With the advent of big business poking around in the hardcore scene, one thing is certain: Unlawful Assembly is not a record label that’s producing music for Taco Bell ads. Big business will not be sniffing at any of their bands’ doors. Even if they did, it’s unlikely the bands associated with Unlawful Assembly would have interest in opening that door. To lay it bare, Unlawful Assembly is a DIY hardcore label that’s of the people and for the people.

Founded in 2020 by Leo McClutchy as an outlet for his own projects, Unlawful Assembly kicked off with the three-song Innuendo tape, a collaboration between McClutchy and Tommy Brown of Indiana’s Dagger. Along with McClutchy’s prolific output, the label has produced releases by bands from Chicago, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and the Colombian capital of Bogota in their brief existence.

Volume Three of the Unlawful Assembly Weekend is upon us this Friday and Saturday. Two night shows at Cactus Club as well as a Saturday afternoon show outside Rushmor Records. The shows are more than a gathering of elite bands, they’re also a testament to the power of community within a grassroots movement. The fest is stacked with a plethora of hardcore acts and here’s a guide to the notable ones.

Friday, September 22 @ Cactus Club

Meat House is a hardcore powerhouse coming mostly out of North Carolina. Members have done time in Direct Control, Government Warning, Scarecrow, Public Acid, White Stains, and Mutant Strain, among others. It may seem dangerous to rely on past associations, but with a track record so consistent, it cannot be overlooked. Meat House’s recent debut 12” EP mashes mean hardcore riffs into snotty punk attitude. It’s a master’s class in classic ‘82-style hardcore, back when the punk hangover hadn’t quite worn off.

Headlining the first show is Hologram. Their frantic chaos previously appeared in a Riverwest basement while touring on their debut album, No Longer Human. Their first club show in Milwaukee is bound to be a raucous affair. Their live show is an ugly swirl of dissonance filled with start/stop madness. Lyrically and visually, there’s an artistic current throughout. They tap into the same pure mental anguish vibe as the self-titled Die Kreuzen album, a height that very few have reached since.

Saturday, September 23 @ Rushmor Records

The lineup is only four bands so it’s best to show up on time. That time is 2 p.m., which is perfect for basking in the sun and reliving the glory of the previous weekend’s Bay View Bash. Loose Lid, a newer band made up of Milwaukee and northwest Indiana maniacs, kick things off. Local hardcore weirdos Necron 9 follow. Their recent demo tape on Unlawful Assembly is one of the stronger local releases of the year. Toronto’s Kleener play third, riding high on the buzz surrounding their recently released cassette EP. Rounding out the lineup is the newest addition to the Unlawful Assembly family, Haunted Mansion. It’s hardcore from the likes of Brendan Reichhardt and Ryan Matthews, the minds behind Hologram and Fashion Change, respectively.

Saturday, September 23 @ Cactus Club

Subliminal Excess are one of Chicago’s best bands at the moment, but they play Milwaukee enough to think about granting them honorary citizenship. The fact that a band of their caliber is opening the final show of the fest proves the top-to-bottom quality of the lineups. Subliminal Excess are not afraid to get ugly, but they never forget to write a hook. One moment to the next they’re dipping their toes in a different era of hardcore and it never sounds forced. They’re a true modern gem.

New York crust juggernaut Tower 7 are making the trip to Milwaukee to play their second-to-last show ever. The fact that these NYC vets would come so close to winding down in Milwaukee is a credit to the current local scene. There is life between Chicago and Minneapolis! Tower 7 released their sole album …Peace On Earth? in late 2021. There’s no overstating the stir it caused. Copies vanished immediately. People who hadn’t cared about crusty hardcore in decades jumped back on the bandwagon. People who never cared about crust were perusing the Profane Existence Discogs page. Like their D4MT Labs Inc brethren Kaleidoscope and Straw Man Army, Tower 7 have proved themselves to be significant to the modern hardcore landscape, almost monolithic. Their scratchy distorted riffs create a sonic path for their barked political message. One last chance for the Midwest to take in these future legends. It’s a set bound for future “back-in-the-day” tales.

With 17 releases and three label festivals to date, Unlawful Assembly has established itself as an ongoing concern. Upcoming releases have been slated for some of McClutchy’s projects as well as new additions to the label family. The label has found its way through dedication to DIY ideals. It’s about bands putting on for like-minded bands, supporting their punk community, and giving back to the community as a whole.

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About The Author

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Dan Agacki is a veteran of long dead publications like Punk Planet, Fan-Belt, and Ctrl Alt Dlt. He currently contributes to The Shepherd Express and Explain. His free time is spent frantically searching for Black Flag live bootlegs.