There are a handful of different music scenes all around the world; whether it be metal, indie, or even electronic, there’s nothing that quite compares to hardcore and its community. It’s the perfect setting for someone looking for an outlet from the world around them and to release their frustrations. It’s an escape from social media, politics (usually), and whatever issues are happening at the time. One common belief among the hardcore community is that you don’t need drugs or alcohol to enjoy life, and pure passion for music is enough to fill that society-created void.
This belief is the fuel that drives Philadelphia-based straight edge band Agitator.
“At the age of 31, I don’t really remember NOT being straight edge at this point,” Agitator guitarist Pat Voytko told me. “In middle school, one of my friends, Chris, was straight edge, and told me about it. I was really into the idea, so we just kind of stuck with it. Not much has changed since then.”
Their lyrics clearly show their disdain for alcohol, and the issues that can come along with it. The song “Sheltered” puts this on display through its abrasive lyrics:
No boy should ever have to fight with his father to keep him from driving drunk
Or watch his mother kick his father down as he reaches for the shotgun in his truck
He would have shot me right there if it wasn’t for my mother’s saving grace
I never knew that my life could unravel at such a rapid pace
Voytko had expressed an interest in music at an early age, and the guitar had always piqued his interest. At this point, all he needed was friends with a similar outlook to come together to start the band.
“I had always wanted to play guitar ever since I was really young. I never was really interested in any dumb instruments like a trumpet or some bullshit.” Voytko said. “We were all friends from the same area; a small suburb outside of Philly. I had some songs written that were on the back burner and we had all the necessary components to start a band, so we just jammed them out and it ended up working out.”
Voytko found influence from a lot of bands around the hardcore scene, specifically the legendary hardcore band Trapped Under Ice.
“When we started, Trapped Under Ice was getting huge.” Voytko said. “They had a really refreshing and interesting take on heavy hardcore. I kinda wanted to take elements of that sound and try and mix it with my our own style.”
If you’ve ever been to a hardcore show, you know that it’s a very-straightforward setting. You won’t see fancy backdrops, light displays, or sound checks. It’s all about pure intensity and emotion. Agitator seamlessly mixes that with their upfront straight edge beliefs.
Straight edge hardcore isn’t a genre of music that will ever reach mainstream, so it’s common to these types of bands pop up for a handful of years as more of a passion than an actual full time career. Agitator was no exception, as they finally decided to call it quits not too long ago.
“It had a been a pretty long time for us to be a band, and we kind of hit the ceiling in terms of what is possible for a straight edge band to do.” Voytko said. “How many more songs do people really need to hear that has some dude yelling at you for drinking?”
Although Agitator no longer writes music or has any planned tours ahead, they still manage to pop up here and there to play shows, including one next month in Philadelphia.
“This is actually our second reunion.” Voytko noted. “Our official last show was in 2015 at This Is Hardcore. The first reunion was to raise money for a friend who needed help with some funeral costs. This one is for another friend who recently had a house fire. Its just for fun and a good cause and we’re not really out here trying to prove something to ourselves or other people.”
“Oh, and everyone in the band is still edge.”