For Miles and Miles…
A story of how Sound & Fury 2019 changed my life
Gretchen Marie HahnI’d like to preface this story with a trigger warning for those who may be affected by matters of mental health and/or suicide. Mental health is very real and very important. If you need help, advice, or someone to talk to, please reach out to your family or your friends. You are never as alone as you may think. Alternatively, here are some organisations that I support and encourage you to contact:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Each of these services also have an online option for contact.
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.
I hope this story reaches, affects, or encourages someone today.
If you’d like to contact me in regards to this piece, please feel free to message:
@bitter_dark on Instagram
I’d love to hear from you.
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Gretchen Marie Hahn is a Brisbane-based creative and professional writer. She is employed as a Communications Assistant for UnitingCare in Brisbane and she is also the Editor In Chief of an Australian punk and hardcore publication titled ‘Deadbeat’, currently in its third issue. In 2018 she became a finalist of the Vision Splendid Institute Screenwriters Retreat for her debut feature film script ‘Kintsugi’. In the final year of her Fine Arts degree, Gretchen was shortlisted for the QUT Creative Writing Prize. And during her film studies at MSIT, she was awarded ‘Best Direction’ & ‘Best Screenplay’ for her graduation film ‘Old Flame’.
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All events in the following story are true to my recollection.
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For Grub Nation.
The familiar guitar tones of ‘Lay Low’ came trickling through the speakers. Before the drums could kick in, I glanced across to my best friend, who was already smiling in my direction. I carefully manoeuvred my way through the crowd; trying not to step on anyone’s feet and covering my head from crashing limbs. I felt the uncomfortable steam of body heat radiating amongst us all, and once I was physically touching the stage, I reluctantly used the sleeve of my Mindset shirt to dab at my sweaty forehead.
It was surreal, how close the band were to me. Pat paced back and forth on stage, almost near to touch and back away again. Glancing out to the crowd, it felt like I had just swam the deepest ocean. Together, we ebbed and flowed. I breathed deep.
This was it. My one last shot to get up there. But whilst attempting to raise my left leg, I failed to judge the stage height, and smacked my shin on the edge. It took an encouraging stranger pushing me up from behind, for me to awkwardly clamber on stage.
As I re-balanced myself by crouching in the corner, I recalled the pre-show words of the Sound and Fury organiser: “Get on, and get the fuck off!” So I pushed myself up, ran across the stage, and tumbled back into the crowd. A wave of my own.
Thursday 11th of July – Have Heart Pre Show
It was mid-morning when I landed in Los Angeles. The air was warm and my mouth dry. I had not slept for 24 hours. My exceptionally lovely Uber driver introduced himself as Deni. And as he told me of his three teenage nieces (whom he drove to and from school everyday) I wound down my window and watched the palm trees pass us by. It was hot. But not Brisbane hot. Not melt-your-clothes-off hot. A pleasant summer heat that I was estranged to, but which I liked.
When we reached downtown, Deni pointed out fast food joints to try, places to avoid, and shops to check out. I enjoyed listening to the enunciations in his LA accent. But neither of us spoke of the tents beneath the pass-ways. A confrontation of homelessness that neither of us felt comfortable to acknowledge in our current setting. It made me feel angry, hopeless, and lucky, all at the same time.
After thanking Deni and leaving him an appropriately-wordy compliment on the app, I messaged my best friend Sabrina, and her partner Simon. A few gigantic hugs later, I dumped my bags at our shared Airbnb and rehydrated. Determined to beat my jet lag, I refused to nap, and was keen to get on with our day. It was time to meet the crew.
Following the Have Heart reunion announcement, a Messenger group chat came to fruition. And that group chat came to be known as ‘Grub Nation’. It included a bunch of Australian mates whom were all set to attend Sound & Fury. As my attendance was decided at late notice, I missed a lot of the initial content. However it soon became our number one source for sending photos of one another, locating lost parties, sharing weird memes, hardcore talk, and random comedic matter. Often, it was responsible for my being in hysterics.
Most of the Grub Nation crew were Sydney folk – some internet friends and others total strangers. My stomach was an uncomfortable mixture of nerves and excitement as we walked to meet them all at a nearby coffee house. But my anxiety dissipated almost the instance we arrived. Greeted with massive cuddles all around, I was already feeling like part of the crew.
Our next stop was Amoeba Records. From the outside, the building seemed like any other. But upon entering the store, it was difficult not to express my adoration of the space. A multitude of vinyl bays created aisles and aisles of genres. One corner weaved around another, only to lead to more records. I was in awe.
I followed the herd through to the centre of the shop, until suddenly the crew began singling off. Jeff? Gone. Chris? Also gone. Simon? No idea.
