gordonzola: (terroir)
I see that there is going to be a 33 1/3 for Young Marble Giants “Colossal Youth” album. I love this album but don't know if I want to read this book. The minimalist mystery of this album is what always intrigued me. When I first heard it, I just couldn't understand where it came from or how it existed. I hear it now and even though its filled with anachronisms in detail and a societal outlook that is hard to explain to anyone born after 1980, I still love it.

Sometimes art needs an explanation, to put it in context, to understand how it came about or how it was a stepping stone to something else. But I prefer this album how I found it, obscure and open-ended. I’m not trying to sound like an old man but the fact that I think most of us teen Americans who heard Young Marble Giants in the ‘80s, first heard them as a song in a mix tape or from than one haunting song on the classic Rough Trade comp “Wanna Buy a Bridge?” Additionally most of us heard them after they broke up, when early punk was become hardcore in the USA, when our music was becoming faster, louder, shorter and more dude-centric.

Kind of the opposite of this:

Young Marble Giants influenced many of the bands I loved in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s but when I first heard them – in the early mid ‘80s -- they sounded like they were from another world. Even more than the non-generic bands that I listened to at the time (Flipper, Arkansaw Man, The Residents… later Tragic Mulatto etc.) I didn’t get them, but I always wanted more. I didn’t really get the subtle differences in English punk/post-punk/new wave etc, but I’ve always liked a good art band. One of any art band’s greatest assets though, is not giving up their influences… to sound like they just came into your head from somewhere where you not only had never been, but a place you couldn’t find on your own.

“Colossal Youth” is haunting, sparse, hinting, political but non-dogmatic, emotional, oddly affecting, and catchy. Somehow it manages to be somehow familiar yet inexplicable at the same time. I love quoting the Big Boys song “Fun, Fun, Fun” at this point of music entries to show how limited the expectation of range punks had in the ‘80s: “I’m a punk and I like Sham./Cockney Rejects are the world’s greatest band./ But I like Joy Division, Public Image too/even though that’s not what I’m supposed to do.” Young Marble Giants were even more outside that realm. Still their songs made it on to mix tapes and were listened to in quieter moments.

I think “Colossal Youth” is a great subject for a 33 1/3 book, I just don’t know what I could possibly learn about the album or the folks who made it that could make “Colossal Youth” any better. On the other hand, I could think of a lot of things that could make it worse.

“Colossal Youth” is simply one of my favorite records of the whole post-punk era:

(You know, I never was a Hole fan so I didn’t realize until right now that they did a cover of “Credit in the Straight World,” -- my anthem of the last month -- that, imho, really missed the whole point. )

Young Marble Giants:

gordonzola: (Default)
Went to see Danbert Nobacon read from his “anarchist fairy tale” Three Dead Princes last night in the Marina. I actually think the Books Inc. may be the best thing in the Marina and not just because they have a very nice worker review of my book.* It’s a well-stocked bookstore with excellent worker favorites. A Percival Everett book stared at us throughout the whole performance.

Probably because it was in the Marina, it was pretty sparsely attended. I had conflicts with tonight’s performance at Adobe Books and tomorrow’s at Gilman so we decided the Marina would be a fun experience. Kind of like a vacation in another city.

Danbert does a great reading. He comes with a guitar and props!
danbert and death

I haven’t read the book yet, and it’s not my usual genre, but his reading – which included ventriloquism, songs, and hints of inter-species relationships – was enough to make me buy it.

I mean, how could I say no to this face?

*Thanks Maggie, whoever you are!
gordonzola: (Default)
I don't know why The Shondes aren't already a household name in the households who like this type of music, but their first ever official video is done.

Check it out:

gordonzola: (Default)
Back in the late '80s I worked at a mall in Marin. It was an outdoor mall -- not one of those smelly, never-see-the-sun, Dawn of the Dead places -- but still a pretty horrible place. Never having secured a real "anchor tenant" it was not a very busy place. Most of the stores had the stench of retail death. On our lunch breaks we handicapped which one would go under next.

I swear this mall had -- for a few months -- a store called "Primarily Pillows". Fittingly enough, it sold nothing but pillows. This led to my co-worker (can't remember if he's ok with being outed on LJ) dreaming up his plan for a mall tattoo parlor called "Primarily Panthers". Nothing original available, just hire teens at minimum wage to trace panther designs from the wall. Extra staffing for the hours after the mall bars closed on Fridays and Saturdays. "Do you want the #24 or the #33?" Maybe some Taz too. Possibly some roses for the ladies, but that would work better as a sister mall store. "Really Roses"?

That was the mall that had the scam non-profit guy selling rainbow colored tile to decorate the Waldo Tunnel before he skipped town with the Marinite money. It had the rib place that mysteriously went out of business one night amidst rumors of bad drug problems. It had an Unknown Jerome, whose "Jerome Sandwich" cookies I still mourn. I worked at the one hour lab -- talk about a dying business...

