mixed their lineups with more than just your standard hardcore and metal. There’s been hip hop like Lil Ugly Mane, indie like Young Guv, and plenty of shoegaze. Spike Hellis was the first industrial band to play a Sound and Fury show though. Their set was different from any previous experience I’ve had with them, performing new music that was slower and cerebral instead of their usual goth club bangers. Although these jams poignantly touched upon the current state of collapsing systems, which good industrial is meant to analyze, they lacked the fun I loved going to Spike Hellis shows for. Perhaps play time is over and it’s time to get serious. Or perhaps they wanted to prove to all these hardcore and metal bands that their souls are indeed the darkest.
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Next was an abrasive reality check in the form of a hardcore outfit known as Field of Flames. The first of many bands I’d be seeing from San Jose over Sound and Fury weekend, these guys made that Friday feel like it was Judgement Day and that some heavy stakes hung in the balance of their brutal music. As a lover of Ceremony, it has taken me far too long to finally check-off Ross Farrar’s other band, Spice, from my concert bucket list. They were a phenomenal, poetic and nostalgic trip, with deep alternative riffs that bent in very specific emotional ways to deliver music that makes your gestures, words, and headspace all feel young and carefree. Ekulu‘s live vibe is like no other hardcore or crossover band going, they inspire this holy bounce that you associate with the Kings of NYHC, from Cro-Mags to Madball. Some of the best hardcore bands simply don’t capture this same energy, with every riff infused with PMA. As expected, people were flying across the room, slamming in every style, picking up change and gorilla swinging through Ekulu’s set. Ingrown was next, providing the evening’s grind/power-violence essence to kick things up another notch. The band were so noisy, everyone that came for pure hardcore wound up a bit disoriented. One thing to note about Ingrown, they had the best merch of the night– Sound and Fury special edition camo shirts and soccer jerseys with marijuana leaf characters. Candy took the stage with a giant skull bat projected on the screen behind them, flapping its wings in evil merriment, ready to swoop down to snatch up a hardcore kid to devour at any moment. The vibe of this set was pure sonic devastation, there wasn’t much room for PMA, this was pure, darkened beatdown hardcore that veered into death metal waters, it was so unspeakably heavy. Candy were good, musically and in terms of performance, the damn album is so fucking heavy though, it sapped all the joy out the room in favor of aggression.
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Driving up to Sound and Fury, I could feel the anticipation of the crowd mounting as lines for parking and getting into the venue stretched around Exposition Park. After finally arriving at my destined lot, I was informed it was full and opted to find parking in the desolate, no man’s land a few blocks away. The line stretched from Figueroa to the entrance, luckily my pass allowed me to go straight in just in time to catch Ingrown. Having seen them the night before, I was able to compare an indoor night setting and an outdoor day setting for this band and I have to say that the outdoor set popped off way harder. Something about the hot sun beating down on people gave them the thirst for some heavy grind to pummel each other to. I had no idea what to expect at first from the new location. The last time I went to a show at Exposition Park was for FYF 2017, and that was probably the best concert experience of my life seeing Frank Ocean, A Tribe Called Quest, Missy Elliot, Bjork and Nine Inch Nails. I was happily surprised by the set up though, a red stage next to a blue stage for one band to begin the moment the previous ends. Before those two stages were a sea of people, a line that snaked way too far back for way too long to the Brain Dead tent, all kinds of food, arcades, a booth for the Riley Gale foundation, and a long span of merch tables for individual bands and major hardcore record labels.
The modern hardcore scene has always made room for alternative music and shoegaze. They’ve become extensions of post-hardcore and emo music for this scene, making young bands like Soul Blind have the outlet to grow alongside bands like Never Ending Game or Creeping Death in the eyes of headbangers with soft hearts. Soul Blind are perhaps my favorite of these fresh alternative bands, being able to capture a mood then ride their riffs into any emotional landscape they feel like painting. Soul Blind paints in strokes of beautiful riffs, jagged slashes of color, and splatters of bombastic, emotional noise.
