Bristol drums up punk rock fest

BRISTOL — For one weekend in early July, the town that bills itself as the “Gateway to the Green Mountains” will become the unlikely epicenter of the hardcore punk rock music world.
Twenty bands from around the country are beating a path to Bristol, where on July 3 and 4 musicians will take the stage at the Bristol Hub Teen Center for the “Screaming for Change” music festival.
The music might sound angry, said organizer Ryan Krushenick, but it’s anything but.
“All the music is kind of loud, aggressive music, and if you didn’t know what you were listening to you’d probably think it was really negative,” Krushenick said.
Think again. Krushenick, the 25-year-old program director and substance abuse coordinator at the Hub, handpicked the bands that are appearing in the festival, and said all have uplifting messages woven into admittedly quite loud, angry-sounding songs. Several sing about leading drug-free lifestyles, and Krushenick hopes teenagers will see the musicians as positive role models who still fit the “cool” mold.
“Kids emulate a lot of what they see and what they feel is cool,” Krushenick said. “It’s really hard to put something in front of a young teen that has a positive message but doesn’t come off as a patronizing or condescending.”
Krushenick hopes that local teens will turn out for the festival, now in its second year, but also expects that hardcore punk fans from around New England will make their way to Bristol for the event. Their favorite music doesn’t get much airtime on the radio, Krushenick explained, and the Bristol festival will feature some of the biggest bands in hardcore punk, like Boston-based Bane.
Krushenick’s own band, Unrestrained, will also be playing at the festival. He credits hardcore punk for giving him direction as a teenager, and steering him clear of drugs and other destructive behaviors.
It’s also Krushenick’s close ties to the punk rock community that helped him pull together the event. He regularly books bands for Burlington venues, and because he’s toured with his own band he’s used to booking shows and making sure events fall into place. Later this summer, he and Unrestrained leave for an eight-week tour throughout Europe. They planned the tour without an agent, manager or record label.
Because the genre flies under the radar of most popular music, Krushenick said, bands get used to the “do it yourself” approach to the business. That also means bands don’t expect to make much, if any, money on their gigs. In the case of the “Screaming for Change” festival, Krushenick will divvy up ticket sales to help defray bands’ costs of traveling to the event.
The Hub also received an $800 grant from Bristol Friends of the Arts, which means the Hub will be able to cut checks to the bands for gas money.
Every little bit helps. Even if bands don’t make money, Krushenick said it’s not hard to come close to breaking even. For instance, on the European tour he expects each band member will foot the bill for $300 or $400 all together — which isn’t bad for a trip across the continent, he said.
Back in Bristol, all of the bands will play in the indoor half-pipe at the Hub, and Krushenick said the music would wrap up by a firm deadline of 10 p.m. on both nights as a way to respect neighbors’ peace and quiet.
Admission will be $20 for July 3, $15 for July 4 or $30 for a ticket to both days of the event. Bristol residents under the age of 18 will get in free both days.
Bristol teens will also receive guidance from staff before the event so they’ll know what to expect at the concert. They’ll receive ear plugs for ear protection, and learn about “mosh etiquette” in the mosh pits, the no-holds-barred dancing area popular at these kinds of events.
Krushenick’s excited to be bringing such a major music event to Bristol. Concerts on this scale rarely happen in Vermont, he said, and when they do they tend to land in Burlington. Bristol teens don’t always have the money or means to make it to those events, and this time it will be Burlington kids coming to Bristol instead of the other way around.
He hopes the event will become an annual one, and next year would like to get Hub kids more involved in picking and inviting bands. As it is, several Hub teens are already volunteering at the event, and will get to hang out backstage in the band room.
Krushenick also appreciates the chance to show Bristol a glimpse of a music scene not often seen in the small town.
“(Hardcore punk) is a genre that all too often gets a negative rep, but this music could not be more positive,” Krushenick said.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at [email protected].

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