The bookstore there -- before it went out of business -- was my favorite in Marin. Us young mall workers stuck together and when the bookstore opened a cafe within a few months we were allowed to just fix our own coffee drinks before hours. That was my favorite place to kill some hours when the work was slow or my boss was having a manic episode and yelling too much.

These days, I see one of the bookstore cafe workers -- a punk just a little younger than me -- regularly since he's a bartender at my local. Last week, while I drank my Anchor Liberty, he came up to me and asked if I remember the band Negative Trend. Negative Trend eventually became the infamous Flipper (my first punk show was Flipper on the day Dan White was released from prison!) and I actually was a huge fan of the only Negative Trend record, a 4-song EP, released in 1978 or so. I said, "Yes!"

"Well, they just reformed and I'm singing for them. Come see us play at Annie's"

So, I think I will be here on February 28. Should be fun and old school. ("Black and Red" was my favorite song of theirs. Plus they're playing with the incredibly underrated No Alterative, another old SF band.)
gordonzola: (Default)
Saturday night I went to a 40th birthday for an old high school friend but first I had to use my nature skills to avoid getting skunk-sprayed. I took the 49 and cut through upper Ft. Mason to get to the Ft. Mason Center*. It was dusk and the moon was shining on the Bay. I love the combination of natural beauty and huge man-made structures. Damn this city is beautiful.

The staircase I would usually take was chained off so I had to backtrack uphill to the long staircase that is about 50 yards of straight downhill concrete. No big deal except about 10 steps down I realized that a skunk was heading uphill, right next to the stairs, in my direction.

I stopped and stomped a little. Skunky stopped and raised his/her tail. I stomped some more. Skunky walked onto the stairs, luckily still 50 ft. away, and stopped, daring me to keep coming. I shuffled my feet loudly. Skunky raised tail again and turned around. Stalemate.

I kept making noise, not willing to walk a quarter mile back to the main street and taking a roundabout route of a few blocks. However, even though I was going to a party of ex-punks I wasn’t willing to go with that strong a stench. My day-of-working-with-cheese smell was quite enough already. “Hey Skunk, I have no problem with you personally. You just go your way and I’ll go mine,” I yelled.

I stomped some more and eventually Skunky jumped back off the stairs and slowly walked perpendicular to the stairs. I started down again and every time I’d take a few steps Skunky would stop and raise his/her tail. We went on like this until I reached the bottom. I felt we had reached an understanding and appreciated Skunky letting me pass.

The party was at the Firehouse (not the old club at 16th and Albion) and it was all the good things a 40th birthday should be, especially when the birthday girl hasn’t lived in the Bay Area for over a decade. There was sushi, meat on a stick, a grown daughter of people we grew up with, and music we never would have listened to at the time.

In fact, as Elton John’s best song, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, played I thought about how many more times we had seen Verbal Abuse play that song than we had listened to Elton singing it. Of course, when Verbal Abuse played it at the tail end of the violent side of the ‘80s punk scene, The Farm would often break out into a sea of drunk brawling.** I don’t miss those days and the violence but it sure had a lot more feeling than a punk scene of bored, gently nodding kids wearing backpacks. Oh yeah, and you kids get off my lawn!

Anyways, as always at these events there are memory flashbacks and things you can’t figure out how you ever forgot. A slide show ran constantly of Niki pictures from the last 40 years… kiddie pics from before we met, drunken 4th of July parades, pictures of dead friends, pics from the party where our friend pulled out a gun “as a joke” but where no one died, bad fashion, parties with occasions that didn’t matter, weddings of the now-divorced… you know… life.

This was my favorite picture, taken in 1986 at one of those weddings. Niki is mourning that we had run out of champagne.
lysas wedding

I can’t believe we’ve known each other for 25 years. Happy Birthday Niki!

*geez, is this one of the worst homepages ever for such an amazing resource?

**A couple of the sound that I really like
Are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike
I'm a juvenile product of the working class
Whose best friend floats in the bottom of a glass


*** I briefly dated the woman on the far right in 1987. On our first date I gave her a Mohawk. Hott.

****The remnants of my Marin County punk scene will be coming together for Joan Jett at the Marin County Fair on July 2. There will be three of us.

*****and happy birthday [livejournal.com profile] goodbadgirl!!!
gordonzola: (Default)
A co-worker who still works for MRR told me that he had to compile his favorite Bay Area punk records for the big 25 year MRR anniversary issue. When I guessed 5 records that I assumed would be in everyone’s list, and none were on his, I realized once again, that I am old.

Since I had that conversation, I’ve been compiling lists in my head. Even if I no longer work for MRR, it’s kind of a fun exercise. Now I’ve decided to bore you with it. I didn’t pick any band twice. I’m sure I left something very important off.

