Knocked Loose at Coachella.
Four words that sound like something you would dream up after hitting the cheese board just before bedtime. Four words that a few years ago probably wouldn’t have made sense on paper, let alone in practice. But now they are four words that will be uttered by everybody with a passing interest in heavy music for a long time.
But is it fair to call it hardcore’s biggest moment? Most definitely.
Despite its Instagram-ready reputation, Coachella has always been a festival that has musical celebration at its core. Bringing every genre, culture, and creed together under the hot desert sun, it’s a place where individual and unique expression will always sit at the forefront.
Additionally, hardcore has always been about community. Coming together for a bigger cause, standing shoulder to shoulder with like-minded people and letting all the world’s weight wash away via a string of chest-thumping affirmations and razor-sharp riffs. It is music that has saved as many lives as it has changed and will continue to do so until the end of days.
When two worlds like that come together, magic is never far away. And based on what happened when Knocked Loose took to the Outdoor Stage at 8:10 on Sunday, April 16th, that magic was truly palpable.
Opening their set with a new song before tearing into choice cuts from across their blistering career, the band played to a crowd that were very much up for the chaos. No barrier meant that stage-diving was encouraged, with bodies flying into the unknown time after time. Circle pits big enough to swallow the sun repeatedly formed, with vocalist Bryan Garris even explaining candidly how to participate for those unfamiliar with the practice. From the desolating “By The Grave” to the throat-tearing “God Knows”, the belligerent “Deadringer” to the punishing “Mistakes Like Fractures”, the energy never slipped on stage or on the floor. The band putting in the performance of their career, the crowd leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of destructive euphoria. By the time the viral viciousness of “Counting Worms” rounded out proceedings, it’s hard not to surmise this as a truly special not just for the band but for the genre as a whole.
The last few years have seen the rise of bands that cut their teeth in churches and youth centres, receiving critical acclaim on a global scale. Turnstile are an obvious outlier, with 2021’s “GLOW ON” introducing a whole new wave of youth to their hip-shaking grooves at some of the planet’s biggest festivals, culminating in them being announced for Rolling Loud Miami this Summer. Soul Glo and Scowl also performed over the Coachella weekend, bringing their distinctive activism and snarl to all who wished to devour it. Even outside of the hardcore genre, Lorna Shore have burst out of the deathcore bubble, making a triumphant appearance at last Summer’s Lollapalooza. Breaking down barriers and bringing new ears to aggressive sounds in different spaces, what’s not to love about that?
Though for many, there may be trepidation about having such underground sounds being presented on such large stages. That the very essence of what makes these bands and communities special is in the search for it. Uncovering something that speaks to your heart makes you want to delve deeper. Feeling embraced by something for the first time and using it as your reason to get up every day. There may be a worry that those indulging in these bands are doing so for the wrong reasons and that these spaces reserved for compassion and community may be at risk of oversaturation.
But the truth is that having a band like Knocked Loose, a band so unbelievably heavy that it is hard to ignore them, serve as the torchbearers for a new generation is only going to be good news. Having that deliver that message to thousands of people is even more incredible. The catharsis, the guttural force, the unrelenting emotion that they produce, being broadcast from continent to continent.
For those who were lucky enough to be there, it could be a turning point in their musical journey. Rather than just going along to incite mayhem for the thrill of it, they are left with the desire to pursue such animalistic sounds even more. For every punter who just wanted to have a mosh, there is another forever changed by what they experienced at Coachella this past weekend. They have uncovered a whole new world to fall in love with and are diving in as we speak. They are ready to discover a lifestyle and a way of thinking that is unlike any other, and that’s genuinely exciting.
And the same can be said for everyone who also watched the band’s performance on the official Coachella livestream. For every fan watching them deal out their favourite song for the hundredth time, there’s another kid sitting in their bedroom having their mind blown hearing it for the first time, learning that music this unrelenting pulverising actually exists.
Hardcore is for everyone, and everyone deserves to be able to feel the love that it can provide. For such a sound to be projected to every corner of the world and into ears that wouldn’t have heard it otherwise feels like a truly special gift. A chance to share in something extraordinary and to connect on a level with people that you probably never expected to.
That’s why Knocked Loose’s appearance at Coachella was much more than 11 songs being played on the last day of a festival. It was a cultural shift on a massive scale, one that will still be spoken about for years to come, and the effects will be felt for even longer. A unifying, unmatchable, incredible moment for hardcore and for heavy music as a whole. But even more so, a unifying, unmatchable, incredible moment for artistic freedom and expression as well.
As Bryan Garris stated himself, “We are all here for the same reasons, and that’s to have some fucking fun”, and truer words could never be spoken.