The band of hardcore veterans are “straight edge” for life — no drugs, drinks or casual sex
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It was a punk show in a basement thrift shop in Fort Collins. An assault of viscerally angry hardcore music. The crowd, though small, careened around the room. One mosher lost his balance and collided with the burly, tattooed lead singer. He seemed to just bounce off.
The band, xDeadBeatx, was playing the metal-infused anthem “My Devotion” — the title track of their 2020 EP. Though the band formed only a few years ago, they have had an outsized influence on the local zeitgeist.
Miguel Walter, a local promoter with Front Range Fury, has watched the hardcore scene wax and wane. A few years ago, it was on the verge of dying out. Now it’s thriving again.
“In the past couple years there’s just been a really sweet resurgence of hardcore music and metal specifically,” Walter said.
He attributes this, in part, to xDeadBeatx. The band is a supergroup of hardcore veterans from all around the country. Their music is both precise and aggressive. However, the band’s main goals from the outset have been to have fun and foster a more connected local scene. Billy Fabrocini, xDeadBeatx founder and guitarist, also runs the DIY record label Hardcore in the Fort. Under the name, he books hardcore shows and records demos in his basement.
“When I moved to Fort Collins, I didn’t want to have to drive to Denver to go to hardcore shows,” he told BandWagon. “Now people will drive up here to go to shows. That’s what DeadBeat was always about. DeadBeat was about showing people, ‘yeah, we can do it ourselves. We can do it here.’”
In addition to being a hardcore band, xDeadBeatx is “straight edge,” a label that arose from the hardcore scene in 1981, after the seminal band Minor Threat released a 46-second track by the same name that disparaged drug and alcohol abuse. Since then, straight edge has evolved, morphed and splintered into its own genre and subgenres. A strict set of ethical guidelines come along with the musical characteristics — no drinking, smoking, drugs, promiscuous sex or addictive behaviors of any kind for life.
Each member of xDeadBeatx has his own reason for embracing the straight edge ethos. Each of those reasons can be traced back to long before the band was founded in 2019.
Lead guitarist Billy Fabrocini first swore away his right to party in his early teens. His family was struggling financially, and moved from hotel room to hotel room in L.A. with the occasional night spent on the street.
“Everyone around me is drunk. Everyone around me wants to take advantage of me. Everyone around me wants to take advantage of my sister. Everybody around me wants to take advantage of my family,” he remembered. “I knew really early on: I’m not gonna drink. I’m not smoking weed. I’m not giving these guys a fucking inch. And it was unfortunately, based in a militarized, like, heightened alert state.”
When a friend made Fabrocini a mixtape of straight edge bands, he knew he had found his scene. The music was angry and loud. At shows, crowd members threw their weight around and dove over each other to shout into the mic in “gang piles.” When his family had nowhere to sleep, he would stay out all night at hardcore shows with his friends. In his later teenage years his first band, Youth in Revolt, became a mainstay of the underground L.A. hardcore shows.
Meanwhile, xDeadBeatx singer Zack Whitmer was also in Los Angeles. He was already in his early 20s when Fabrocini received his first straight edge mixtape. Whitmer found the scene a decade before after watching his mother descend into violent alcoholism. In time, straight edge music and culture took over his life and relationships.
“You attract the type of people you want to be around,” Whitmer said. “Straight edge women and men are going to want to be around other straight edge women and men when they’re coming through the scene.”
Whitmer played in a legendary L.A. band called Fight Everyone and their name was not hyperbole. Violence was as much of an expectation as music. When he wasn’t onstage himself, Whitmer was prowling the streets or attending other hardcore events with the “True Crew.”
“We called it a crew, in order to make it seem less violent. But, at the end of the day, we were a gang,” Whitmer said. “We were 200 people all at shows together creating the violence. It wasn’t like it was coming to us. We would definitely set shit off.”
A decade ago, Whitmer moved to Fort Collins and left the violence behind. Now he’s married, owns four businesses and has three kids. When, in 2019, he got an Instagram message from a former fan, he was surprised.
“I don’t think I had ever met another straight edge person in Northern Colorado,” Whitmer said.
It was Billy Fabrocini. After serving three active-duty tours as a marine, Fabrocini moved to Fort Collins to study geology at Colorado State University. Now he wanted to attempt the impossible: forming a straight edge band in a music scene dominated by Bluegrass and Jam. He already had a drummer and a bassist, all he needed was Whitmer.
At first, Whitmer was hesitant to return to a scene that he still associated with violence. In the end, his wife, a Colorado native who had never been to a straight edge concert, convinced him.
“She was like, ‘Yes! Yes! I have to see this in person,’” Whitmer remembered.
In its three-year run, the seasoned members of xDeadBeatx have often shared a stage with young hardcore and metal upstarts like Watching People Drown, Rukkus, Wolfblitzer, Copperteeth and Uppercut. Last spring, Fabrocini organized a hardcore cabaret at the biggest venue in town: the Aggie Theater. However, the band’s true passion comes out at the little DIY shows in basements and garages.
“As sick as the Aggie show was, I’m not going to book there all the time. I’m going to book the Coast or the VFW hall, where I can play on the floor or on a stage that’s knee high,” Fabrocini said. “In hardcore, it’s expected of you as a spectator to get onstage in the first place. It’s just an expectation. Like, that’s just as much your stage for paying $10 as it is my stage for playing for 10 minutes.”
Perhaps it is this inclusive ethos that has revived the Fort Collins hardcore scene. Whether you’re a band or a fan, xDeadBeatx wants you on the stage with them.