Full length albums:
1. (tie) Dead Kennedys – “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables”
MDC – “Millions of Dead Cops”
San Francisco punk is political punk. Though notable political bands pre-dated these releases, these albums helped set the agenda for ‘80s American anarcho-punk. And they’re awesome. I would put that MDC album right up there with, ironically enough, the Bad Brains as the best American hardcore album of all time. Listen to it again if it’s sitting over there gathering dust by your turntable.
3. Flipper – “Album”
I understand not understanding Flipper. Really, I do. But they were the first show I ever went to and this album has politics and pathos. Flipper wasn’t just “Sex Bomb” and a logo to carve on your high school desk. Ever look at a flower and hate it? Ever see a couple kiss and get sickened by it? Ever wish the human race didn’t exist… then realize you’re one too.” Awww, Flipper c'mere.... let me give you a hug.
4. Operation Ivy –“Energy”
The only ska punk band that matters.
5. Cringer – “I take my desires for Reality, Because I Believe in the Reality of my Desires”
Oh Lance, we miss you.
6. Trashwomen – “Spend the Night with the Trashwomen”
As a genre that whole garage rock thing wasn’t my favorite, but this album I love. And not just cuz I went to high school with two of ‘em. Hell, I went to high school with the Mayor but didn’t vote for him.
7. Blatz/Filth - “Shit Split”
Fights still break out about which was the better side. Just the other day in fact, [livejournal.com profile] dairryiere and I ganged up on a non-Californian worker who was pro-Filth. I love the Blatz side. “Fuck Shit Up” was the anthem for property destruction and mob violence against the state during the first Gulf War protests in the Bay Area. “Lullabye”: just awesome.

Still there is room to debate. You decide…
[Poll #1156189]

8. Tragic Mulatto – “Judo for the Blind”
Some songs on later records are my favorites of theirs, but I love everything on this release. “I wish I was a cop on a Japanese Bike” still becomes an earworm every time I see an SFPD motorcycle cop.
9. Social Unrest – “Rat in a Maze”
Blistering political hardcore with a guitar that sounds like a broken electric razor. Scary on record, sweet in person.
10. Jawbreaker – “Unfun”
I don’t know. Maybe you had to be there. I can’t really justify this one I just know I love it.

Honorable Mention: Crucifix – “Dehumanization”, Code of Honor/Sick Pleasure Split, Afflicted – “Good News About Mental Health”, Whipping Boy – “Sound of No Hands Clapping”, Green Day – “American Idiot”, X-Tal – “6/7 of Treason is Reason”, Frightwig –“Faster Frightwig, Kill Kill”, Crimpshrine – “Duct Tape Soup”

7” and 12” EPs
1. Avengers – “American in Me” EP
Until I found this for $2 at a record store in Upstate NY, I didn’t understand the popularity of this band, not having been old enough to see them live and only hearing the terribly mixed posthumous release of their songs. This recording was direct, clean, fast, and political. If you ever find this, get it.
2. Mutants – “New Drug/Insect Lounge/New Dark Ages”
The craziness and fun of seeing weight art punks crammed onto a “stage” has been written in this space previously. This record has three of my favorite songs on it.
3. V/A -The Mission District Comp
Bedlam Rovers, J Church, Jawbreaker, Steel Pole Bathtub, Strawman, and Timco at the height of everyone’s musical abilities. So time and place… Who knew that the rents would go so crazy and our homes were already in such peril. This record is awesome. This record makes me sad.
4. The Dils – “198 seconds of the Dils”
Not only do I not own this record, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this record. The songs “Class War”/ “Mr Big” were released later on comps. If anyone has this lying around their house, let me know.
5. B-Team – “Buy American”
Obscure Gang of Four-like (but snottier) political post-punk band. I wish they had stuck around.
6. V/A –SF Underground
The cover is a picture of the Deaf Club which I lived next door to in the last year of its life. Songs by No Alternative, Flipper, The Tools and VKTMS.
7. Sta Prest – “Let’s Be Friendly with our Friends”
If they could have made a whole album like this, they would be a (punk) household name
8. Spitboy –s/t 7”
This band could be truly annoying live, but this 7” is loud and vicious.
9. Tribe 8 – “Pig Bitch”
Queer punk would never go away after this 7” came out. I just put it on for the first time in years. It’s even better than I remember.
10. v/a – “Turn it Around”
Hmmm, this has more songs than most of the 12” records. This is the compilation that made a highway exit famous. OPIV, Crimpshrine, Yeastie Girlz, etc. There are some awful songs on here to be sure. But the good ones… made the East Bay a punk destination. For good or ill.

Honorable Mention: Residents – “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, World”, Offs – “624803/Johnny Too Bad”, Negative Trend – “We Don’t Play We Riot”, Angst s/t, Cinamon Imperials – “I Hope No One Finds Out”, The Donnas – “Let’s Go Mano”, The Mondellos “Let’s Join the White Night Riot”, Pop O Pies – “Truckin”, Inflatable Boy Clams – s/t, The Cooperative – “Most Dangerous Band in the World”*

I’m sure only like five of you care about this. After all, my market research shows that my music posts are least favored by my readers. But if you do care, please share your additions and critiques.

Or post your hometowns best albums, whatever genre you like.