It was only when I heard someone say, “Looks like Kelso’s off to hardcore,” that I knew where to go myself. I followed his tall physique, weaving through the labyrinth of LP’s. When I saw Kelso standing at the bay, rummaging through a cardboard, handmade box of 7”s, I was taken back to my time in Tokyo. It reminded me of the vast 7” punk and hardcore bay at Disk Union in Shinjuku, where I spent many hours/days happily perusing.
The area was organised well, with boxes for almost every sub-genre: New York hardcore, West Coast hardcore, Straight Edge hardcore. The list went on. I flicked through every single box, impressed by numerous items, with an honourable mention going out to Rage’s ‘Feel The Burn’ EP.
We all seemed to have a successful afternoon, whether we purchased something or not. I, myself found joy in admiring a Steve Buscemi prayer candle, a Marty McFly action figure, and some very questionable LP covers in the soul section.
A few hours later, we were all standing in line outside The Belasco Theatre. I was instantly taken by the building. The tall, pane windows and green awnings gave the building a slightly gothic character that I had only ever read about. Entering the main floor was like taking a breath of fresh, icy air. I was struck by the burlesque-styled concrete structures which framed the wide, broadway stage and drew your eyes to the dome ceiling.
After watching Anxious and Initiate, a deliberation as to whether or not we should remain downstairs for the main event split the crew in half. Us upstairs crew were fortunate enough to secure the left side of the balcony, and it was the perfect place to witness the insanity that was Rotting Out’s performance. Watching the carnage, I questioned whether I really wanted to be down amongst the madness. But the turnovers were organised quickly and I was still running on over 36 sleepless hours.
I was glancing out over the crowd, wondering about Have Heart’s setlist when the room unexpectedly went dark and a deep, raspy voice came over the speakers, reciting Bukowski’s ‘Bluebird’.
“There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out.”
Swallowed by the poem, the voices in the room grew few and quiet. Yet an electricity still flickered through the crowd. Camera flashes pop’d across the room, illuminating the stage for just a few seconds at a time. The neon words ‘SEPARATING MIGRANT CHILDREN FROM THEIR FAMILIES IS A HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION’ read on a large projector screen.
“But I don’t weep. Do you?”
The stage lights flicked on and the sharp guitar tones of ‘The Same Son’ opened the set. From the balcony, the downstairs crowd looked like a rocky sea. Bodies swayed together like colossal waves whilst some surfers bravely tempted their fate.
As the band continued their set, I stood amongst my friends, yelling to songs I never thought I’d get to witness again. I was 17 when they played their final tour back in Australia. A friend literally turned up at my front door on the night of their Brisbane show, refusing to let my cold keep me from attending. I stood at the back of the Princess Theatre that night, dirty tissues at the bottom of my tote bag, singing along with a room full of people who weren’t ready. Not ready to say goodbye. Not ready to walk away.
Towards the end of the night, Pat took some time to speak about the passing of his father, which reminded me of my own: how he spent hours with me at the library on weekends, how he air-guitared to Creedence Clearwater Revival when he was cleaning the house, how he used to show up at my apartment with potato chips and Sarsaparilla so we could snack whilst watching Major League Baseball together. And how our family fell apart after he died.
When the familiar, melancholic guitar opened the following track, I gripped the railing hard. And on that first line, I threw my right fist up into the air, screaming the words that had resonated with me since the first time I ever heard them.
My entire body trembled as if I were standing alone in the freezing cold.
“Some things, some things just fall apart…”
As I yelled the lyrics and threw myself against the metal railing, I thought about all the times the song brought me solace or simply made me feel less alone. I yelled until I heard my voice break and tears welled in the corners of my eyes.
“Highways home become oceans…”
When the tempo slowed, the droning guitar and repetitive drumbeat sent me into an unexpected spiral. I had been blinking repeatedly in attempts to keep from crying, but as I listened to the echo of the entire venue chanting the same line…
“Oceans of emotions we’ve got swim.”
Tears fell straight down my cheeks and I felt my chest tighten.
“Well I open my eyes…”
The crowd were a messy swarm.
“I can’t see that family, I can’t see that home…”
The build up signalled from the sliding guitar.
“So I’ll just keep them closed.”
And I was a goner.
Before performing their final song, Pat took another brief moment to talk about mental health, saying that we had to lift ourselves up. And I was grateful. Not just because I knew which song they were going to close with. But because I needed someone to tell me that I was going to be okay; that I could lift myself from the dirt and find a way back to my old self.
“Goddamn! He said, I promised myself I’d never feel this fucking way again.”
A month before Sound and Fury, I hit the absolute lowest point of my life. I was feeling the full weight of all my losses: my father, my mother, my home. I lacked any remote sense of purpose or worth. I was constantly unsure about who to turn to for guidance, advice, or support. And then there was the guilt of having to ask my friends for help. It was the loneliest I had ever felt. Nothing could bring me comfort or ease of mind. I found myself moving persistently: jigging my knee (even when I wasn’t listening to anything), pacing the cold kitchen tiles, brushing the knots from my hair.
