Straight-edge scene in San Bruno

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Straight-edge scene in San Bruno

 (Dean Kevin Santos)

(Dean Kevin Santos)

(Dean Kevin Santos)

(Dean Kevin Santos)

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Dark. Dank. Damp.

A circle pit forms in the middle of the crowd. The band mashes away with their instruments, feeding the crowd with a ubiquitous energy that permeates the room. The audience sings along as they express themselves through a seemingly violent form of euphoric dancing.

This is the underground scene. And not just any underground scene— more specifically, the straight-edge scene. All band members had X’s on their hands. Show organizers put X’s on the hands of underage audience members to let the bar know not to serve them alcohol. But straight-edge people took that symbol as their own as a badge of honor.

“When somebody says, ‘I’m straight edge,’ it means, ‘I’m committed to (a lifestyle) with no alcohol, no drugs,'” says Mike McCormick, the lead singer of the band For a Better Kind.

Skyline student Saul Quiroz, who is straight edge, says it is a form of liberating oneself from the social norms of self-gratification through inebriation and getting high. It is a lifestyle that lets you be yourself without the intoxication of drugs and alcohol.

The subculture started in the ‘80s when the hardcore-punk band Minor Threat came out with a song that coined the term “straight edge.” The subculture grew out of the increasingly hedonistic and excessive use of drugs and alcohol in the punk culture.

The punk roots of straight edge are intrinsically embedded with anti-authoritarian tinges. The straight-edge subculture was a backlash against what was seen as a norm in the punk culture. It used the ideals of punk culture against it, separating from it and creating its own subculture with its own ideals and core values.

These values are self-control, strength, purity, positivity and staying true to oneself. Without intoxicants, one’s mind is left free without any influence.

“It is a lifestyle,” says Skyline student Alex London, who has been straight edge for five years.

London says, “There is a difference between being straight edge and being sober. You can be sober for an indefinite amount of time period. But once you start claiming (straight edge), you are sober for life.”

Some may think of the straight-edge scene as a fad. For those who are familiar with the underground scene, stories of former straight-edge people falling off the wagon, also known as breaking edge, after a certain age is well known.

“Some people get into the subculture in order to fit in to the ‘trend.’ Most of these people end up breaking edge,” says McCormick, who has been claiming edge for almost four years.

“It is something that comes to you rather than something you claim,” says Alex Pena, For a Better Kind bassist.

The contemporary straight-edge subculture is often associated with the underground hardcore-punk and metalcore scene. It is a unifying concept that connects all straight-edge people around the world. The show described in the intro did just that.

“We are all in the hardcore scene because that is where it all comes from,” London said.

We as a society are constantly bombarded by what the mainstream media portrays as an ideal social norm. Glorification of drugs, alcohol and sex is an omnipresent part of consumer media. The straight-edge scene is a mere blowback, a counter-culture that tries to contradict these social norms.

The straight-edge subculture in the Peninsula is concentrated in San Bruno, where a group of friends keep each other true to their beliefs. It’s similar to a support system, in which members influence one another other not to break edge.

The San Bruno underground straight-edge scene is a different variant compared to what is often portrayed in the mainstream media as the “militant” straight edge. All members cited positivity, in separate interviews, as a core value that is important in avoiding the predisposition to be judgmental.

“We have the same interest; we like the same music,” said Dan Swanson, bassist of TopXNotch.

“Myself and my brother were the first ones to start (the scene in San Bruno),” Swanson said.

Back then, there was a big straight-edge influence in the San Jose underground scene. Swanson started listening to underground music and felt the profound connection with the lyrics sung by local straight-edge bands.

Swanson started claiming straight edge in high school and persuaded some of his friends to stay away from the alluring temptations of drugs and alcohol. From then on, people joined and some left. The ones left are the ones staying true, keeping edge.

“Can’t stop; won’t stop,” London said.

When asked about how straight-edge people resist the urge to consume alcohol or use drugs, they all cited their lack of interest.

“It’s like spinach,” Swanson said. “If you don’t like it, you don’t eat it.”