*BTW, I have a bunch of these in a box under my bed. Send me $3 and your address and you can have one.**
**BTW, I was lying when I said this was worthy of mention as one of the Bay Area’s best punk records, just so you know.
gordonzola: (Default)
I don't want to be maudlin or go for an easy emotional cliché. But my 40th birthday party will always be linked to Lance's death. I don't think that's awful (though Lance's death is certainly awful)… life and death intertwined… a milestone birthday and confrontation with mortality… It's so fucking poetic that it would seem contrived if you tried to use it for a short story or something.

Lance died at 40 and I was celebrating my 40th. Most of the people there were in a good party mood, part of the party was somber. Some folks had fun despite themselves and then felt guilty. Mourning is a tricky thing filled with the potential for self-hate.

As I mentioned, I got the news as I was shutting down the computer as I left my house for the party. In the car ride over, I got a call and a text. I freaked out a little asking how I should deal. Should I bring it up? What if I knew they didn't know? Should I turn my party into a memorial?

I got good advice from my people. Try to have a fun party. Don't bring it up but talk to people if they do. Let party guests tell each other and do what they need to do. We have the rest of our lives to mourn.

Many of the people there who knew Lance hung out with each other, but they probably would have done that anyway. I couldn't tell if they were mourning or just having a mini Epicenter reunion. Occasionally someone would come up to me and I could see they were teary and red-eyed. We'd acknowledge the obvious, and try to smile. We'd show some muted and socially awkward signs that we were glad the other person was alive and in our lives. Then we'd move on.

I felt bad the next day when I found out a few people, that I assumed knew, didn't. I have many different social scenes in my life and they have different styles of mourning.. Some would have been loud and aggressive, trying to make the world stop with their outward pain. The old Epicenter crowd is quieter, more stoic, less likely to call attention to themselves. I'm sure many people at the party had no idea that others there had just gotten very bad news.

The advice I got was good even if it didn't stop my own mixed feelings from creeping in. We do have the rest of our lives to mourn our dead. A San Francisco memorial for Lance is being organized and that will be a better place to remember him. Weirdly though, it was kind of an honor to share my 40th with Lance's memory.

I'm not sure I did him exactly right by him. Should I have said something from the stage? Had a moment of silence? But he was taking space in the hearts of all of us who knew him, publicly acknowledged or not. I'm glad I was around those folks. Even if my focus was elsewhere, it was comforting to look around and see other folks with their own internal struggles of mourning vs. celebrating written lightly on their faces, decipherable only to the other people who shared the pain.
gordonzola: (Default)
I thought I'd repost this in case anyone who knows Lance hasn't seen it. Man, this is depressing. I'll let you know if Liberty requests anything.

Dear everyone,

Lance is in the ICU. He collapsed during dialysis Friday afternoon, was administered CPR for fifteen or twenty minutes, and sent to the ER. He is now comatose, and fighting off an infection. The only thing the doctors say is that it's wait and see at this point.

I really apologize for the impersonal nature of this message, he has so many good friends that I'm not sure what else to do, and I would like to get back to the hospital asap. I will try to contact you again when there is any update. Please pass on this information to other close friends, as you can imagine there is really no way for me to get in touch with all of the people that I would like to. Please keep him in your best wishes.


gordonzola: (Default)
"Our time has passed. We have to accept that and take what we can get."

Amusingly enough this was my punk friend's way* of saying how much he wished he could attend the Subhumans show I went to last Saturday at Slim's. I must sheepishly admit that he's kind of right. And that the show was awesome.

This was the Subhumans UK,** an anarcho-peace punk band originally from the '80s. I counted the median age at around 35-40. It was nice. No one had anything to prove, everyone was political or at least not being stupid. Sure, there was a black and shiny dress code for the most part, but there wasn't a lot of attitude. It was full of the punks of my generation.

I immediately ran into ex-Epicenter people, which I expected, and a NoBAWC staff person which I should have but didn't. Anarchist punk shows are different than other punk shows because mutual aid is expected of the participants, at least in some basic ways: the pit is mix-gendered, everyone is expected to stop and help up people who fall, assholes (guys feeling up women in the pit, people there to fight etc.) will be dealt with by everyone close enough to witness bad behavior. Generally, people are supposed to look out for each other.

An example? At the 1989 anarchist gathering I was at some warehouse show and I realized that I lost my studded wristband in the pit. As soon as the song was over, the singer of the band yelled out, "Hey someone just brought up a wristband, did anyone lose one?" Sure enough, it was mine, no one else claimed it, and I got it back. Try that at Good Charlotte.

I've never written this before, but I have a favorite place to stand at punk shows (feel free to share yours in the comment section). I like being right behind the pit. You can see the band and the people about to run into you. You feel all the action without getting all winded from thrashing. Also, it satisfies my need be helpful because its'; the perfect position to pick people up off the ground, help people who need a break get out of the pit, and keep an eye on potential assholes. I worked my way up there on Saturday after a couple of soongs, and right after I did, I saw some 25-ish year old woman next to me looking like she was going to pass out.

"Are you ok?' I said.

"Yeah, just menstrual cramps." She answered. She caught her breath for the rest of the song and then jumped back in the pit.

