There’s a lot of bad blood in the hardcore scene that encompasses Dallas and Houston, where the members of Machine Gun Romantics came up. The band’s drummer, Alex Hughes, explains that in recent years, some scenesters splintered off to form a “tough-guy” niche, comprising “people who are way into Hatebreed.” Since forming their own cult of machismo, these separatists have been known for bullying the younger generation of hardcore fans, who favor punkier, thrashier stuff “that’s not on the tough-guy realm.” Hughes indicates that if he had his druthers, bands like the Machine Gun Romantics — whose name is a tribute to Bonnie and Clyde — could take the stage at clubs like Fat Cats and Walters without any threat of bottles breaking in the mosh pit. In Berkeley, home of the famous underground punk warehouse 924 Gilman, hardcore is politicized in a different way. Granted, that’s not to say the punks in Texas are all shooting and lassoing each other while those in Berkeley are holding hands and singing a happy “Kumbaya.” But generally speaking, East Bay hardcore bands don’t front like mack daddies or macho dudes, because they’re busy challenging racism or promoting veganism — or, in the case of the Vallejo-raised Filipino band Eskapo, resurrecting the grassroots proletariat movements in the Philippines that ousted Presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada. Deriving its name from the Tagalog word for “refugee” or “escape,” Eskapo is preoccupied with linking the private, intimate forms of escape that abound in hardcore subcultures — like swilling St. Ives while listening to a fast, brutal soundtrack of jagged guitar chords and raucous drums — with a collective desire for emancipation. You can glean as much by listening to the band’s 2004 self-titled EP, which combines confessional songs like “Drunkards’ Ball” (characterized by its Bukowskian hook I drink too much every day, it’s gonna be the death of me) with social-justice anthems like “Manila Sunrise,” which combines Tagalog and English lyrics to illustrate the bandmembers’ sense of dislocation and longing for home.
This year’s Barbaric Fastcore Detonation Fest highlights the enabling and liberating aspects of hardcore, featuring bands like Eskapo and Machine Gun Romantics along with Lords of Light, the Italian group Ohuzaru, and others. What draws these bands together is their ability to rechannel aggression and rage into socially relevant lyrics. After all, anger may be the germinal seed of hardcore, but it isn’t the pinnacle of individual expression or the crowning peak of response. The fest kicks off Friday at 8 p.m. at Burnt Ramen in Richmond (111 Espee Ave.) and continues Saturday at 924 Gilman. Bands start performing at 8 p.m. both nights. Admission costs $7 a show. — Rachel Swan
Super, natural paintings
Yvette Molina‘s intricate, painstakingly detailed paintings of plants and natural scenes have a photographic-realism intensity to them, underscored by their size (Last Light, shown in detail above, is ten feet wide) and by Molina’s work methods — she applies more than thirty coats of paint to aluminum panels to create “a luminous surface that appears to float between the wall and the viewer.” The Kansas-born, European-educated Oakland painter’s work is on display from Friday at Cecile Moochnek Gallery, 1809-D Fourth St., Berkeley. CecileMoochnek.com or 510-549-1018. — Kelly Vance
Spy vs. Spy
Paranoia is never out of fashion, suggests the premise of For Your Eyes Only: Operatives, Surveillants, and Saboteurs in Cinema , a summer series of vintage spy and secret agent movies at the Pacific Film Archive. The retrospective, beginning this Friday with a double feature of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Dr. No, was curated by the PFA’s Steve Seid, who trolled the dark side for such rarities as Tim Whelan’s Q Planes and Michael Powell’s The Spy in Black. For every suave James-Bond-style spy/stud, there seemed to be a dozen grubby characters such as Bruce Dern’s flipped-out Nam-vet terrorist in Black Sunday. The series runs through August 31. BAMPFA.Berkeley.edu — Kelly Vance
Million Dollar Dream’s slogan is “Putting slump in your trunk since 1992.” Now the turf-centric record label and production crew helmed by Nick Peace is bringing the slump to da club. Celebrate Independence Day by celebrating local indie music as longtime local favorites Equipto (Bored Stiff, Horns & Halos) and Mike Marshall (the voice behind Timex Social Club’s “Rumors” and the Luniz’ “I Got 5 on It”) unveil their new record K.I.M. at Blake’s, along with Smoov-E, Pat Rich, Jackpot, Salaz, and Dan K. Harvest. As an added bonus, the legendary DJ Pause will be on the wheels of steel. $10 advance, $15 at the door. For more info: BlakesonTelegraph.com — Eric K. Arnold