(EDITOR'S NOTE — Brandon Finnegan has been documenting the Buffalo hardcore scene for many years, and his work has gained a considerable and appreciative following. Recently, Brandon spoke with 1120 Press writer Benjamin Joe about how he got started. We're thankful for his time. Homepage photo provided; photo on this page by Benjamin Joe.)
Brandon Finnegan, founder of the popular YouTube channel lakeeriemonster, has watched the hardcore scene blossom and thrive over the past few decades, and he is still far from bored.
In fact, he remains passionate and looks forward to what’s coming next.
“I started filming in 1995,” recalled Finnegan, whose videos have racked up more than 2.5 million views. “My neighbor had a video camera, and he was making stop-motion videos with GI Joes and stuff. Me and my brother were like, ‘We gotta get a camera! We gotta get into this stuff!’”
How that ended up translating into going to, and shooting, hundreds of Buffalo hardcore shows — some of the latest bands being Jeweltone, Fatal Visions, Spaced, and Besta Quadrada — actually began with him documenting his and his buddies’ skateboarding prowess.
“I have no real formal training,” Finnegan said. “That’s my education. Music videos were on MTV, and I grew up watching skateboarding videos. It was just like seeing cool shit and figuring out how to do it yourself.”
Finnegan started in the scene watching the Goo Goo Dolls with his mother.
“I was scared as shit of being hit, but I was like, ‘ah I like this,’ and later the kids I was skateboarding with were really into King Diamond,” he said. “Then someone gave me a Dead Kennedy’s CD and I was like, ‘This is more my speed.’"
Finnegan credited Billie Page — a local DJ and member of the new hardcore band Kill Uncle which debuts Oct. 7 at the Hostel in Buffalo — with opening him up to the local scene shortly after his first few forays into the genre.
“She was the one who was like, ‘Ya’ know, kids are doing this stuff in churches, houses and garages.’ She introduced me to the fact that kids are just doing all these things in the scene, so really the filming of shows started just because my friends were putting on a show. I was like ‘I‘m going to take my camera that I use to show us skateboarding and I’m going to stand on a chair and hope I don’t get knocked off, and film it.’”
The early stuff, “was not great,” but it was a beginning. It was punk’s DIY aspect that impressed him as a young kid and continues to be a thread that he’s followed to this day. And though he’s been knocked off a few chairs since, there’s been nothing serious that's happened.
“If I can do it on my phone now, I’ll do it on my phone,” he said. “It’s different because as a kid I had to save up money to buy a camera to do these things and now anybody can do it. It’s just not everybody does.”
But that’s what’s great about the DIY-ethos of the hardcore/punk scene: It’s rooted in the principle that you’re “allowed” to do what you want — so do it.
“The things I learned from those early hardcore shows is it’s about participation and that you’re allowed to contribute... It’s like a participation sport,” Finnegan said. “You’re allowed to be up there taking photos. You’re allowed to make a ‘zine. You’re allowed to do whatever you want in this world and encouraged.”
While nothing is going to take the place of going to a show — watching videos is not an even trade, Finnegan said — the live footage from shows on YouTube and in documentaries doesn’t come out of nowhere. He noted it’s often the result of individuals who take it upon themselves to employ the DIY-ethic.
And though Finnegan said he’s never really looked at the number of views and subscribers on his YouTube page, he’s still kind of embarrassed when people approach him and ask if he’s lakeeriemonster.
“I ask them, ‘You watch my videos?’ and they rattle off a list of them!” he said reeling from the attention he’s received. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I guess you do!’”