A couple of songs late I saw her again. She was looking for a friend, any firend, and saw me. She worked her way over, holding her chest and asked me someone no stranger at a punk show had ever asked me. "Can you do me a favor?"

"Maybe". It was loud, like punk shows tend to be. I've been pretending to ignore it, but my hearing isn't what it used to be either. I had to lean in to hear.

"Can you hook up my bra?"

She lifted up the back of her shirt and untangled it. I clasped it. She said thanks and jumped back in the pit. Now that's mutual aid.

The Subhumans sounded great in the whiny style of the Crass-influenced punks. There were fast, angry songs, rants about '80s riots and the war in Iraq, beer, and people getting along.**** Everything I like about punk.***** For good or ill, I was with my people. Thanks [livejournal.com profile] claudimp for convincing me to go!

It was quite a contrast to the Cootie Shot show I went to in Montrose PA, where, except for parents, everyone in attendance was between the ages of 13-20. If I had somehow been plopped down in Montrose, saw there was a punk show, and decided to go I might have been beaten up. Not by the kiddie punx, but by the parents thinking I was some kind of child molesting, creepy, old punk dude. As it was I saw some parents eyeing me hard until it was clear that I knew the promoters and parents of Cootie Shot. I'm just here for the music, man!

I just realized that I never really wrote about the Cootie Shot show. It was awesome in completely different ways, at least to me. I couldn't stay for the whole thing, I had to drive back to Burlington, VT for my flight the next day, but the three Montrose bands I saw were all musically much tighter than most of the teen bands I remember from my day. Cootie Shot was my favorite, of course. Ramonesy riot grrrl punk? Yeah, that sounds about right. More '77 NYC-influenced than Rough Trade, that's for sure. If they tour California all of you have to come. I assume there will be a more comfortable age-range.

Though my friends describe putting on shows there as being more Little League coach than being a punk, the kids seemed into it, 100 or so of 'em coming from Montrose and the neighboring towns. It was safer, more popular, and less political than back in my youth but there were also less Nazis, random violence, and ODing kids. Trade-offs…

CS asked me if I liked the Ramones and then dedicated "Beat on the Brat" to me. Haha. I was all, "Yeah, back in the day I lost part of a tooth when I saw em in Rochester. All these big jock bouncers…blah blah blah" no one could hear me. They also dedicated a song to "all the old punks in the audience". The song? Operation Ivy .("Knowledge" I think. I forgot to write it down.) I was all, "What? They're New School!" But I guess that line moves with time. Especially since they weren't even born when that song came out.

Here's my friend's 16 year old daughter rocking out:

And here's the whole band. Poor drummers. They always get blocked by the other band members.
cs 3

I don't really know how, but somehow punk's still not dead.******

*He can out himself if he wants
**not to be confused with the Subhumans Canada one of whom helped blow up a nuclear missile parts plant which is pretty much the punkest thing ever.
***There was no flirting here, just intra-punk help. However, someone at the show fell in love/lust.
****The opening band, Witch Hunt, was awesome too.
*****Except for the Venue. A community space would have made it perfect. But I think that was the best show I ever saw at Slim's.
******But Reagan is.
(Thanks again [livejournal.com profile] jwz)
gordonzola: (making cheese)
Too much of my life has been wasted on horrible opening bands. Back in the day, there was a certain punk scene pressure to show up for the whole show. I know some of my readers will be already thinking of how they can mock that idea in the comments section, but the fact is that's one of the things that made punk a real subculture. I didn't watch those bands for the music. Putting on shows at Epicenter pushed me over the limit though. Too many folks demanding attention without putting out any effort…

It also doesn't apply when you've paid more than $10 for a show. We drove into Berkeley, checked out the scene at Sonic Youth, and saw we had a couple of hours to kill. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] de_gustibus and [livejournal.com profile] arasay, I know that Spats is the best thing in the entire City of Berkeley so we went there to get drunk on the miracle of fermented vegetables and the spirit of cultural imperialism. This is me and an ex-peace punk enjoying our dry-ice-mounted "Borneo Fogcutters":

Photo by [livejournal.com profile] cindymonkey.

The Berkeley Community Theater is a 3500 person venue on the Berkeley High School campus. We walked through the doors and [livejournal.com profile] ctrhotpink said, "Where are our seats?"

I said, "How the fuck should I know? I went to Redwood with you, remember?" Neither of the SF natives in our group had ever been there before. I hadn't been since my first concert ever.

We found our seats, sat down, and 30 seconds later the lights went out and Sonic Youth came on stage.

I hate LJ cuts. I really do. But this is a long entry and, I think, best read on one page altogether anyway so you don't scroll into other people's entries and get confused. Clicky-clicky for glimpses into Gordonzola in 1979, 1983, 1986, 1996, and 2007 )
gordonzola: (Default)
I will write more about the Sonic Youth show when I get a chance, but I'm really not so sure how I feel about this whole play-an-entire-album-live thing. I mean, why go to shows at all if not for the spontaneity? Sure, it was handy for knowing when to go to the bathroom (most of the audience went during one of those noise jams on the second side), but I usually go to shows only if I think they will be unpredictable.

