Music aside, hardcore is a scene filled with unique personalities. Shows are as much places to meet engaging people as they are to see bands perform. Wilkes-Barre, PA., just two hours outside of Philadelphia, has long been a home to that sort of underground, filled with interesting bands and people. At its height, the area hosted Posi-Numbers Fest and was home to Café Metro and Homebase, small venues perfect for touring hardcore bands. And it’s in Wilke-Barre where I first met David Foster.
In typical fashion, I was in a touring band who needed a show and I happened to reach out to his buddy, Bobb Mac. We played a show at Café Metro and were immediately struck by how inviting Bobb and David, and their scene at large, were. We ended up playing shows with Frostbite and Cold World, and came to look forward to seeing those guys whenever we were out.
The relationship maintained even when David moved down to Richmond, where he lives today. And like some in hardcore but few in general, David’s laid down a unique path for himself. He’s a bit of a utility player for Philly/Richmond hardcore bands. He’s a small business owner. And he’s all about living an inclusive life.
Where did you grow up, and what were your first experiences with music?
I grew up in Wilkes-Barre, PA. There a ton of small towns that surround W-B and I lived in a few, but always associated Wilkes-Barre as my hometown. I have relatively young parents who were huge on music. Classic rock was an absolute staple. My step dad was an audio freak. I think our home sound system was nicer than his van. Anyways, we were members of like Columbia House and BMG which were mail-in CD stores. So we'd order CDs all the time and every now and then I got to pick a few for myself. Green Day Dookie was my first choice. I listened to it so much that the gold ink on the disc wore off. One of my first concerts was KISS in full makeup in Philly. I was very into music.
How did you first find hardcore music?
My musical progression was pretty in sync with everyone that grew up in the late '90s. I started with alternative radio rock and then got into radio punk (Green Day, blink-182), then into Epitaph punk like Pennywise, Rancid, Suicide Machines, and NOFX. So my iconic life-changing moment came in 1998, I was a freshman in high school. I skateboarded and there were about four total skaters in my entire school, so we were tight. One of them was three years older than me, and he'd occasionally drive me to school. One afternoon in his shitty white Jetta he handed me the first Kid Dynamite CD, and said, "You like punk, right? Jam on this." The first song blew my fucking mind. The "YEAHHHHHH" at the end was bone-chilling but so fucking real. I felt it. I loved how Kid Dynamite could be so abrasive and in your face and then immediately catchy and very much in tune with the pop-punk that I'd already loved.
From that moment I started seeking out anything I could get my hands on and was fortunate to find out there was a huge punk/hardcore scene literally in my backyard. Venues like Cafe Metropolis and Homebase had shows almost every weekend. My first acknowledged punk show was a local band Bedford and Stutterbum. My friend got his teeth knocked out at that show. Next time I saw Bedford they threw out toothbrushes. I think the first real hardcore show I went to was Nerve Agents and No Justice at Homebase. I really could write like an essay on getting into hardcore.
So I learned how to play bass, and a few neighborhood kids and I started a "punk" type band. There was some embarrassing stuff thrown in there for sure, lots of covers, lots of bad ones. But we played all the time. Like when everyone was getting into drinking and smoking pot, I was trying to learn all of Dude Ranch. We commingled on a few hardcore bills and eventually someone just invited me out for pizza. Pizza night at Rodanoss was a big thing in the Wilkes Barre hardcore scene. Rob Stitzer introduced me to Dan Mills and Bobb Mac. I was 15, wearing a Good Riddance shirt, and extremely nervous. Pretty sure it was Dan that said to me, "What's up man? Are you straight edge?" And from that point on I was straight edge, and fully invested into the Wilkes-Barre hardcore scene.
Explain the your involvement with the Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia scenes.
