Oakland’s Punk and Hardcore Scene: A Raw and Supportive Underground Community

Eloise Murray

Eloise Murray
Staff Writer

Locals came to the Oakland Metro
Operahouse to support the punk and
hardcore music scene, while hundreds
honored The Misfits nearby.

Diving off a three-foot high stage and falling through two rows of local music supporters onto the beer, blood and sweat soaked floor, you find yourself only to be swept up by a complete stranger in less than a split second.

Oakland’s punk and hardcore scene displays an example of the raw companionship existing in the community near the Oakland Metro Operahouse. On Saturday, Nov. 16, a group of less than 100 fans supported their local and underground music scenes in the venue’s smallest show room, while hundreds of screaming fans honored well-known horror punk band The Misfits next door.

The independent stage had local Oakland-based bands Fucktard and Ghoul play with Amsterdam-based band Vitamin X, with two members from Oakland and San Francisco Conquest for Death as a part of Tankcrimes “Been Called Worse: 10 Years of Perseverance and Loud Noise” event.

All of these bands’ music derives from the punk rock and heavy metal sub-genres hardcore, death metal, thrash metal, and thrash core, as well as incorporating garage and other “mixed metal” genres.

Moira Van DeWalker, a “punk” who lives in Marin County, an area she describes as being full of “organic rich suburban assholes” says she regularly comes to Oakland to see shows, saying here she feels “normal” because people at the Metro and Berkeley’s 924 Gillman accept her.

“Most of the time you see the kids stare at us, it’s just hell,” Van DeWalker said, braving the rain and standing in a line of six to see Ghoul, approximately 200 fewer people than were in the line for The Misfits located on the opposite end of the venue.

Van DeWalker says when she goes to school, people act like she and her friends are a disease, and can’t help but make comments under their voices whenever she walks past, something she doesn’t worry about in the mosh pit.

“This really is home to us,” she added referring to Oakland, not caring that the rain was beginning to drench her roughly cut short bleached blonde hair, leather jacket and cigarette.

“There should be more people from the Bay here,” Van DeWalker added, saying not enough people support the “awesome little bands” from Oakland such as Guantanamo Dogpile, Oppressed Logic, and Zero Bullshit.

Dino Sommese, drummer of Ghoul, who headlined the Nov. 16 event, expressed the importance of this culture saying Oakland is “a really great launching pad for bands on the West Coast.” He says he has been a part of the Oakland scene for 17 years in bands like Dystopia and Asunder.

“Cross punk is usually really big out here and there’s a great doom metal scene, a beautiful death metal scene and hip-hop is still going,” Sommese said, adding how venues such as the Metro are good for the scene because they “hook-up” all the local underground artists with shows.

“Then they need the bigger bands to get through too,” Sommese said, gesturing his head towards the rapidly growing line for The Misfits, “So they can pay their f**king rent.”

Aaron B, all-around volunteer staff member at the Metro who guarded the entrance between the two stages last Saturday says the not-for-profit and all-ages venue aims to accommodate all genres of music to benefit the local community, and to “facilitate everyone’s good time.”

“We all care about each other and will make sure everyone here gets home safely tonight,” B said, over the top of a mixture of punk, hardcore, and thrash pouring out from the smaller stage where Vitamin X encouraged everyone in the grimy, dimly-lit room to “mosh harder.”

Sommese also encourages people to mosh, saying whenever a person launches a stranger into the air or supports a crowd-surfer the community becomes closer.

“This is the most visceral and analog thing you can possibly do,” Sommese said.

“Just unplug for a second and bond with someone you don’t know in a room. People don’t even do that anymore because they’re too busy on their computers and cellphones,” added Sommese, who assertively cursed every few words to make sure his point was made clear.

Ghoul, who perform shows as various alter-ego characters masked in tattered hoods stained with blood, achieved that feeling of community on Nov. 16.

A small, crowded space of individuals screaming, moshing, stage diving and falling into the stage in the muggy and dense, sweat-soaked room gave their all to support their local underground heavy music scene and have a good time.

“I put a hood on my head and can only see from one eye, and the only thing I see is smiles,” Sommese said. “What I attempt to achieve is to let people for one hour forget about how shitty life is, and if I can do that then I’m doing good things.”