Don't get me wrong, Sonic Youth was really good. But if I had to pick a Sonic Youth album to hear live I would have chosen "Evol", "Sister", "Goo" and probably "Dirty" before "Daydream Nation".

On Monday my review will include:
the last time I saw an album performed in its entirety
the last time I was at the Berkeley Community Theater
being in the same room as [livejournal.com profile] final_girl for the first time
Sonic Youth: the punk Grateful Dead?

What album would you want to go see played in its entirety? (and played by living musicians. This is not a time-machine or zombie question)

([livejournal.com profile] fluxions, who was also at the show, asked this question first. My answers in the comments)
gordonzola: (Default)
I've thought recently about having a regular feature here on my LJ to discuss albums that I own and love that no one else seems to have heard. It makes me realize that I'm behind the times though. Music reviews without MP3 links seem so early '90s. But I only have these on tape or vinyl and don't have the time to figure out how one could digitize that stuff. Who knows? Maybe it's already out there.

In my daily travels I listen to KMEL, Energy 92.7, and whatever college punk shows I can pick up. What I will write about isn't a paean to how better music was back in the day. It's just that certain albums have stuck with me over the years. Without the time/place connection they may in fact be unlistenable to other people. I'm really not sure.

I've been listening to Legal Weapon's "Death of Innocence" album for a week straight now. I've always thought it was one of the most underrated albums of SoCal punk. The only people on my FL I suspect might know it are [livejournal.com profile] substitute, [livejournal.com profile] swaz, and/or [livejournal.com profile] la_cochina. As far as I can tell LW are famous for the "Daddy's Gone Mad" on the "Hell Comes to your House" comp and producing some really bad hair-metal-light (or was it new wave country? I can't remember) albums in the late '80s.

"Daddy's Gone Mad" is on this album and it deserves to be their most well-known song. Suburban depression and despair when one lives in paradise "Contradictions they come by the score/ Radio, radio, I can't take it anymore", but also a call out that it's 1982 and time to choose sides, "you walk, walk, walk the line, You're no friend of mine." Reagan echoes throughout early '80s punk, even when not explicit.

What strikes me about this album is how pre-riot grrrl it is. I find it odd that this album wasn't dug out more in the mid '90s as an example of feminist themes in punk. Certainly it's not explicitly feminist (and certainly not socialist) like the Rough Trade bands: Slits, The Raincoats, Delta 5, or Au Pairs, and it doesn't rock as hard as Joan Jett despite having the bass and guitar players from the Adolescents. But this album is half full of songs about sexual abuse, personal interactions, and even, at least from a 2000s perspective , some lyrics about the limits of punk.

I mean geez, tell me that "Don't Pretend" doesn't read like mid '90s Riot Grrrl?

"Mommy don't leave me at home at night/Dad scares me half the time… Daddy you see / you justify me / don't pretend / My life's down the drain / I feel so insane / Don't pretend"

This album is also very slow by early '80s punk standards and the fast songs, with the exception of "Daddy's Gone Mad", are less distinctive, like woman-fronted CH3. But Kat Arthur has a great voice and I actually prefer it on the slower songs. With punk albums, this is unlike me.
gordonzola: (Default)
Maybe I need to stop writing about how busy work is this time of year. Everyone I run into is totally all, "How’s it going?" in hushed tones like I’m trying to survive cancer or something. It’s not really bad. I’m just focused and busy. And a little obsessed. Since I find fun in my obsessions, I’m actually kind of enjoying myself.

I went out after work on Saturday to see the Slits reunion show. It seems it is now my role in life to go see old punk bands and write about it on LJ. It was at Mezzanine which is an ok place despite the fact that it is the only place I ever see bands where I feel like I didn’t put enough effort into my wardrobe. They also have shows where the headliners never go on until after 12:30 or so. I saw about eight co-workers there and we were all complaining that old-timers shows should start earlier. But then again we are all in our time of work which is the Hardest, Most Painful Time that Any Human has ever Survived.*

I don’t even know what to say about the Slits. My feelings about the show were very love/hate. Some songs (mostly the old ones) sounded great. Other songs (mostly the new ones) were… uh… less great. But, as Ari-Up kept saying, "This is not retro! This is Slits 2006!" Lots of songs got played twice at the whim of Ari and some were arranged to be slower and more reggae than the original versions. There was an obligatory old punk song about the power of youth rebellion that was somehow rationalized to be relevant. Ari did a good job of setting up a SF-LA rivalry in terms of yelling and dancing and I have to say that no matter how stupid I know that formulation is, I’m still a Bay Area boy and it gets me every time.

Highlight for me and my co-workers was when they played "Shoplifting" and invited a couple of audience members up on stage. One of them was someone we caught shoplifting at our worker-owned coop and asked not to come back to the store. We laughed, but I’m not sure who’s laughs were bitter and who’s were ironic. The complexity of Ari’s choice of a stage dancer definitely added a layer of intrigue to the song. Not retro.