So from that point on, I was all in. Because I played bass, I immediately started jamming with all the music dudes. That's how I met True Identity and eventually started playing bass for them. Those bands played in Philadelphia pretty regularly. Either that or we'd just go there for shows. I can't even count how many times we would road trip to Philly for American Nightmare shows or whoever wasn't coming to W-B. Almost everyone from Wilkes-Barre moved to Philadelphia for college in 2002. I was a year late to the party but moved down there right in time for Blacklisted to start, a band that ultimately changed my life. I enrolled at Temple University to try and keep up with my friends but that was a total waste of time and $30,000 (I just paid those loans off this year). I became the band’s roll dog, doing merch and just rolling for almost every show. While living in Philly, I was asked to help start a new band with other Wilkes-Barre dudes because three of us lived in Philly. That would be Cold World. I later played in Blacklisted on and off for a few years as well.
What bands have you been in?
- Obsoleete: (yes spelled wrong) I played bass and sang. Pretty much a Blink-182/Green Day cover band, 1997-2000(?).
- True Identity: Wilkes-Barre Hardcore, 2000-2002 (my tenure).
- Shafepunch: pre-Frostbite, started kind of as a joke, got sorta real.
- Frostbite: started the band and played all the way through. Missed shows my senior year of high school because I was grounded.
- Cold World: played on the first two 7"s. My last show was Posi-Numbers in 2005. I moved to Los Angeles about two months later and they started playing again with my man Derek Scace on bass.
- Strength for A Reason: kind of fill-in?
- Blacklisted: joined around the …Beat Goes On era. Left for a while. Rejoined on guitar (first time I played seriously) around the Heavier than Heaven… release in 2008.
- Gypsy: started in 2009 when I moved back to W-B for a year. One of my favorite bands I've been in with my best bud, Alex.
- Bracewar: been in the band since 2016-ish.
- Filled in most recently for Down to Nothing.
What is the most interesting place that hardcore has taken you?
Just recently played Bogota, Colombia and Mexico City. Pretty phenomenal. We travelled to these amazing pyramids like an hour outside of Mexico City and we (Down to Nothing) were all just freaking out that hardcore brought us here. Absolutely insane. Also Japan and Australia/New Zealand are incredible.
Are there any spots that you look forward to getting to on tour?
I honestly don't tour that much. I've done maybe three weeks total in the last year. If my friends are gonna be there, I'm stoked. I love going to Los Angeles, Philly, and Atlanta.
Who’s the craziest/funniest person you’ve toured with?
I've been around some great people on tours. The shows that Bracewar have done have been great, being around Ryan and Rashod is pretty hysterical. The recent DTN trip was an absolute blast. I've been friends with them for a long time and I laughed myself to tears more than once.
Where has your commitment to fitness come from?
My commitment to fitness started when I moved to Richmond in 2006. Really I was just trying to keep up with all of my friends here. Everyone was in shape, training Muay Thai or jiu-jitsu, or actively playing sports. I got into weightlifting and it just kinda stuck with me. I always clowned CrossFit and the whole idea of it, until I actually worked out with legit athletes at a legit CrossFit gym. It all made sense. Just like any "cult" type movement, there are corny people or things involved, but the gym I go to is very straight forward and I actually have learned a lot about my body and strength from the trainers there. My goal with fitness is to be athletic, agile, and prepared for pretty much whatever. I feel like what we do helps me accomplish that. Whenever I travel I typically incorporate my rest days into that time but I've been known to do some body weight type stuff at a venue. Push-ups, air squats, crunches, jump rope. Easy to do stuff on the road.
Why did you decide to move to Richmond? How was the transition from Pennsylvania to Virginia?
Richmond made sense. I had a ton of friends here, most of them straight edge and I loved the city. It never felt too overwhelming or outside reality. I lived in Los Angeles for a year before moving to Richmond actually, and I never felt like I could get ahead. My support group in Richmond really made the move easy. I immediately felt at home.
How did United Blood come about? Any bands in particular you’re most proud of having on the fest?
