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‘These people look like me’: D-FW hardcore music scene growing more diverse, inclusive

Muñeca  is a North Texas-based hardcore punk band fronted by Latina vocalist Nat Marez. The band is one of many in the local hardcore scene creating a more diverse and inclusive space for fans and musicians.
Savanna Hernandez
Muñeca is a North Texas-based hardcore punk band fronted by Latina vocalist Nat Marez. The band is one of many in the local hardcore scene creating a more diverse and inclusive space for fans and musicians.

In September 2023, Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas was lighted in the colors of the Mexican flag. Mexico’s soccer team was playing against Australia in Arlington that night. But back in Dallas, on Botham Jean Boulevard, local metallic hardcore band Soledad was playing a rowdy set at Black Cat Records.

Jak Davon was at the show. The Mexican-Filipino guitarist watched the all-Latino band perform on the concrete floor of the record shop, realizing something about this band struck a different chord.

“These people look like me,” Davon said. “That’s not something I’m used to, especially in music.”

Davon is in the hardcore punk band Gagging Order. Formed in 2020, the band is part of the growing diversity in a genre historically dominated by white cisgender men. After the pandemic, when live music returned to music venues, hardcore music in North Texas had a new look. Not only were more people of color taking over hardcore spaces, but more women and queer people were fronting bands as well.

“I think every single band that I’m in has more than one person of color, which probably would not have been a thing pre-COVID,” Zach Fleming, a Cuban American and bassist of Gagging Order, said.

Hardcore music emerged in the late ’70s and early ’80s when punk fans began opposing commercial music. Bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat and Gorilla Biscuits, who all had white members, helped put hardcore music on the map. Their crowds were mostly angry white teenagers, and they weren’t always accepting of people who looked different.

“If you looked a certain way, you got moshed on, like if you looked like you didn’t belong,” said Robby Clark, the frontman of Gagging Order.

Moshing, an extreme style of dancing, is part of the hardcore culture. Fans slam into each other, violently creating mosh pits. The dance is supposed to be a form of unity, not conflict. However, Clark said marginalized groups often faced violence at shows.

By the early 2000s, hardcore music began receiving criticism for its lack of diversity and inclusivity. But local bands have noticed a major shift after the pandemic. So why now?

“I think it gets progressive over time and people’s views change,” Clark said. “I really like the fact that we’re in a day and age where they’re not trying to do traditionalism and people are actually trying to think for themselves.”

When Chris Victor started attending local hardcore shows in Dallas over 15 years ago, he didn’t see a lot of Black hardcore fans like himself. He said he felt like an oddball at the time. His Black friends even queried him for going to “crazy white people” shows. Today, Victor is the frontman of True Grit, an outlaw country hardcore band. He’s also the founder of local music blog Bored Magazine, which covers the hardcore scene.

“It brings me so much joy seeing more people of color in an environment like this, it feels like a sea of black kids that I see at shows.” Victor said. “It’s way more diverse now than it was before, and I’m not even talking about just race, but sexuality.”

River Elliott is the bassist of True Grit, but she’s widely known as the frontwoman of local metallic hardcore band Ballista. She’s a black trans woman who’s vocal about trans visibility through her music with Ballista. Last year, Ballista released Trans Day of Violence, an EP that violently speaks out against transphobia and is aimed at anti-trans laws across the country.

“One of the reasons why it’s important to me to be as loud and proud with my trans-ness as possible is because I think it’s important to show the community that we don’t have to be scared of anyone,” Elliott said. “If, through my angry, reactionary death metal lyrics someone, an ally or otherwise, can get a new perspective of how transphobia makes us feel, I think that would be great.”

Another woman in the hardcore punk scene providing a fresh perspective is Nat Marez of the hardcore punk band Muñeca. Marez is Latina and mom to a 5-year-old daughter. The vocalist said that through Muñeca she proves she can pursue hardcore music and provide a good life for her child.

“I always felt out of place in the scene because not many parents are in bands, especially mothers,” Marez said. “Now that I am doing it, it inspires my daughter that she can do whatever she wants, and she tells me how much she loves our band. She even talks about being in a band one day.”

Muñeca uses its music to protest from a woman’s point of view. Its song “Femicide” speaks about sexual violence, fear of men with malicious intentions and uniting women to take these men down.

Muñeca, True Grit and Gagging Order are just a few of the bands in North Texas changing the face of hardcore music. It’s a vibrant scene that’s continuing to evolve and change, and one that Fleming said you can’t find anywhere else.

“When you go to hardcore shows in other parts of the country, it’s not as nearly as diverse as what we have down here,” Fleming said. “You’re not going to see the same mix of people that you would anywhere in Texas, for that matter.”

Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, The University of Texas at Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.