Saturday, December 17, 2011

Single Bullets

I am writing this a million miles from MRR HQ, in the street I grew up on in London, England. My first month off in three and a half years of running the magazine, and of course everything went wrong, our main computer died, there was sickness in the compound, police brutality on the streets, frequent earthquakes, so many outside factors working against us. But even though I have not seen this issue of the magazine as it’s come together as I usually do, I know it’s going to be amazing. I know what Mariam is capable of, and I am really excited to read the magazine that she put together in the face of total disaster and endless trials, I know that’s where her strength lies. Coming up against insane odds and, you know, being triumphant. Working with Merm has been one of the funnest things about being coordinator of the magazine, she is so tough and smart and one of the most entertaining people to hang out with ever. A hard ass and a wise ass, a joker and a goof ball that you would be fool to underestimate… So yeah. I have been in Europe for a month, visiting with my mum, hanging out with various punks in various cities from Berlin to Bradford and for the first time in years not having the weight of the magazine on my shoulders.
I have been trying to leave MRR for nearly a year now, we have had some great applications and interviews, but no one has worked out yet in terms of replacing me. This job is intense and we need the right person to do it, someone who can handle the workload, who has energy and passion, who has a vision for the magazine in terms of producing the content, who is not a middle of the road indifferent slouch when it comes to declaring where they stand, and what they stand for. You must be consumed by music, by punk rock and hardcore, or garage, crust, KBD and most importantly be open minded and willing to work with a wide range of people who may have different ideas of what punk is or isn’t. The magazine is for the punks by the punks, for those who care about the culture and meaning of DIY punk, not just trends and message board boredom. If you think you can handle running the day to day operations of this magazine, which include everything from accounting to interview layouts, and you will be trained on how things work, not just expected to understand everything instantly, if you can handle dealing with all different kinds of people, from landlords to drunk radio show DJs get in touch! We are looking for motivated people with ideas and you must be a legal US citizen with nothing that would mean you couldn’t be on legal paperwork… so in short if you are an organized and inspired person who is ready for a new challenge and wants to live for free alongside over 40,000 green-taped records at the MRR compound email for an application ok?!
Writing this in my mother’s home, in a deconstructed teenage bedroom with a suitcase full of junk in front of me and a Captain Beefheart picture disc to my left is a strange feeling. When I lived here, in Brentford, under the shadow of some brutalist 1960s towerblocks, council estate youth center existence it seemed there was never anything to do. Well, I formed bands with my friends when I was thirteen, skateboarded and wrote many zines and pen pal letters, but I felt alone and marooned in a part of London where people called me a goth, even though I mostly wore 1960s mod dresses, because I just didn’t fit in with the kids I grew up around. I was considered a nerd and a freak, and punk was a lifeline to a community of similarly maladjusted nerds in various cities and towns and villages around the world. Those were different times. When we landed at the airport at the beginning of October, the first things we did was go straight to a show, in Hackney at this cool art space / show space / café called Power Lunches. We saw Weird Menace, Satellites of Love, and Roseanne Barr, unfortunately Woolf had to cancel due to a health problem, but I have heard amazing things about them. All girl London HC punk who are I think recording an LP this winter?! All of the people in the bands mentioned are in other bands, from La La Vasquez to Shitty Limits, that was one of the coolest things about being here right now, so many insanely good bands and so many of the same people doing them all… A totally different era! We were lucky as there were about five or six shows in ten days, which would have blown the mind of the teenage me. Seriously, I used to go see anything even the most bro’d out HC mosh or visiting weedy Midwestern sweater emo just to go to a show, and to have so many cool local bands playing shows was killer… London is on fire right now, no matter what people may have said to me to downplay the exciting nature of their scene. The Lowest Form cancelled their show, which was a huge bummer too, their 7” rules and I was really excited to see them play. We also planned out a trip to Berlin and Paris when Shitty Limits played their epic last show, true bad timing, we had planned it so we would make the Lowest Form and Woolf shows, both of whom cancelled. Fuckin’ punks!
However, we were in London at the same time as Mexico City’s own Inservibles so went to see them frantically, I think we went to all but two of their UK shows! One was at a squat very close to Islington, meaning that there was a large amount of time dedicated to quoting from the Islington Squatter documentary. The squat was insane, it was an abandoned office building from the ’70s that had a garden on the roof and huge art pieces through out, and a dank room full of crusties and smoke in which the show happened. We missed most of the bands, as shows actually run on time in Europe it would seem, punks gotta catch the last train home etc etc, so we missed the Wankys and Holland’s Nekromantiker (who were in the last issue of MRR courtesy of Mr Tony Gunnarsson), but Inservibles were insane. Totally blown out punk rock depravity, encapsulating the alienation of living in a city locked down by the drug war, if you have a chance to see them play ever you would be a chump to miss it. I remembered the 7”s having a sort of blown out garage sound to the mostly punk attack, but live that was not apparent at all, at any rate, whatever my hazy brain clouded memories of this band’s recorded output are I am really excited to get back to San Francisco and listen to the new LP which you should get (on Shogun/La Vida Es Un Mus). We also got to hang out with Héctor of Otan fame, who was roadying for Inservibles and filled me in on the endless adventure that is punk rock in Barcelona and Madrid right now… Next year I will be there to witness it I hope!