I lingered through an empty house until I grew tired. I sat at the kitchen table staring at an empty vase, until I thought I’d found a way out. It was a door I’d contemplated opening many times before, but never this honestly. I made my decision, unable to see how anything in my life could improve.
I awoke the next morning, unexpectedly. Still fully clothed. I dragged myself to the shower and stood under the water for longer than usual. Everything hurt. Sitting on my bed still wrapped in my towel, a friend called – checking in. My throat ached and it felt difficult even to say ‘hello’. I was ashamed to tell him what had happened. And when he arrived at my front door, my guilt grew tenfold. An hour later I was admitted to the Peter Alexander Hospital.
As the band continued playing, I felt the most powerful ache in my chest. It was an unfamiliar hurt and one that was hard to bare.
“In this world, they choose to see me, they choose to see me like a setting sun.”
I looked to Courtney on my right.
“So it’s up to me, I have to see me, I have to see me like a rising one.”
Then to Jennifer, Sabrina, and my other friends to the left.
“Born this way, die this way.”
Pat took a breath from the microphone as the moody bass lines took over to infect the crowd. Again, the ocean of bodies became unsteady. We watched from the safety of the balcony, as people mounted the waves in attempts to reach the shoreline. And as the gentle tapping of symbols sounded louder and louder, we heard echoes of the incoming cry.
“I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.”
My voice was giving out, but the words kept coming.
“…so you can watch me…”
Fists flew up harmoniously.
“Watch me rise, with the things we carry.”
And that’s when I felt my pain morph into something else. Something warm and soothing.
“So I say to the slaves of depression: carry on…”
Witnessing a venue full of people, collectively shouting those words made me want to cry, and I had no strength left to turn the feeling away.
“…and sing the sweet, redeeming song about living this life free and long.”
As the tumbling drums teamed with Pat’s passionate voice, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with exhaustion. I had experienced almost an entire spectrum of feelings in one set and I was very unprepared for any of it.
“WATCH ME, WATCH ME, WATCH ME RISE…”
And there I stood, reignited.
Friday 12th of July – Sound & Fury Day One
After stuffing ourselves with burgers, sides, and endless cups of pink lemonade at Veggie Grill, the crew decided to hit the one and only Donut Friend. I had been a long-time Instagram follower and was incredibly excited to get my hands on one of their punk/hardcore inspired sweets. A few blocks later, we were all standing in front of a glass cabinet, consumed by the smell of sweet dough, ogling the beautiful array of options. The Fudgegazi and Javabreaker were serious contenders from their names alone. But in the end I settled on the Polar Berry Club, which I shamelessly devoured. The staff smiled at us and acknowledged our Australian accents. We smiled in return and told them we’d be back.
We arrived at The Belasco, unexpectedly greeted by one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen. Around every corner was yet another street-long lineup. We sighed and groaned and cussed, though we only had ourselves to blame. So we joined the queue and began our descent into sun-affected madness.
We made it perhaps an hour in, before Chris and I made an emergency Gatorade trip to the convenience store we had passed on one of the corners. Water was poured over heads, we utilised one another as shade, and at one point there was even a fresh mango being passed around. The admission point was a sight for sore eyes and uncomfortably hot skin.
One Step Closer were the first band I wanted to see for the night and I had arranged to interview them at the fest for my magazine. So I was feeling extra giddy about seeing them live but by the time I reached the Ballroom door, I was turned away by security because the room had reached capacity. I was devastated. And I cursed myself for not having enough confidence to shove people (no rules, everything goes, roller-derby-style) out of my way whilst climbing upstairs.
The rest of the night was a fun-filled blur. I witnessed the sweetest hardcore birthday party during Initiate’s set, where confetti rained across the Ballroom stage. Followed by Ned Russin’s quirky yet totally enticing performance as Glitterer. I finally caught up with OSC, who were some of the loveliest humans I’d ever met! And wondering through the venue, I found the confidence to approach some of the incredibly talented photographers I’d been following online.
Despite having to endure the heat and sweat during Basement as well as Fury, I cemented myself to the railing side of stage. I was hellbent on stage diving for Have Heart and concerned about not being able to reach my spot again. However two songs into their set and feeling like I might genuinely be crushed to death, I bailed. My ribs had been squashed between the railing and the inflicting weight of the crowd, which left me short of breath. So I slipped beneath flailing arms and pummelling bodies; escaping to watch the rest of the set from beside the bar.
Saturday 13th of July – Sound & Fury Day Two
Due to some complications with our Airbnb, Sabrina, Simon, and I moved into The Party House on Saturday morning. This was where the majority of Grub Nation were staying during the Fest. With us three added to the mix, that totalled to something around 12 people in one house. It seemed totally manic for them to invite us in, but they did, and we were grateful.
