To say that this year’s Sound and Fury Festival was bittersweet would be an understatement. By now we know the all too familiar story of live music’s absence due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the shared disappointment felt by both bands and fans alike. With the festival undergoing a two-year hiatus, fans eagerly awaited the return of their beloved hardcore festival. For many on the West Coast, and specifically Southern California, Sound and Fury is the largest convergence of hardcore music and culture in a region that is often underserved in terms of dedicated festivals centered around this subgenre of music.
This year, Sound and Fury’s triumphant return took place at a far larger venue than ever before. Held at Los Angeles’ Exposition Park, the event boasted an expansive lineup of 30-plus acts that not only featured some of the genre’s most seasoned and accomplished acts (Terror, Gods Hate, Drug Church, Angel Du$t) but also reflected the current state of hardcore — one that’s grown exponentially since the 2019 festival. Even in the midst of a pandemic, hardcore felt like it was at its most fruitful and evolved state while going through a major resurgence, which signaled that the genre was beginning to experience its next major crossover.
Breakout acts included bands such as Anxious, Koyo, Zulu, Scowl, No Pressure and One Step Closer, who wear their influences on their sleeves but push the genre forward in exciting and progressive ways, all of whom performed at this year’s festival. Notably, hardcore began to diversify and hone in on the importance of representation with powerful POC-led groups, female-identifying front persons and groups that echoed the sentiments of meaningful change and action.
2022’s Sound and Fury felt like the true embodiment of the new face of hardcore, with all walks of life in attendance, showing that hardcore at its roots is for everyone and will continue to be a safe, welcoming space for all. What’s more, hardcore will continue to grow and evolve while defying any exclusivity or pretentiousness that was often present in the past.
Additionally, Sound and Fury was co-presented by Brain Dead, an alternative streetwear brand that’s at the forefront of the intersection between music, skateboarding, fashion and high art. Fans lined up in droves to secure festival-exclusive merchandise at their impressive pop-up shop on the festival grounds. In addition to the shopping experience, crowd-goers were also treated to a traveling arcade experience courtesy of Brain Dead, which boasted several video game machines that allowed everyone a chance to join the fun.
Significantly, there was an abundance of celebrations, rebirths, and somber goodbyes. On one hand, many in attendance and onstage basked in the return of a beloved music festival and live music in general, but on the other hand, it was impossible not to celebrate how amazing it was to see hardcore at such an elevated state. Many bands were given the opportunity to play in front of some of the largest crowds they’ve ever seen, paired with the genre’s recent uptick in popularity and exposure to a broader audience.
It was of course heartwarming to see the reunion of two of the festival’s most left-field groups — Superheaven and Pity Sex — both of which play a blend of shoegaze and ‘90s-tinged grunge, a stark contrast to the heavy majority of acts, who abruptly disbanded in the mid-2010s. Despite the sonic shift, both bands were warmly received and put on emotionally driven sets that clearly show that neither has missed a beat.
In the midst of reunions came a somber goodbye to one of the genre’s brightest groups, Gulch, who announced that Sound and Fury would be their final West Coast show. Fittingly, they closed out the two-day festival on Sunday night with a visceral, chaotic set that sent seismic waves across the festival grounds. Gulch played their set harder than ever knowing that it would be their last, and the thousands of fans didn’t take the moment for granted, with a sea of crowd-surfing, mosh pits from every direction and extreme stage-diving. Gulch showed that you can go out with not only grace and style but most certainly a massive bang.
As the festival came to a close, it truly felt like the hardcore community was a part of something bigger than the music. It’s safe to assume as people made their way back to their cars and proceeded on the commute home that they would be left with lasting memories and immediate anticipation for what next year’s festival might bring. One thing is for sure: Sound and Fury is here to stay, and one can only imagine the heights it will reach in the years to come. —Alessandro DeCaro