The Means to an End fest was happening at the long-running punk social club and venue, the 1 in 12 in Bradford, and the line up included Shitty Limits, Inservibles, and Glam so we got a car together of punkers, including Ralph and Bryony, Collette and me and the elusive and mysterious SPK fan Hubbs, and headed up the M1 to the north of England. I learned to drive in California, on huge wide suburban streets in the town my grandparents lived in, and have never driven in London and thus also cannot drive stick. The car we rented was an automatic, and Ralph who was the designated driver had never driven one of those; it was funny seeing someone as flummoxed by an automatic as I would have been by a stick shift. I hadn’t been at the 1 in 12 since I was a teenager, I can’t remember what year it was, I used to go to most of the fests and saw everyone from Acme to the Month of Birthdays there. Ah, the ’90s! It was rad being back, the space seemed way smaller, but just as cool as I remembered. Seeing a venue that was created to serve the punk community out of specific radical principles, one that still exists on the same terms was really inspiring. The food was a good and cheap as I remembered, as was the cider, though this time there were more Swedish crusties checking their facebooks on the communal computers… and I was definitely straightedge last time I was there.
As for the bands witnessed… We missed some as the epic drive meant we were hungry for Bradford curry brutality, which included a naan bread that was about the size of a human torso. Endless Grinning Skulls played, and blew me away. True veterans of the scene; I think ex members of Heresy and fuck, the singer is 51 and more hardcore and has more presence than a million MySpace crashercrusters combined. I guess they usually have a noisy almost Jap-core attack, but this show made me think of the power/impact of seeing Talk is Poison play. No joke. They were great live, I didn’t really know what to expect plus I think this was the first UK show we were at where people actually danced?! Shitty Limits played their last Northern show, and were fucking incredible. I love their last 12”, and seeing them play in SF ruled, but I guess seeing any band in an all ages space when everyone knows this is probably the last time they are gonna see them live is another matter entirely. So much energy and snot, like a teenager taking speed for the first time, it was impossible to keep still so no one did. Glam from Barcelona were also incendiary, their 7” is a constant on my turntable so having the chance to see them destroy it live was the best… Total destruccion… Paco said that the last slot at a fest here is the worst as everyone leaves to catch the last train back to Leeds, so the crowd seemed sorta thinned out when Inservibles played, but they managed to keep the frenzy going… All in all an incredible show. We were staying at our friend Charlotte’s house in Sheffield, land of brutalist architecture, “Being Boiled” and a sick mod café with an all northern soul jukebox. You can stay at the 1 in 12 after fests, which I definitely did in my youth, but I was psyched to have the chance to hang out with Charlotte who is a crazy girl band music nerd like myself, and does an awesome girl skate zine called Skate or Cry... I think she is sold out of it, but check out her blog for more info on the past and present of Sheffield punk!
The next stop on our epic journey was Paris, where we were met at the train station by a contingent of French punks, including Alex Ratcharge, Julien and Gael, who hustled us off to the longest running squatted venue in Paris where we got to see Bastard Noise. All you could hear was the drums and vocals, which made for an interesting aural experience. But it was really cool being in the space, seeing something happen in one of the storied Euro-squats that are the backbone of the DIY scene here. Also: why do bands who write brutal songs about environmental destruction do records with corporate car companies? Hmmm! Alex and Julien put together this amazing newspaper for punks who can read French called Freak Out! which you should check out. covering everything from Pink Reason to Crimen De Estado, with lot of other writing mostly about music of the mutant punk rock persuasion, it reminded me of a less art fueled Nuts! in that it is a local newspaper for the punks that assumes the punks are interesting and consumed by weird notions and obsessions…
I know I personally find tour diaries and travel journals pretty dull, so I will leave you there, sorry if I put you to sleep!
Top five!
1: The Means to an End Fest tied with the Big Takeover show at the squat!
2: Going record shopping with Paco in various London locations, also hitting the flea markets of Berlin with similar intentions. So sick! So many things crossed off the want list. Also Paris punker hang outs!
3: Hanging out with Bryony and Alex Ratcharge and hopefully Tony Gunnarsson; the Euro MRR columnist contingent rules and are as much fun in person as they are in written form!
4: Watching tons of documentaries my mum taped off the BBC about reggae in London in the ’70s and ’80s, also the classic movie Babylon. About racism, oppression, police brutality, Brixton existences and good times in London in the early ’80s. Although it’s about reggae sound system clashes, it reminds me a bit of Quadrophenia in that it’s a classic early ’80s youth culture movie, it’s as evocative. And it’s criminal that it’s not more known.
5: Going to see Cover Girl (new Trash Kit related band, Rachel Aggs=so dreamy) tonight, and going to Brighton tomorrow! We are the mod raucous.
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(photo by By Owen Richards)