Portrait of a hardcore superbowl

I’ve got bruises, the left ear’s not working so well and I got kicked in the head more than a few times. Shaved heads, smelly mosh pits, testosterone-fueled anger and a whole lot of screaming – what else could you ask for on a Sunday in the nation’s capital?

The 2002 Hardcore Superbowl, held at D.C.’s own Nation Nightclub, brought together punk and hardcore bands from across the country, showcasing them for 10 straight hours on two small stages. Bands such as Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Brace and The Circle Jerks took the stage delivering with raw fury all the intensity of a truly scorned subculture.

Despite a fairly arbitrary performance schedule and a few last-minute cancellations, the evening moved without a hitch, no major injuries and no major delays, an improvement over past years.

The event, a convergence of masses of punks and hardcore kids, is known for wild mosh pits and crazy hardcore antics. Many have argued that its reputation for bloody battle on the dance floor is blown out of proportion. This year it calmed a bit, but this one is still a lot safer from the balcony.

Punk band Murphy’s Law took the evening, displaying a kind of decadence more fitting of Arena Metal bands. The band sped through its punk-rock anthems while swilling beer and smoking pot on stage. Band and fans intermingled on stage screaming together into mics. For the band’s final song, the stage erupted in a fury, as fans stormed the stage filling it beyond capacity. More than a few kids fell off.

Hardcore punk act Agnostic Front payed homage to show headliners The Circle Jerks pausing several times in their fiery set to praise the band. Agnostic Front did their best to whip the crowd into a frenzy playing with hard focused intensity. At the end of their set they were joined on stage by legendary Iron Cross front man Sab Grey for one final sing-a-long tune. The band left the crowd tired, sweaty and aching for headlining act The Circle Jerks.

Also of note was an appearance by legendary punk veterans The Circle Jerks. A seminal group in the early San Francisco punk scene, the Circle Jerks have continued to play over the span of two decades. Despite their senior status, the band was not above reproach, as fans screamed at them to do less talking and more playing. Members of the band took long pauses between each song to add context to their songs, explaining the influences and the bands that inspired them. The band’s punk history lessons were less than appreciated by the extremely anxious crowd.

The Hardcore Superbowl, held for almost a decade in D.C., has been plagued by bad luck in recent years. Last year there were several fights in the crowd. One fight, instigated by a crowd member, began when several performers jumped off of the stage in order to confront a heckler. It was also reported that a firearm was drawn and waved around in a mosh pit. The event was evacuated early because of a stabbing.

But heightened security and the sobering reality that last year’s show went too far kept the crowd in control this year. A sense of unity permeated the crowd from the start. The kids were hitting each other, but it was still all about the love.

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