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Upstate Unity Fest promises a hardcore heaven 

click to enlarge Rochester hardcore punk band Who Decides, pictured above, is one of nine bands performing at Upstate Unity Fest. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Rochester hardcore punk band Who Decides, pictured above, is one of nine bands performing at Upstate Unity Fest.
Despite their geographic proximity and know-nothing outsiders lumping them together as “upstate,” Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse are unique ecosystems.

To wit, try ordering a halfway decent garbage plate outside of the Flower City, or anything but a Sahlen’s hot dog in Buffalo. For better or worse, we do our own things. So, too, is this true in our hardcore punk scenes. The genre has historically been hyper-localized, with each city bringing something distinct to the table.

“I think in Rochester you get this distinctly punk influence, and you could probably attribute that to the Rotcore scene, and the bands that were in that scene,” said Skylar Sarkis, vocalist and guitarist for local hardcore band Who Decides. “Buffalo definitely has a little more heavy sound, of the Terror or Hatebreed variety.”

Sarkis is the organizer of the Upstate Unity Fest, a one-day event on Nov. 12 at the Bug Jar featuring nine hardcore acts, with three each from Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse. The sounds and influences run the gamut, from the full-bore hardcore of Syracuse’s Deal With God to the psychedelia-tinged and phase shifter-heavy tones of Buffalo’s Spaced.

Rory Van Grol, owner of Ugly Duck Coffee, will be playing the event with his band, Coming Down, a fast-paced hardcore quartet with a hefty dose of skate punk vibes à la Agent Orange.

“(This show) is a culmination of where punk and hardcore is at right now in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester, which always has been kind of an outlier,” Van Grol said.

Van Grol sees Rochester’s hardcore scene as being more directly influenced by bands that came out of Washington, D.C., in the 1980s, such as Minor Threat, whereas the sounds of New York City bands such as Born Against and Agnostic Front filtered into Buffalo and Syracuse.

It’s all up to interpretation, of course, and genre die-hards will always be waiting on the sidelines to dish the real story behind each city’s sound. To that end, hit me up, sideliners.

What’s fun for Van Grol is the lineup’s mix of younger bands, such as Rochester’s Coalition or Syracuse’s All 4 All, playing with seasoned musicians.

“Age-wise, I’m not as entrenched in (the hardcore scene) as I once was,” Van Grol said. “I more appreciate it from a standing room viewpoint, and that’s mainly because I have other responsibilities. I will say that hardcore punk will, and always should be, a youth movement.”

Sarkis concurred. He was disappointed that the show has to be for an 18-plus audience due to being hosted at a bar. He was adamant that next time, all ages will be welcome.

Tickets for Upstate Unity Fest are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. For more info, go to ticketweb.com.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.

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