Rye Coalition: Story of the Hard Luck Five
directed by Jenni Matz
The ’90s emo/D.I.Y. scene remains fairly undocumented, with the exception of some embarrassing zines yellowing away in basements and attics nationwide. This is a shame, since the scene produced a large number of interesting and challenging bands which deserve greater exposure.
New Jersey’s Rye Coalition was originally one of those bands, first gaining exposure with a split 12” with Karp. At the time, Rye Coalition were dismissed by scenesters as wearing their Jesus Lizard/Fugazi influences on their sleeves almost as much as they would emulate AC/DC in a few short years. In retrospect, it’s hard to see why anyone would consider this description an insult.
Story of the Hard Luck Five is an entertaining document of the band’s trials and tribulations as they go from basement shows to touring Europe with the Foo Fighters.
There is a core friendship shown throughout (as well as a pair of brothers), which in expressed in in-jokes and attitudes that were seen as antagonism or sarcasm, as well as a working-class pride as shown in the long list of day jobs the members had throughout the band’s career.
It’s also fun to compare the early basement shows with shows in front of thousands. While the band has certainly gotten more proficient (and those AC/DC influences are overshadowing the Fugazi and Jesus Lizard ones), the band’s attitude stays about the same.
So what caused these guys to be nicknamed the Hard Luck Five? Honestly, they had about the same luck as any underground band did flirting with the major labels, including van breakdowns, car accidents, and an album that should have been their game-changing major label debut getting shelved. Oh yeah. There was the time the CMJ computers crashed right before they would have been number one on the college charts.
Persevering for over a decade, Rye Coalition never really broke up, and a reunion show for the brothers’ father’s 70th birthday shows them contemplating continuing further. You can view Story of the Hard Luck Five as a cautionary tale of bands grabbing for the brass ring offered by the major labels, a document of the early ’90s emo scene, or the story of some neighborhood friends who decided to start a band and ended up hanging with Dave Grohl and getting written up in the New York Times. Either way, Story of the Hard Luck Five is an entertaining document of a band that should be better known.