An Oral History Of The Birth Of New York Hardcore

Members of Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, and more remember Max’s Kansas City. An excerpt from NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980–1990, by Tony Rettman.

The Cro-Mags in 1987. Ken Salerno

The following is chapter 2, “Max’s Kansas City: Punk Thursdays,” from the bookNYHC: New York Hardcore 1980–1990, by Tony Rettman (available Dec. 30, Bazillion Points).

Peter Crowley (talent booker, Max’s Kansas City): The person I’m aware of who first used the word hardcore was a journalist by the name of Pat Wadsley, who worked at the SoHo Weekly News. She wrote a review of the New York rock ‘n’ roll scene that read, “CBGB has mellowed with age. Hurrah is Macy’s punk. Only Max’s remains hardcore.”

Denise Mercedes (guitarist, Stimulators): Max’s is interesting, because when we began playing there fairly regularly and became popular, hardcore slamming didn’t exist. People were just jumping around—I guess they were pogoing. A lot of movement and a lot of energy came out from the audience. Tables and chairs were getting broken. Whenever the Stimulators played, Max’s had to take out all the furniture. I always think that’s a little badge of honor. “The Stimulators are coming! Get everything out of here!” That’s a fond memory for me.

Jack Rabid (editor, The Big Takeover fanzine; drummer, Even Worse): The scene where I really thrived as a full-fledged member was those Max’s Kansas City gigs.

Vinnie Stigma (guitarist, The Eliminators, Agnostic Front, Madball; vocalist, Stigma): I used to play Max’s Kansas City a lot with my band the Eliminators. I hung out at Max’s and ran around with a leather jacket on with no shirt on underneath in the middle of the summer. It didn’t matter! You had to have the leather jacket on! I was a punk rocker.

Richie Birkenhead (vocalist, Numskulls, Underdog, Into Another; guitarist, Youth of Today): Back then, the clubs I used to go to were Max’s, the Mudd Club, and the old Peppermint Lounge. I think Max’s was the first to really have hardcore.

Al Pike (bassist, Reagan Youth; coeditor, Straight Edge fanzine): Max’s had this overpowering darkness. The walls were dark. Seats and tables were pushed to the side. A lot of the loud, fast people hung there.

Keith Burkhardt (vocalist, Agnostic Front, Cause for Alarm): I came into the city from Nutley, New Jersey, and went to Max’s Kansas City. Instead of being at the hole-in-the-wall pizzeria where I worked, now I was at Max’s, where you could run into Mick Jagger or Andy Warhol. There were all these punks. It was a totally surreal scene.
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