On day two of the Fest, a bunch of us began the afternoon by heading down to the merch dungeon. I was purchasing some tees for my pals back home when I smelt something slightly sweet, yet sour at the same time. I turned to catch a stranger walking past me, cradling a pickle within a napkin.
‘Weird flex but okay,’ I thought to myself. Turns out that the Run For Cover staff were offering out pickles, like they were free food samples at the grocery store.
We continued migrating from one table to another; sussing merch and pretending not to be starstruck by all the musicians in our unworthy presence. I was contemplating some purchases when I spotted both Pat and Kei behind the Have Heart table. I thought about the adage of ‘meeting your idols’ and how one should never do so. But after some carefully measured contemplation, I decided to approach the table.
Pat smiled as I shook his hand. He asked me where I was from and thanked me for travelling. I told him that HH had saved my life on multiple occasions and he politely declined, instead saying that I had saved myself. We spoke about their final tour across Australia and I thanked him for the reunion. He was humble, well-spoken, and absolutely everything that others said he’d be.
It was almost 3:30pm when I realised that I was going to have to choose between Year Of The Knife and Line Of Sight. Although half the crew charged the main floor to catch YOTK, I recalled how stoked I was on the ‘Dissent’ EP and made my way up to the Ballroom.
Looking around at my fellow Grubs in the room, I could not help from smiling. We were all buzzing and as soon as LOS opened their set, I felt the comfort and safety of the room engulf me. Vibing the youth crew sounds of ‘Raze’, I moved into the middle of the room and two-stepped for the first time in the entire Fest.
Moments after Ekulu’s first song, I jumped down from the seating booth where I had been standing for a better view, and raced downstairs for Inclination – the band I was most excited to see on that day. Unfortunately though, the main floor was already packed. From the back of the room, the only Grub I could recognise was Jack – his height giving him away. As the band opened with the title track off their latest EP, someone cartwheeled straight off stage and into the crowd.
“I fucking love hardcore, let’s do this shit.”
The room erupted into a pit of erratic movement. I maintained my space in front of the bar, waiting patiently for my favourite song. When a blow-up dolphin emerged on stage (a leftover pool toy from the Drain set), a bunch of phones shot up into the air, including my own. It was an obscenity only S&F could produce.
When I recognised the rolling drums of the band’s self-titled track, I quickly moved forward ahead of some other bystanders. My heart thumping, I prepared myself for the lyrics I had been so keen to hear.
“Nothing realer than finding your kind.”
A few years back, I lost my strength, my direction, and my sense of self. Unable and unwilling to deal with my grief, I found myself walking down a path that I didn’t want to walk. It was only after attending a hardcore festival in Melbourne last year, when I found my way back to myself, back to Straight Edge. The fest lead me to re-evaluate the sort of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to live. It was a reminder of what helps me to feel most like myself. And it encouraged me to decide what’s best for me. Not for anybody else. For me, and me alone.
As the song slowed for the final line, Tyler’s voice seemed to resound throughout the venue.
“A drug free proclamation, my straight edge inclination.”
Yelling along and barring witness to a room full of X’d hands thrown up into the sky, I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be.
There were a lot of other memorable moments from the day, including demolishing the best vegan nachos of my life, stage diving to Fiddlehead (a redemption of my failed HH attempt), and witnessing a perilous pit during the iconic air-raid sirens to Vein’s ‘Anesthesia’.
We returned to The Party House at an hour I cannot recall, dispersing to our own comfort zones. Some showered, others raided the fridge, few went straight to bed. Most of us eventually gathered in the living room, beat, spent, and partially broken. Between my bruised ribs, Chris’s royally bunged-up knee, Jack’s broken toe, and Sabrina’s monstrous leg bruises, we appeared the saddest bunch of Australian hardcore kids. Yet the next four hours proved us anything but.
Looking back now, I can hardly recall a single, cohesive conversation. What I remember distinctly, is the way that I felt. For hours, we talked copious amount of shit, lovingly teased one another, and laughed our godddamn heads off. Simon shared a hauntingly hilarious photo which had us in hysterics for hours, Chanon played some obscene film on Netflix which had something to do with the eggplant emoji, and we contagiously cackled at the magnitude of Sam’s own laugh which still resounds in my mind when I think of her.
It was around 4am when we slowly began descending into slumber. I pulled the blanket up close to my neck and allowed the weight of my exhaustion to shut my eyes. I fell asleep that morning, feeling more at home, more myself, and more loved than I had in years. I was literally surrounded by a bunch of people, whom were mostly strangers until just a few days ago, but now felt like family. It was the most pleasant feeling, that I was not alone.