UB was basically an extension of Posi-Numbers Fest, a show I grew up looking forward to and planning around. Man I remember listening to demo tapes in a basement with a group of friend and the main promoter, Bobb Mac, picking out favorites and deciding who to ask play. I had very light experience in booking shows but doing a "spring break" fest in Richmond made sense geographically and scene-wise. Richmond always had a very strong hardcore scene, and I knew that alone could support the show. It started small, with friends’ bands and acquaintances I had made over the years. It grew into something very cool, organically. Floorpunch was one of the best sets at any UB. Also Agnostic Front. Plenty of great, great people and bands. I'm always in awe of the support UB gets.
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What goes into the planning for United Blood every year?
Man it gets harder and harder. A lot of time effort and energy for sure. Ryan Wall and I are the main promoters, and Ace Stallings helps out a lot with the social media aspect. Every year I'm stoked with what we've done and really I just want everyone to have a good time. We try to book bands we love, exclusively.
How did the idea for High Point Barbershop come together?
I had an idea to open a barbershop about eight years ago when I moved home to Wilkes-Barre (when Gypsy started). It came from the experiences I had at the local old school Italian shop, Sartorio and Sons. I loved everything about it, the shit talk, the rapport, the sports. I had to shelve the idea for a few years and then I went full swing into it around 2011. Only problem was I had no idea how to cut hair at all. Seemed cool so I immediately sought out an apprenticeship and did everything I physically could to learn the business, trade and industry. In that process I met a few other likeminded individuals in Richmond and we decided to team up to make it happen. High Point opened in September of 2014 and we just opened a second location in June of 2017.
What’s been your experience as small business owner?
The most rewarding experience I've had thus far has been teaching other people how to excel in this trade. I'm by no means an expert, not even close, but I can proudly say we've employed nine people, most of whom had little to no experience inside of a barbershop, and everyone is fucking excellent. In three years we've had zero turnover. It's unbelievable to think that I, in some way, have changed a few people's lives. I'm proud of everyone at the shop.
What, if any, are the connections between the shop and your life in the hardcore scene?
Man the connections are endless! Both of my front desk managers come from the hardcore scene. Scott plays in Naysayer and JR grew up in the Long Island punk/hardcore scene. At least half of the barbers are hardcore kids to some extent. I think it helps the business stay consistent. We come from a similar place and in most cases see things/experiences/people from a similar perspective.
Who are some of the more interesting people to come into the shop?
We have people from all walks of life come into the shop. Judges, doctors, musicians, tattoo artists. It's really cool to see one place full of so many different people. But when they're in the chair, covered with a cape and getting their haircut, everyone's the same. Doesn't really matter what they do. Except when the Governor came in and had people all around him talking the whole time. It was obvious he was on a different level. I've cut an NFL players hair, we've had an NBA player in. I guess it's really hard to pick out a specific person.
David said at the Brooklyn show of the Life and Death tour that it’s more important for Down to Nothing to be seen as an anti-racist band than as a straight edge band. As a Virginian, what was the impact of the situation in Charlottesville on you?
I loved hearing David say that. To be honest, my choice to be straight edge has no impact on anyone else in this world except me, maybe my family. But it does matter how I view this world and the humans that live in it. There is absolutely no place in this world for racism. In the grand scheme of life, what someone does at a show, who's dating who, what shirt ripped off what, none of that shit really matters in the world. But the type of person you are, your honest beliefs and values, those things are embedded in all aspects of life. They matter. Be a good fucking person. Show compassion to everyone.
Any newer bands you’ve been listening to that are worth mentioning?
I really dig what I've been hearing from Candy, a newer band from Richmond. Higher Power isn't really a new band but I'm hyped on them after the Life and Death tour. Right up my alley. It's not a new band but I'm stoked on the new No Warning record. Again on the Life and Death tip, Vein is a pretty exciting band to watch. I think they have a record coming out soon?