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Pure Disgust live and breathe DC hardcore

Two years after The Sex Pistols first tore out of London, a vortex of sore throats and flailing limbs began to swirl in Washington, DC and punk got serious. Bad Brains started it, Minor Threat blew it up, and in 2016, rising political tensions mean that a new score of exciting new bands are carrying on the tradition. Hardcore punk began as a musical rebellion in the political heart of America, and thanks to bands like Protester, Coke Bust and Pure Disgust, the DC scene continues to swell and grind against the issues that rub the country.

Rob Watson, the frontman of Pure Disgust, is witnessing DC’s return to the forefront of hardcore punk. “DC has always had music and hardcore has always been a thing, obviously,” he tells us. “But I’d say early 2013 is when things started happening that led to the revival that you see today.” Rob’s lyrics carry on the city’s tradition of societal outrage: “When will brown bodies get the respect we deserve?” he howls on album track Slander Me. The song was written in response to a spate of police brutality in America that saw a number of people of colour shot, beaten or otherwise murdered at the hands of US cops. “Bodies are dropping on a daily basis,” Rob reflects. “You have people that think there is no problem with cops in the US. Like it’s normalised or something. It’s fucked and doesn’t seem like it’ll get better in my lifetime which is very unfortunate.” It’s a first-hand fear. “It feels like at any moment your life can be taken away from you and you will be demonised from the jump. I don’t feel safe around police and other authority figures with weapons.”

Rob is one of only a handful of black voices in the hardcore scene, often leaving him feeling displaced and alienated. “[In] punk communities with majority white people it’s hard to feel like you belong. Mostly you have an underlying sense of being tokenised and it’s not a good feeling.” But Rob has found a way to channel those feelings into his music. “It’s my life,” he shrugs. “I just take what’s going on and what I see and put it into lyrics. Each song means something to me personally and isn’t a bunch of bullshit jargon.”

In the wake of their debut album, Pure Disgust are on a high, but Rob knows that this can’t last forever. While there may be one more EP, Pure Disgust will come to an at the end of 2017. “I don’t want to be a band that plays and doesn’t realise when people are getting tired of it. I feel like this timeline is a perfect ending point for the band – and frankly,” he says, with conviction, “I look forward to it.”

Protester / Minor Threat