Creeping Death covering Iron Age’s “Evil Ways” is another one of my entire festival highlights. That’s two highlights from the boys from Texas. All hardcore and metal bands from the lone star state seem to have a camaraderie like no other. Unlike the Resident set, this Creeping Death performance had that big show feel that got everyone doing a new version of the Redneck Stomp. Militarie Gun followed on the Blue Stage, these guys are soon becoming the most important band in all the post-hardcore world. They have incredible energy live and take the audience on an emotional thrill ride with so much positive aggression. Koyo on the Red Stage offered numerous Day 1 highlights as well, revving up the crowd with authentic and anthemic hardcore. Joey Chiaramonte can simply not be denied, you immediately empathize with his larger than life character and resilience no matter how over-the-top he gets. The hip-hop infused hardcore stylings of Pillars of Ivory, featuring members of Mindforce, made them one of the most anticipated sets of the day. Surely, their performance delivered with harder bounce and rhythm, given the hip hop influence. They harkened back to greats of this tradition, the likes of Bio-Hazard, with a two pronged vocal assault. Just like The Story So Far, Parker Cannon’s No Pressure are a goddamn punk rock movement. Fans love this band in a special way. Pop punk with a harder twist should’ve been done like this a long time ago. Parker’s already a master of crafting songs about the carefree trials of youth, here, he’s adapting those tales for a hardcore scene that thirsts for his voice even more than the pop or emo worlds do. Another band that hails from Northern California, Scowl might have the brightest future of any band to have played Sound and Fury 2022. Opening their set with a cover of Fugazi’s Waiting Room, the most daunting cover of all, shows just how much gusto this band has. They have big dreams and they play like it and aren’t afraid to lay it all on the line to pursue them. Proving you can be supremely fabulous and hard at the same time, no vocalist in the female-led punk rock world growls quite like Kat Moss. No factoid describes how intense this set better than that the audience literally broke the platform before the stage. Everyone anticipated Speed‘s set. Hailing from Australia and itching to play their very first North American show at Sound and Fury, emotions were running high. This was the young band’s dream come true, you could see them having trouble believing it was all real. They were monstrously heavy, decimating their set and the audience with chugging riffs and brutal vocals. Hardcore transcends geography, race and language, Speed is one of many bands fostered by Sound and Fury to create a more diverse and beautiful scene.
Praise were a spiritual experience, filled with so much positive, powerful energy and with a message to invigorate their heavy sound and kinetic rhythm. This is the kind of hardcore that makes you truly feel alive and in the moment. Angel Du$t threw everyone for a loop. Admit it, you thought they would’ve opened their set with something like “Big Ass Love”. Their venture into pop punk has made ya’ll think these guys went soft, in actuality, you can never take the hardness out of these badasses. They played an old school hardcore set, kicking things off with “Toxic Boombox”. Shit hit the fan in that pit almost immediately as soon as everyone realized what they were in for. Justice Tripp ripped that stage up, stage diving into the crowd with a few epic flips. Drug Church are like hardcore’s conscience, the modern sages of the genre. With lyrics that ground and stabilize us after a whole day of going airborne. Drug Church isn’t emotional music, they’re emotionally intelligent music. As the the red stage closed and the sun began to set upon Sound and Fury, they left us with the guidance we needed to take on the rest of the evening with a cool head and strong constitution.
Superheaven are one of the best modern shoegaze bands around. They don’t tour commonly so seeing them at Sound and Fury was a privilege. Their set was cool and emotionally penetrating, giving us a real sense of summer reverie. It wouldn’t be Sound and Fury if there wasn’t a breath between the hardcore bands to enjoy some loud, easy listening that makes you feel in love with the world. Fiddlehead took up one of the most important slots at the festival. The band that goes on right before the headliner exists to collect all the feelings created over the whole day to transmute them into a powerful moment for reflection. Fiddlehead provided the anthems to do just this, and seem to have become Sound and Fury’s go-to band whenever they feel like having LAHC sing together in a unifying post-hardcore love fest.