One of the new guitar players had such an unhappy put on her face that my friend suggested she must be Ari’s daughter. I have no idea if it is true but she looked young enough and certainly seemed to have the pouting teen look down pat. Was it an anti-retro statement about the youthfully cute disdain that we once had for the music of old people?

"Typical Girls" is one of the tone-setting songs for all that would become feminist punk:

Typical girls are looking for something
Typical girls fall under spells
Typical girls buy magazines
Typical girls feel like hell
Typical girls worry about spots, fat...natural smells
Taking fake smells

Who invented the typical girl?
Who's bringing out the new improved one?
And there's another marketing ploy
Typical girl gets the typical boy

Removing any trace of retro, Ari re-invented the song by inviting up "typical boys" to dance with the band while they played. In the moment it was funny and entertaining, especially the geeky-chic dude bowing down to Ari and dancing crazy. But upon reflection and after talking to [livejournal.com profile] final_girl, it was kind of striking to take a song that attacks the concept of compulsory boy/girl pairings and decorate it with (simulated) heterosexual pairings. It’s a visual interpretation of the song that is much more limited, suggesting that atypical girls should simply find their atypical boy pairing that is waiting for them out there.

Yes, I do overanalyze music. That's one of the ways I enjoy it. As for the show, I had fun when the reggae was minimized and the old songs were played. They actually sounded really good and they were certainly songs I never thought I’d hear live. The Slits were an awesome band and I would fully recommend "Cut" or the "Peel Sessions" CDs if you can find them

But the questions does remain, unfortunately. If this isn’t retro then why are we all so old?

* I do appreciate people’s concern though. I do.

**While looking up some Slits lyrics, I found this incredibly defensive site about how ‘77 punk wasn’t racist. This page might be more embarrassing than the original lyrics.

***I guess I just prefer [livejournal.com profile] slit to the Slits. At least in 2006.
gordonzola: (Default)
I went and saw "American Hardcore" last night and while it wasn’t the movie I hoped it would be, it was a lot of fun. For a while at least. Some of the scenes are amazing, some bands are awesome, but none of it made me wanna go back in time.

Vic Bondi turned out to be the most eloquent voice of why punk was important to me. The opening scenes of the movie set the stage perfectly: Reagan getting sworn in, neo-‘50s aggressive preppyism coming into vogue, greed-is-good-for-everyone (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.) attitude as the law of the land. The earlier waves of punk, 1977 and 1979, weren’t angry enough for us Reagan youth, thus hardcore punk was born. Being punk in the early ‘80s was setting oneself up as a target of violence and taking (at least temporarily) a vow of poverty. The movie delineated the DIY network that grew up through the ‘80s and showed how bands and scenes survived and why they did it.

But let’s get to the heart of the matter. This movie is a great document of certain things but didn’t take it’s opportunity to ask the really interesting questions. I am predisposed to like this movie. While I was never more than tangentially involved in the punk scene at that time, I did start going to punk shows regularly in 1983.* For the reasons listed above, punk helped politicize me and, honestly, changed my life. But man, even I got tired of watching white guys talk about how important their scene was by the time the movie was over.

Punk, even hardcore, was never all white though it was always mostly white and, with the exception of the Bad Brains, dominated by white folks. Punk, even hardcore, was never all male though it was always mostly male and dominated by men. As a white man who was a white teenager in the early ‘80s, I would argue that there can be a place for that. I can’t totally denounce the very scene that politicized me in the first place even though I had no idea of the bigger societal issues at play at the time. But we needed a place too. As Bondi put it, there was no organized left (that we could find) in the ‘80s, but there was hardcore. White teenagers had a lot to be angry at in the early ‘80s and creating self-sustaining worlds and acting as walking fuck-yous to Reaganism was certainly a valid and creative alternative. Especially when the scene is being created by teen-agers.

But (mostly)white (mostly) male anger has historically been problematic . And while punk gave me a lot, it was downright ugly at times. To the movie’s credit, some of the ugly is shown. Hardcore punks talking about "new wave faggots", some still-stupid people laughing at their violence against others who didn’t have it coming, the massive drug use, the band "Nig Heist", etc, but the most telling thing is the visual: two hours of white boys yelling and hitting.

There’s a reason that a neo-Nazi movement (never mentioned!) took hold in some punk scenes and why hardcore was seen as a recruitment base for white supremacists. They were never more than a dedicated and dangerous minority in the punk scene, and indeed many punks learned anti-racism by fighting with racist skins, but that’s still one of the obvious dangers of creating a (mostly) white subculture.

The rap on hardcore from the disaffected has always been this: hardcore was the reinscription of white male power on punk rock. While punk was always mostly white, Hardcore suburbanized it (and suburbs were a lot whiter back then) brought in a jock mentality through slam dancing and thrashing, pushed out the homos, the women, many of the people of color, and the artists. It also rigidly defined the music (with the exception of Flipper) creating "generic" punk from what was a musical movement that defied rigid form. These are things that spawned the queer punk and Riot Grrrl scenes in the late ‘80s early ‘90s.

