[Please read the following paragraphs with arms crossed and a look of grudging approval.]
Owning milk crates full of mint vinyl is one thing, but you gotta experience the culture in a live setting. Close your eyes and imagine with me. Okay, now immediately open your eyes and continue reading. As you make your way into the rank miasma of the punk house basement, you spy wobbly card tables piled high with ephemera. You peep patches (natch), 1" buttons (double natch), records (hand-numbered tour pressing, buy two and flip one on the 'Bay, natch supreme) and, if you're lucky, a "deeply personal" zine about being molested by a cop and a bad recipe for vegan macaroni & cheese.
Peeking around the lanky dudes, you see the singer giving a speech you assume to be about breaking down the boundary between audience and performer, but can't actually hear due to the weak P.A. and the simultaneous feedback of the three guitarists. The band has formed a squashed pentagram facing the drummer. The boundary he spoke of previously was merely talk as the band adopts the Inward-Facing Exclusionary Formation of Emotional Power and you long for that sweaty connection of dudes touching dudes or the hint of the singer's hand-rolled cigarette breath all up in your nose. But soon the guitarists are flailing wildly, their headstocks grazing faces, and the singer is somehow able to both hang from the rafters and flop on the floor at the same time. You definitely get your money's worth (it was a canned food donation).
Donnybrooks and dust-ups at screamo shows are relatively uncommon. Tantrums erupt, scuffing Chucks and ruffling zines, but crowd violence is often turned inward via the self-flagellation of "feelin' it way hard." But don't get too relaxed. See that fat guy in the fitted cap? Yeah, him, over there by the dog wearing earmuffs. He didn't get that particular memo and during the first "fast part" he's going to brachiate across the room using faces as handholds. Just gonna completely wreck that kid who refuses to take his backpack off. You'll make it out alive but leave that muggy basement caked in punk fart effluvia and a nasal cavity that smells like an armpit. Next time, remember you can say "Bounce up off me, bro. This is a show, not a touch."
If you're still reading this, cool, I'm psyched as hell. Can I give you some daps? You should know there's a lot of stuff today that gets mislabeled as screamo (indeed contributing to the death of screamo). Alternative rock, metalcore, and post-hardcore bands like Thursday or Underoath or Chiodos or fuckin' The Used get written into the genre by out-of-touch dweebos in articles for Entertainment Weekly or The New York Times. And while screamo and indeed hardcore and emo are nebulous genres, they're not nebulous enough to allow Bert McCracken entre without first applying the "post" modifier (oh là là, "thinking man's" music, tres chic!) and quarantining him to Post-Hardcore Parish in the ever, ever inclusive State of It's All Just Rock Music, Man.
Queue up some pg. 99 and get knee-deep in it.
Most bands have the decency to not misapply the label to themselves (see: Geoff Rickley of Thursday being a good dude about it), but that doesn't stop the irrelevant from spouting the inane to influence the ignorant and generally being cretinous turds about the whole mess. Also, kids are dumb and they break all of your favorite things. Basically, you could read the Wiki entry on screamo and avoid anything listed therein as "second wave," and you'd be set. Though I say you queue up some pg.99, City of Caterpillar, kidcrash, Raein, The Flying Worker!, Off Minor, etc. and get knee-deep in it. And don't fret too much about the history of the genre: Memories are trash and dumb.
Anderson "ChrisFarley" Cook did all these graphics his damn self; to see more of his artistic stylings, go here.
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