Drain is responsible for one of the three major viral moments that put Sound and Fury on the global festival map. This includes Dare’s 2018 set where the pit went haywire and now Brody King’s epic stage dive during 2022’s God’s Hate set which made it to Tosh.O’s Instagram. Drain’s 2019 set was so insane, chaotic and downright hilarious, they became made men in the eyes of LAHC. Their set was so fun it had to be recreated on a bigger stage, with more floaties and beach balls for 2022. That is only part of the equation that allowed them to headline this festival. The other part is the mindset of Sound and Fury, the only festival of this scale that caters to the young. They don’t care which bands get the most streams and have the most followers. That doesn’t influence their booking decisions. It’s about which bands the audience connects with most. Agnostic Front won’t be headlining Sound and Fury, this festival is always focused on the future, not the past. As far as 2022’s actual set went, it was among the most crazed and wild of the entire weekend. Sammy Ciaramitaro has a special ability to charge an audience with the righteous stuff required for them to push themselves to that higher level that makes every stage dive more awesome and every slam dance perfectly savage. Crowd surfing on boogie boards, California hardcore was with Drain all the way, singing the lyrics while enduring the most violent barrage of bodies flying and punching everywhere. Whether it be Santa Cruz, San Jose, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, San Diego, or Van Nuys, Sound and Fury 2022 was a love letter to California meant just as much for the author as the recipient. We fell deeper just professing our love for this state. There are many hardcore festivals around the country but only Sound and Fury offers the sunshine, carefree smiles, colorful summer fashion, and beautiful youthful faces that you can only find in the last Promised Land of a broken country. And this was only day 1.
The best way to start your Sound and Fury is by entering during one of the illest, realest, hardest sets of the weekend, that being Never Ending Game‘s. This band is the voice of the street, in the same vein as all the old school bands that created the original hardcore culture. Hailing from Detroit, you know this band lives it and means it. When so much of hardcore is about portraying a tough image, the boys in NEG are all about it, through and through. Regional Justice Center were the perfect midday grind. A pummeling array of noise that makes you forget all about the heat and other stressors. It was a cleansing set with over-the-top levels of brutality, more so than anyone else that performed and it was probably turned up to 11 just for the sake of proving it. Of all the vocalists at Sound and Fury, Ian Shelton’s voice was the most ravenous.
The anticipation was so high and filthy for this next set, I can feel my braincells moshing as I’m about to write their name. Show Me The Body pull something out of people that is completely animal. The way people mosh and stage dive for this band is different from anyone else. There’s just a more impulsive, lawless temperament in the air, like anything can happen and anything goes. Julian Cashwan Pratt is something of a dystopian poet, making unhinged music for unhinged people to show their true selves. As the set progressed, he shed any semblance of giving a fuck and moved on stage like an escaped prisoner, prowling and lunging into stabs of musical violence. Gridiron provided that pure hardcore sound that might’ve been lacking thus far in the day with old school beatdown swagger, romp, bounce, and vibe that let it be known far and wide that every member of our posse is an army of one. Infused with metallic elements, this set drove the audience into to climbing sonic peaks with guitar solos then back down to heavy crawls with undeniable breakdowns.
Zulu was one of the most anticipated sets of the day. Anaiah Lei has always been something of the crown prince of Sound and Fury. His stage-dives made him an underground legend then his bands cemented his role as a young scene sage. His latest band, Zulu, encapsulates all his feelings toward Black Power against a white world, weaponizing hardcore as a sword and shield to protect and fight for the rights and lives of all Black people. He began the set with a monologue of his truth before going into one of the heaviest sets of the day. Sampling smooth R&B deep cuts into their sound and with Anaiah doing Michael Jackson moves, Zulu captured the audience’s imagination as a band with so much PMA, they’re almost super human.
