Tour_Poster

Looking back on the STRIFE Australian Tour of 1998.

The year was 1998 and the hardcore world was abuzz with the new sound being ushered in, largely by the Victory Records big four; Integrity, Snapcase, Earth Crisis and Strife. This “new school” sound marked what many perceived as a natural progression in style from the dominance of the Revelation Records bands from the era previous, as the music got faster, heavier and much more technical in playing ability.

While some embraced this new sound with open arms, many traditionalists strongly opposed the “new school” uprising. One band who managed to transcend this division by retaining a traditional hardcore sound mixed with a straight edge approach and a touch of the modern flavor, was STRIFE out of Los Angeles, California.

Having debuted their acclaimed “My Fire Burns On” 7 inch on the New Age label, it was the band’s debut full length, “One Truth” on the Victory Records label that really got a lot of people talking. In 1998, at the height of their popularity, STRIFE would release their follow up full length “In This Defiance” again on Victory Records and announce they would be hitting the shores of Australia soon after in the month of March.

In the years previous, NYHC legends Sick Of It All made their inaugural journey out to Australia in 94 and again in 97, as had H20 and Agnostic Front. These were the first real American hardcore bands to acknowledge the existence of a hardcore scene in Australia. While still largely underground in nature, the hardcore scene in Australia was definitely healthy and growing by the month, largely in the capital cities of the East Coast. Sydney had Toe To Toe, Melbourne had Mindsnare and Adelaide, Force Fed 9. These bands had inspired the next generation to form, with the likes of Drawback, Straight To A Tomb, Ceasefire, FMD, Not For You, Ultimatum, Within Blood, Grim Reality, Embodiment 12:14 and Day Of Contempt growing in strength and stature in their respective hometowns.

I recall being pretty thrilled to read on the tour poster that Strife would be not only playing the Iron Duke Hotel as expected, but also a show at Caringbah Bizzos, both of which were a short drive for me to witness. The initial show flyer for the Iron Duke show was pretty terrible, Dan Phelan from Ceasefire thought so too, and offered to redesign something more suitable. Check out the contrasting two flyers below.

Strifeflyer2

Strifeflyer1

The first show of the tour kicked off in Sydney on a Thursday night the 26th of Feburary on the eve of the 98 Superbowl at the Iron Duke Hotel. The place was packed to the brim. A large contingent of Kiwis from the Auckland area made the journey over the ditch, as Strife weren’t touring New Zealand on their southern journey and Kiwi band Balance were a part of the Superbowl lineup that year. Up front for most of the bands on the bill, the pit action escalated when local favourites Toe To Toe took to the stage. Adopting the new style of moshing/ kung fu fighting that was currently gaining popularity in the US, arms began windmilling and swinging, until TTT frontman Scott lashed out with a kick to the head to one of the Kiwis, to settle things down. The exchange after the song can be heard on the video below, as Scott talks about “nipping that shit in the bud”. Toe To Toe always stepped up a gear when they played with a touring band, and they really raised the bar that night.

The mood was dripping with anticipation for Strife to play. This was later era of the Iron Duke Hotel, when owner Mark Erber had decided to jazz the stage up with the awful silver reflective backdrop. He had also taken it upon himself to introduce headlining bands on stage and I’m pretty sure he did so for Strife to a chorus of jeers and boos from the crowd. Fuck knows how he got Rick Rodney to wear an Iron Duke shirt on stage. The guy was something else. There were a lot of excited people in the room waiting for them to hit the stage and they sure weren’t disappointed. That was easily one of the craziest shows I witnessed in the Iron Duke Hotel era, the place was packed and the crowd went crazy. Even frontman Rick Rodney remarked on that show in an interview I did with him. He said it reminded him of a hometown show. Although they didn’t play “Arms Of The Few” the fastest, ball tearer of a track off “One Truth”, Strife left me overly satisfied and I couldn’t wait to see them again.

StrifeIronDuke3

StrifeIronDuke2

StrifeDuke1

*Strife at The Iron Duke

Later in the tour, Strife played a midweek show at Caringbah Bizzos with Ceasefire and For and Against. After playing a full house at the Iron Duke a few weekends beforehand, I expected the small downstairs room (this is pre-renovation) to be packed to the rafters. Including support band members, there was lucky to be 40-50 people in the room. The lack of people in attendance didn’t seem to bother Strife too much, putting on a thoroughly entertaining show. At times I had to pinch myself, it was like Strife were playing a private set in my own bedroom. I had a setlist from the show, written on the inside of a VB beer carton that got misplaced from moving house over the years. I always thought it pretty ironic that perhaps one of the biggest straight edge bands of the time were having to resort to using a beer carton to write a setlist on, this didn’t really surprise me given the location of the show. Then again, maybe it was a sign of things to come.

StrifeBizzos1

StrifeBizzos2

*Strife at Bizzos

I hounded Strife frontman, Rick Rodney for an interview during the show and afterwards as well. I think in the end, he agreed to do so just so I’d leave him alone. So we sat down on the steps at Bizzos and I pressed record on my tape recorder. Also present during the interview was Ceasefire drummer Matt, who was also a huge Strife fan. The interview is featured below. Looking back on it, serves as a reminder for me as to how obsessed the hardcore scene was about bands selling out and moving to bigger labels. I learnt some pretty interesting things about Rick Rodney that night and he also introduced me to one of my all time fave bands, Hot Water Music. Read it below and you’ll see what I mean. This appeared in the first issue of Renew fanzine.

StrifeAdl

StrifeAdl2

*The Adelaide shows were also booked with the Satanic Surfers from Sweden, as the dates of the two tours clashed. That is a young Ben Coyte (Day Of Contempt/InTrenches) singing along in the top pic. Photos courtesy of Rachel DeCean.

There were some pretty strange shows booked on that Strife tour, my mind boggles that anyone in Coffs Harbour, Noarlunga or Wagga in 1998 knew who or what Strife were, but yet they were booked to play there. Although hardcore had gained a solid footing in the capital cities and had finally broken away from the punk scene, it was still very much localized to areas like Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong within NSW. This was pre-BBHC (Byron Bay Hardcore) and there was a great northern divide between Newcastle and Brisbane really with next to no hardcore scenes in between, which posed a problem for touring bands. The Gold Coast sometimes worked for tours, depending on the profile of the touring band. You’ve got to keep in mind hardcore in Australia was really less than a decade old back then and still very much an underground scene. What I found pretty cool was that at later shows Strife always wore merch from bands they played with on their tour. In Adelaide Rick was in an Embodiment shirt (this was pre the 12:14 suffix) and in Newcastle, guitarist Andrew Kline was in an Ultimatum tee. It was kind of like one of the biggest bands in hardcore were endorsing the Australian hardcore scene.

StrifeNewy_bar_On_The_Hill

*Strife at the Bar On The Hill in Newcastle. Rick told Luke Dolan  that Arms Reach reminded him of Infest. Photo courtesy of Alexander Sutherland.

Late in the tour, Strife returned to play the Iron Duke Hotel again on the 13th of March, a Saturday night some two weeks after their original show. In all they played 3 shows at the Iron Duke on that tour, definitely overkill for the size of the scene at the time. Having taken photos of the first show, I decided to film this one and secured a spot up front, the footage is below. Not many people showed up in comparison to the first show and it was a bit of a weird vibe. It was almost as if Rick didn’t acknowledge they were playing to a crowd until mid-set when he released that people knew the words to songs and started handing out the mic. The Ceasefire guys were in attendance and kept the show lively as can be witnessed in the footage below. Pretty sure they also played again that night too from memory.

Below is the RENEW interview I did with Rick Rodney..

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