There is an underground hard music scene in which you won't see any Lazer 103.3 vans and you will be hard pressed to find a backwards Limp Bizkit cap.

what is it?

Screamo is a name for a style of music that has its roots in indie, hardcore and emo music.

There is no set definition of what screamo sounds like but screaming over once deafeningly loud rocking noise and suddenly quiet, melodic guitar lines is a theme commonly affiliated with the genre.

"`Screamo,' as they call it, is in my opinion a genre of punk rock music that is typically hard, fast, noisy and screamy," says Jon Burns, vocalist for regional screamy-hardcore band Meth and Goats.

The bands that fall under the screamo umbrella are as diverse and unique from each other as the genre is from the rest of the world of music.

There are many names for this style of music. Some call it screamo, others call it emotional hardcore, and some prefer not to label their sound at all.

"I don't know that we'd really try to give [our music] a name," says Matt Davis, guitarist and singer for the VidaBlue. "I think a lot of bands that play music that has screaming vocals and isn't readily filed away into another little genre niche is called screamo. I imagine, though, that that title is as good as any."

Burns says he thinks that attitude is as important as the music.

"I, for one, enjoy screamo. I think it is a breath of fresh air into the sometimes stagnant punk rock scene," Burns says. "The fashion and the attitude brings to mind more of a true punk rock attitude than a lot of the other so-called punk rock out there."

Though many musicians shudder at the thought of associating fashion trends with their music, some will admit that many people in the scene do have somewhat of a similar outward appearance.

Many say that shaggy, "vulcan" haircuts, tight t-shirts, denim jackets and thick-rimmed glasses are commonly seen in the crowds.

"The hair is always interesting to check out," says Matt Johnson, vocalist for Preacher Gone to Texas, a melodic heavy hardcore band.


Many fans of the genre point eastward to Washington, D.C., or westward to San Diego when asked where screamo was born.

Nathan "Morty" Morton, who sets up shows in Des Moines and runs the Web site, says the first emo bands are considered to be Rites of Spring and Embrace, both formed by musicians who would later start the band Fugazi.

"Bands that followed the inspiration of those types of emo, as opposed to the poppy route taken by Sunny Day Realestate and Promise Ring/Get Up Kids type stuff that passes as emo, were what basically became `screamo.'"

He says Portrait of the Past, on Ebullition Records, is considered the first screamo band. From there, the East and West Coast scenes took off.

"Crimson Curse, Swing Kids and the Locust . . . are pretty much responsible for the `vulcan' look . . . and the fusion of grind and keyboard elements into the monster we know as `screamo,'" Morton says.

In the early to mid-nineties, bands such as Current, Policy of Three and Fuel, all on the Ebullition record label, had a lot to say about political issues, according to Davis.

However, he adds, not all screamo music today shows the same purposefulness as those acts did.

"I don't know that there are many bands that really say too much anymore, and God knows we aren't exempt," says Davis. "I think a lot of the discussion is fashion and gossip. I don't think this is a kind of music known for having something to say or a point to make."

local scene

As the early seeds of the genre took root and spread across the country and into the Heartland, emotional hardcore found a home in Iowa.

Bands such as In Loving Memory and Rue Morgue in Des Moines, the VidaBlue from Iowa City, Songs of Zarathustra, who are originally from Sioux City but reformed in Minneapolis, and Celebration of an Open Wound from Clinton, as well as many more, introduced punk, metal and indie fans to the genre.

Many of these bands have since broken up, but their names can still be heard mentioned as influences on local bands, and the scene continues to grow and change from where the frontrunners started.

"It is crazy to think about any type of good music coming out of Iowa, but it is happening a lot right now," says Aaron Hefel, drummer for metallic-screamo band, Taskmaster.

"Screamo bands tend to play strictly within the DIY scene, house and hall shows mostly," says Morton.

"Their shows tend to be pretty frantic, either by nature or because they try real hard to look `crazy.'"

Other than house shows, concerts are often staged at the Botanical Center in Des Moines, the two Peabody's Coffeehouses in Davenport and Moline, Ill., and Theta Beta Potata in Iowa City.

Squire Boone, programming director for the Maintenance Shop, says an emotional hardcore show could even be a possibility for Ames' Maintenance Shop someday.

Johnson says he is putting together a concert at Peabody's in Davenport on August 1. Performing will be On the Might of Princes, coming fromm Long Island, the Insurgent, Tonight Lets Be Heroes, Preacher Gone to Texas and You Won't Know It.

More information on bands, concerts and local record labels can be found at Morton's site, Information on the screamo scene around the nation can be found at

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