Florida’s hardcore punk scene, captured in its crazy glory
via Huck Magazine
For the past three years, photographer Stefano Lemon has been documenting South Florida’s hardcore scene – an underdog movement that refuses to die.
In 2017, when photographer Stefano Lemon found himself at one of South Florida’s notorious hardcore gigs for the first time, he ended up temporarily losing his hearing. However, the short-term impairment did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for the scene he’d accidentally stumbled upon. From day one, he was hooked.
Originally from Rome, Italy, Stefano was in Miami for work – scouting locations for a documentary about its 1950s jazz scene. The days were long and laborious, so when it came to clocking off, he was often in the mood to unwind. Having been brought up on punk rock – “I was the kind of guy who would spend his afternoons strumming his guitar in the garage, imagining I was part of some famous band” – live music seemed like the obvious way to do that.
After a brief stint searching for gigs online, he quickly learned of Florida’s historic relationship with hardcore. Since the ’70s, the state had been home to a wild DIY movement, celebrated for its ability to continually produce quality acts. Generally faster and more aggressive than other forms of punk rock, the genre grew in conjunction with the rise of independent labels that decade, as well as a renewed focus on a DIY attitude in underground music scenes.
Stefano began venturing down to some of the venues he’d read about, where he quickly met key figures from the scene. One of them was a guy named John McHale, who ran Eighty-Sixed Records, an indie label that only released music from local hardcore bands. He suggested that Stefano attend a show at Space Mountain – a small grassroots space in the neighbourhood of Liberty City – where some acts were performing that evening. When he arrived, he found a tiny room full to the brim.
“Each group had approximately 15 minutes to perform,” Stefano says, full of excitement as he recalls the evening. “Everybody brought their own instruments, speakers, props, beers – do it yourself at its finest. But this genre sweeps you in like a hurricane. It’s something so powerful and primeval, it grabs you at many levels. If you are not able to handle it, just stay away. It’s not for everybody!”
His ears still ringing the next day, he knew he had to go back and start taking pictures. The scene he’d witnessed – snarling and full-blooded – was unlike anything else he’d seen before: flailing bodies, drenched in booze and sweat, crashing into each other to the soundtrack of punk at its most brutally high-octane. But despite the intensity of the night, what shone through most for Stefano was the tangible sense of togetherness shared between everybody involved. “It mixes from many different subcultures,” he says. “It’s a beautiful melting pot… a vibrant multitude of outsiders and misfits.”
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