Tuesday, October 26, 2010
When you watch the end of punk rock history documentaries, the part where the protagonists claim it all died when they lost interest, how does it make you feel? When you talk to former kids, who slept on the floor of your house whilst on tour, who now are touring again with the same band, on a reunion tour playing rock clubs, pro sound pro audio... The idea of punk that resonates most with me is that of exchange, where someone stays on your floor when they’re in your town, and then in the future you stay on someone else’s floor when you’re in some other town. Where the humans in the audience are not “fans” per se, but are people that are part of the punk rock community. People that put on shows, take photos, write zines/blogs/letters, make podcasts or mixtapes, put out records, make music, and so forth. People that make the culture they participate in, that is the basic DIY ethos right? You’re bored in your hometown so you make your cohorts start a band, or you write a fanzine describing the indignations you suffer as a result, or maybe you set up shows for your friend’s bands, or take photos at those shows, or whatever the hell it is you do.
I went to see Cap’n Jazz, a band I was obsessed with as a teenager when their LP came out. They broke up before I got to see them but I played the LP to death, and my ticket purchase was fueled by nostalgia, the memories of traded zines and mixtapes from girls at expensive liberal arts colleges in the Midwest pouring into the boredom plagued teenage existence of growing up in Brentford, England. Fanzines, letters, seven inches and tapes enabled me to imagine a world outside of the non-DIY teenagers I grew up with, and along with most of the Dischord, Gravity and Kill Rock Stars catalog Cap’n Jazz were part of that imagined landscape. Boys with gas station jackets and high water pants who owned the Faith/Void split, girls who read Audre Lorde and made furious bedroom punk bands, these people did not exist in Brentford. I had no idea what to expect from this show, and obviously no one I knew wanted to go so I ate some pizza and ended up walking over one of the hugest hills in SF that seperates the MRR compound from the douchelords that populate North Beach (what was that Big Boys thing—about making you wanna kill some frats??).
It is a genuinely disconcerting experience to go to a reunion show of a band that were around when you (meaning me) first got into punk. The first thing I saw when I pulled up to the club after aforementioned epic hill walk was a huge gaggle of Urban Outfitters teens smokin’ and squawking in the regulation smoking area. Their outfits probably cost more than I earn in a pay period and my heart sunk, that weird eternal high school dork feeling when confronted with those who ooze the confidence of “cool.” No gas station jackets or Audre Lorde here… The realization struck that this was probably gonna be a long and weird night. The music was great, but I felt like I was watching a play rather than a show, a performance and that I didn’t feel part of anything. Everyone around me seemed all swept up in something that I felt so separate from to the point of repulsion. True feelings of horror! These people went to rock shows and wore merch and chugged $8 beers and so forth and so forth, if twenty people in the room had been to a basement show in the past year I woulda been shocked. I felt shitty for feeling so separate from the good times of these humans, but what we do is secret, and merchandise kind of gets in by design and so forth and until it makes you more a kid if you wanna off a pig. Afterwards I talked to the person in the band I knew from my youth, and honestly felt so gross and fan like that I had to leave—it made olden times seem all grim and for sale... I was really looking forward to the show, and musically it was what I wanted, a replication of something that meant the world to me, but it also reinforced the fact that it was not what I wanted.
The other thing that reinforced this sorta obvious fact (and yes I am sure Tim Yo is turning in his grave, clutching Ben Weasel to his chest as he recoils in horror that a current coordinator went to a Cap’n Jazz reunion) was a show in Marissa’s back yard last week, in a rare spot of SF sunshine... Featuring Los Angeles’ own Neonates, Nuclear Family from Albany NY, Daylight Robbery from Chicago and Brilliant Colors and Airfix Kits from San Francisco and Oakland respectively. Neonates play furtive ingenious girl punk, demonstrating their encyclopediatric knowledge of the history of ladypunkers, they reminded me at once of Washington DC’s Meltdown (most excellent No Wave inspired Scissor Girl worship from 1995—get the LP if you see it you will not regret it...) and the Slits demos and um, the Ama-Dots from early ’80s Michigan, all hail furtive exploratory girl sounds!! They were exciting to watch, used their instruments like toys rather than tools—weaponry listens to love… Then Brilliant Colors played a dreamy as usual set with Jess at once channeling Brian Jones and the girls from the Shop Assistants. Again, all hail exploratory girl encyclopediax! Let’s make a new sound that will banish these memories of historical endeavors in basements and youth halls, that are now being sold back to us, reinvent a movement!! Thrift stores and record shops and I don’t know what you’re talking about.... Nuclear Family played next, and while I loved their first tape for it’s raw destruction everything else has seemed so polished and wrong when you think of the people in this band and what they can do to a sound... This show (and their incredible LP coming out on Loud Punk this month...) negated all past ideas. Nuke Fam feature Zach and Paul from Acid Reflux, and Jen and Kevin, all true Albany up all night punkers, ready to half plate a buffet or play golf on the weird science fiction state capital at 2am. Zach’s guitar attack and Paul’s drums of doom, with Jen’s swooping all encompassing vocals... So good!!! Really though, the LP and live show cement the fact that it is a bummer that this band will probably be no more after this fall, so go see them when they play your town punkers! Daylight Robbery have put out the LP I listen to the most right now, it makes me think of similar things that the Observers LP did, in that I think it’s that important and good a record. The way that Christine and David’s vocals collide over the desperate Wipers guitars that also bring to mind John Doe and other things... the lyrics are great, and I love this band so totally. Jeff Rice on drums! Airfix Kits played last, had the driest stage banter, and both Allans in the band fell through the rotting on which they were performing. Tetchy, tense punk that’s bloodstains over Scotland, the problem of leisure and our band could be your life. Seriously! Punk rock is the eternal adventure, the endless possibility, this thing we make with our hands and our friends help. I am going to make myself a Cap’n Jazz t shirt, because I still love that band, but I did not want to get into the American Apparel situations. And in regards to the liner notes on the recently reissued Analphabetthology? I still get thriftstore pants for $3, even if you do not Tim Kinsella. Blah blah blah. This column was supposed to be reviews of all the demos I have been sent this year that have yet to make it to the review section. Next month? Punkie swear.
Layla at maximumrocknroll.com / Whatwewantisfree.blogspot.com