“The Godfathers of Hardcore” is the captivating story of guitarist Vinnie Stigma and vocalist Roger Miret of the hardcore punk band Agnostic Front as told by filmmaker Ian McFarland.
“That’s the sound of New York baby!” uttered by Vinnie while walking the streets outside of his home, could easily be an alternate title for this documentary. One of the greatest aspects of this film is getting to see how the history of Agnostic Front intertwines so much with the history of the lower east side of New York. Drugs, gangs, and a neighborhood full of crime paved the way to the loud lyrics and heavy guitars Agnostic Front has become known for. “If we were from anywhere else I don’t think we would’ve had that edge.” It’s hard to argue with Miret on that statement. Archival footage of the band playing on tiny stages full of sweat and slam dancing coupled with old interviews of fans in the scene describe how societal norms shaped the underground hardcore movement.
Much of the film focuses on the separate lives of Vinnie and Roger. Vinnie has managed to live in the exact same apartment his whole life and by the way, he greets nearly everyone he passes on the streets, it shows. He delves into how the lower east side has changed in the past six decades. We even get to see him point out where his grandfather’s pigeon coop used to be. He’s got a larger-than-life personality that encompasses the heart of New York and he shows no signs of slowing down. On the flip side, we get to see the difficult past of Roger. Between fleeing Cuba with his family to escape the Castro regime, dealing with an abusive stepfather, and constantly moving as a kid, Roger finally found comfort with the people he met on the lower east side where he would eventually join Agnostic Front. Despite a recent health scare, Miret is enjoying the middle-class lifestyle in Arizona with his wife and three kids while also continuing to tour.
As interesting as these two characters are, the film is not without flaw. The structure of the narrative felt choppy by weaving between present day and random points in the band’s history as well as the back and forth of who the main focus was to be. I would have liked to have heard more of the band’s music playing throughout the storytelling. Instead at times, we are given sad, ominous tones that clash with the heartfelt and often positive nostalgia we are led through.
This isn’t really a documentary that shows how Agnostic Front defined hardcore, but rather how hardcore ties into the journey of two iconic men in that scene. It’s an interesting story worth enjoying.