There are some Sound and Fury sets that the crowd anoints as legendary, for whatever reason. Such was the case for Magnitude, who got everyone on stage, executing the elusive crowd surfing on stage moment. These guys are true Philadelphia Hardcore, fast and thunderous. As a huge fan of AEW, I couldn’t wait to see God’s Hate. Brody King is an icon of LAHC, hailing from Van Nuys and having attended the first Sound and Fury in 2006, the dude is like a guardian of the underground. I remember seeing God’s Hate long ago at Five Star Bar for a Closed Casket Activities Showcase where Brody brought a chair into the mosh pit and turned the pit into a no holds barred hardcore match of him vs everyone. From that night forward, I’ve always considered him as one of hardcore’s gnarliest characters. I made sure to get onstage for this set and the band did not disappoint. All the rare conditions were met to make this performance legendary. Every player was in the zone. Brody himself saw this as the most important performance of his life, celebrating the Valley he came from and the scene that raised him. God’s Hate were unbelievably brutal. The character of their music showed no sympathy, only toughness and aggression, the true vision of hardcore.
Mindforce were electric from start to finish, charging the crowd with unparalleled energy the moment they broke out into “Nightmare” as their opener. As if the Pillars of Ivory set wasn’t insane enough, Mindforce’s showing cemented Jason Petagine as the festival’s MVP. One thing Sound and Fury always needs is a veteran band to take up a slot and represent hardcore’s rich history. In the past it’s been Negative Approach and Despise You, but this year the duty landed on Terror. It might make you feel old to see Terror in the veteran slot, but I can’t think of a band that is closer to hardcore’s heart and that has guided more young artists through the fire than these guys. Terror’s music is the underlying mantra of all Sound and Fury, nevermind that their guitarist is one of the festival organizers, at its core LAHC’s heart is Terror.
Gulch‘s final performance at Sound and Fury was the moment all California was waiting for. They were a band that began and ended in California, celebrating the sunshine state with the most intense, brutal hardcore to be created in years. I remember the first time I heard Gulch and simply experienced awe at the extremity of the sound. The brutal, guttural, no fucks given vocal. The barrage of guitars and drums that were like a barbed wall of sound smashing into your face in a Mortal Kombat-esque sonic fatality for all. Live, they were able to make a crowd go into hyper-drive with relative ease because savagery was second nature to each member. They played infrequently and only released one full album, an EP, a live album, and a handful of singles but in that time, the band garnered a mystique that made them a must-see band for all young hardcore faithful. When they announced their final string of shows, some people didn’t understand why a band at the top of their game and with such a bright future would end it so abruptly. The answer is simply some art is better going down in history like a shooting star, exploding in the sky then fading away, living on in the memories of those lucky enough to witness it as something eternally young and rare. Their set was wild, a small group of people were allowed on stage but as many punks as possible stormed it during the set, letting stage and audience become one synchronized mass. Gulch made their last show count, with diabolical power, energy and brutality. “Sin in my Heart” rang through the night like an anthemic purging of our souls. The set went on until the power was turned off at 10:00pm. Playing without power, the band was able to keep the audience’s spirits high after the lights were turned off. Gulch was finished and there was no guarantee this moment would ever be recreated again. Always leave them wanting more. That was once entertainment industry gospel. Gulch is a band that lived and died by that notion. I doubt this will be the last time we see these members participate in punk music, my hope is that Elliot Morrow goes on to lead an Oi! band.
Sound and Fury was finished and I was destined to go home to let these moments marinate into memories and prose before transmuting them into this article. The one question remaining on everyone’s mind is should Sound and Fury return to their old way, back indoors, to its original form. The answer is ‘fuck no’, not that they even could. Pandora’s Box has officially been opened and all rock and roll will change for it. A festival has emerged where young bands can headline based on an audience’s unspoken desire for them and where new rockstars can be created out of underground music. A festival where violence, fun and fans are not feared but welcomed so long as they invigorate the music. A festival that has broken the mold for all outdoor musical gatherings. You will see others steal from Sound and Fury in time, trying to recreate the magic but none will come close. Sound and Fury, we love you, can’t wait to see you again with the sun on our backs and sweat on our brows, before a stage where some badass band of underdogs is making thousands of young people go absolutely crazy.
Words by: Rob Shepyer
Photos by: Anthony Mehlhaff and Taylor Wong