Have Heart

August 26, 2009

Have Heart band spotlightThe first time I saw Have Heart was at a show in Providence, Rhode Island. They were opening for Modern Life Is War at a small DIY run club called AS220. This was in the winter of 2003/2004 and before they went on I wasn't expecting much. At the time I was pretty burnt out on most of the new bands coming out of the Boston area and was expecting Have Heart to be a boring and generic band following the status quo of hardcore. However from the second that the band took stage I was floored by their sheer energy and passion. Vocalist Pat Flynn's face and head (which had just been shaved) were turning bright red from screaming with such intensity. Their strength as a live band came from Flynn's charismatic stage presence and the band's commitment to putting every ounce that they had into their performances.

I bought the band's demo and played it over and over again in my car's tape deck. At the time there was a real void in Boston hardcore scene and there were no other bands playing straight edge hardcore with the same level of sincerity and urgency as Have Heart. Over and over their early sound was compared to Rhode Island's Verbal Assault and sure enough the last song on the demo was a cover of V.A.'s "More Than Music" which really seemed to sum up Have Heart's attitude towards hardcore and life. The song that really stuck out though was a song called "The Worth," which spoke to me on a deeply personal level as many of my college age friends were losing interest in the scene. The song's chorus  "If it means that I'll stand on my own/That's the price I'll pay and I'll pay it alone/If only I'll stand, then alone I will strive/To remain, sustain." Coming from almost any other band at any other time these lyrics would have come off as completely cheesy and contrived but given the circumstances the lyrics made sense and became somewhat of a battle cry in my day to day life.

With time I had more interactions with the band and learned to respect them as musicians and as people. On several occasions my band at the time opened for them and I also booked Have Heart to play at my college. They had no egos and money was never a motive for them. At every show that they played they were the most energetic band of the night and they always seemed grateful just to be able to play.

In 2004 Have Heart released their "What Counts" 7" on Think Fast! records. With some slight lineup changes their sound got a little thicker, with big guitar sounds and a slightly more heavy edge. Think Fast! was a modest but successful label and "What Counts" immediately caught attention of people all across the country and in Europe. They quickly became a buzz band and where ever they toured people started talking about them.
Have Heart band spotlight
By 2005 the band was signed to Bridge 9 records which was already a major institution for modern hardcore. B9 released their first full length record, "The Things We Carry." By this time Pat Flynn's lyrics were increasingly getting more personal and having less to do with scene politics and the hardcore scene at large. The most powerful and emotional song on record was "Watch Me Rise" which addressed the issue of overcoming depression. This subject matter was a common theme throughout the album and undoubtedly spoke to a lot of the band's fans.

After "The Things We Carry" was released Have Heart became one of the most popular hardcore bands in the country. They were featured in a National Geographic documentary about the straight edge movement and a photo of the band playing live appeared on the cover of a book published by Rutgers University Press called Straight Edge: Clean Living, Hardcore Punk, and Social Change. It seemed that the band had become a face plate for the positive straight edge movement and by touring around the world relentlessly while also staying true to their ideals they were helping to reshape the somewhat ugly image that straight edge had earned in the 1990's.

2008's "Songs to Scream at the Sun" debuted in Billboard's Top 200 which is almost unheard of for a hardcore Punk band. This album showed the band trying out some heavier sounds and the subject matter of the lyrics was often deeply personal, dealing with family issues. While the sound was not radically different from the Have Heart's previous releases it did show a new level of maturity.
This Summer the band embarked on a world tour that stretched across six continents. Just before leaving home the band announced from their Myspace profile that this will be their last tour. The impact was felt immediately and the bulletin received over 400 comments. Next week Have Heart will play their annual show at Anaheim, California's Chain Reaction and a daytime show  beforehand at a smaller venue in Whittier, California. This string of dates will be the band's last shows in California.

On October 17, 2009 Have Heart will play their last show at an undisclosed location in Massachusetts. This is a significant date as it is the tenth anniversary of the break up of Boston's Ten Yard Fight, which was dubbed National Edge Day. The following year another significant Boston straight edge band, In My Eyes played their final show at an Edge Day celebration. This appropriately fulfills the legacy of a band that helped to keep Boston Straight Edge alive or "Back on the Map." Have Heart will surely be missed.

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