A new, miniature hardcore music festival comes to Raleigh

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On an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in late December, Will Butler is enjoying a rare lull. Save for the company of his friendly dog, Barnabus, and the sounds of Grand Theft Auto V, the house Butler shares with his girlfriend is empty and quiet, and he has some time to himself.

This Sunday, January 12, should be very different. Butler, 30, hosts the inaugural To Live A Lie Records Fest—an all-ages matinee featuring four extremely loud and ferocious bands—in the basement of In The Groove Records. Floridian fastcore outfit Assholeparade headlines over Arizona’s powerviolence group Sex Prisoner, while Raleigh grinders Abuse. and the new D.C. death metal squad Genocide Pact (featuring Abuse. drummer and Raleigh expat Connor Donegan) fill the early slots. Between organizing and promoting the event, hosting visiting bands and selling his wares, Butler won’t have much time to kick up his heels this weekend.

But that’s more like normal for Butler, whose after-hours hobby, To Live A Lie Records, has been steadily issuing fast hardcore, grindcore and powerviolence records since 2005. This year, the label issues its hundredth release, an LP compilation featuring bands such as Weekend Nachos, Street Pizza and Water Torture—29 acts in total. The Fest is an unofficial celebration of the label’s accomplishments thus far.

Indeed, To Live A Lie Records has come a long way from its humble origins. In 2003, while attending North Carolina State University, Butler started a small distribution service to sell hardcore recordings to his friends. That evolved into To Live A Lie when Butler teamed up with Nuclear BBQ Party to release a split 7" record featuring California’s Godstomper and Maryland’s Magrudergrind on Aug. 1, 2005. Three months later, he released the self-titled EP by the California straight-edge band Rhino Charge, and the catalog continued to grow.

But despite single-title sales that occasionally reach the thousands—a feat enabled in part by national distribution through ILD and Ebullition—Butler still considers his label a hobby. He funds To Live A Lie by keeping a day job at N.C. State. “I try to keep things cheap and pass it along,” he says. By day, Butler works with a team responsible for security applications and technology on N.C. State’s campus, which he says is the best job he’s ever had. He has no intention of giving it up to pursue the label full-time. “If I had the will to get up early,” he says, “I guess I could get more label work done.”

The DIY nature of Butler’s lone-wolf operation is immediately evident. To Live A Lie claims two upstairs bedrooms in his home. Boxes of records gather in one corner, their sleeves in another. Each one is assembled individually, then packed for shipment as orders arrive, usually between seven and 15 times per week. “I’m not even organized enough to have people help me, really,” Butler says, laughing. "I do all this very loosely."

He’s modest. In some ways, that’s an insurance policy. To Live A Lie Records is a deliberately humble enterprise, even as it has grown exponentially—in both output and income—over the years. Sunday’s much-deserved showcase could have found a bigger, better equipped room to host it, but as Butler’s label keeps quietly building its prominence in its niche, his festival keeps it simple: An all-ages show on a weekend afternoon, with bands blasting through a borrowed PA in a basement, literally underground. 

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