I would also argue that hardcore politicized punk in a way it hadn’t before. It became explicitly anti-Reagan and got a more unified voice about the shift of political power going on in the country at the time. Hardcore created infrastructure that allowed people to survive. Kids could escape to any city in the country , find the punks, and find a way to survive unless self-destruction was their real goal. The DIY scene that was created spawned thousands of projects and is what made punk something we would even discuss today. That scene also spawned political impulses that rippled out to help fuel political movements such as the one that shut down the WTO in Seattle in 1999.

As much as we would like to make perfect organizing decisions and do only good, those of us who care about such things need to realize that politicization can be an ugly process. Despite all the negatives, and all the ways I could have chosen to not become political, punk showed me the possibility of another world, one that was anti-authoritarian, creative, self-sufficient, exciting, and full of people trying to, corny as it sounds, fight injustice. There was lots of stuff I ignored at the time, and there was lots of stuff I needed to unlearn, but punk provided a way of looking at things that spoke to me and my background. If people are to be politicized you have to get ‘em where they are. Where "they" are, where we are, in 1984 or in 2006, is pretty fucking ugly. To me, the importance of punk politically was to provide an avenue where people could start making political connections. If they took those lessons outside the punk scene and did more important organizing, as many did, so much the better. There weren’t many option we could see in those days. I don’t know how it feels as a teen today.

What I was disappointed by about the movie was that those questions weren’t on the agenda. This was about white teenagers in bands and the Bad Brains. There were some amazing folks interviewed but they weren’t asked the questions I wanted to hear.

At one point they explain/rationalize the absence of women in the movie and the scene by saying that women were always in the audience but were documenting the scene through photos and zines. Fine. But then why is the focus of this movie only on bands? I could be wrong but I think there were two women in bands interviewed and just three women from the Boston scene (Including, I think, that woman who played Brandon’s girlfriend In Beverly Hills 90210) out of around 100 people. That’s just fucking embarrassing.

It was as if Riot Grrrl and queer punk never happened. While those early ‘90s scenes were out of "American Hardcore ’s" time frame, they would have provided scores of interesting topics to ask the old-timers about. Those scenes changed the way that any punk or ex-punk with any brains at all thinks about their involvement in the scene. For example, all the scenes showed crowds of primarily white punk boys thrashing. Riot Grrrl asked the important question, "Who was holding their coats?". That question was a pretty memorable one for the punk world. It still resonates. Two weeks ago I asked [livejournal.com profile] dairryiere to hold my coat for a second (so I could put something at work away, not so I could go slam) and we had to joke about it to diffuse the situation.

MaximumRocknRoll was not even mentioned which is just unbelievable. MRR, through it’s collective organization, compilation albums, radio shows, and , reader-written scene reports in an explicitly political zine, was one of the most important networking tools of the hardcore scene. There was reason to hate that, but to ignore it is bizarre.

The lack of politics was my biggest disappointment in the movie. Anti-nuke protests, anti-Pope protests, Rock Against Reagan, the re-emergence of anarchist political groups: all of these things were influenced by political punks in the hardcore scene. For many, being political was being punk. I don’t know if they just considered Peace Punks non-hardcore, and certainly much of their influence came from the UK, not Huntington Beach, but we were all at the same shows. And don’t try to tell me that Gang Green rocked harder than Crucifix. It was no coincidence that I ran into someone I know from ‘80s North American Anarchist Gatherings as I walked out of the theater.

In the end, the movie cared about bands not scenes, even as it brought up the concept that hardcore’s greatest asset and contribution was the community of punks it created. Certainly the regional scenes couldn’t have existed without the bands. But the whole interesting thing is the vice versa. After two hours of amazing footage and some interesting interviews, that’s what was disappointing. It was a pulled punch. It shouldn’t have been another "great men" story.

*Flipper/Butthole Surfers/Frightwig at the On Broadway. Awesome.
gordonzola: (Default)
I used to be pretty hard-line about reunion shows. There’s a whole punk ethos to living in the moment , right?. The biggest criticism of hippies, beyond their insipid music, was that they refused to see reality. It’s 1977! Stop living in the past!

Another common refrain was that if (band x) was still singing the same things in 20 years, someone should put them out of their misery. Now that all the punks are older, of course, that’s out the window . Punk for a long time has been a subculture with established rules and order including, on some level, respect for punk elders. A lot of punks would have resented the implication that they would reform their old bands and be playing the same old songs when the hit their 40s but a couple things happened for a lot of them. 1. They wrote their best music before they hit 25 and 2. They realized that there best/easiest way to make money was to hop on the nostalgia train.

Not that I think it’s purely cynical. Old punks come out of the woodwork for these shows. At the Mutants reunion I watched people reconnect that hadn’t seen each other in decades . It was incredibly sweet. Seeing Gang of Four for the first time last year was awesome for me. I literally had been wanting to see them for 20 years. I know a few of you who I like were just at that Touch and Go reunion and while the Chicago bands don’t do it for me, I understand.

Punks, more than most genres of music that came before them, actually did do a fairly good job of living fast and dying young. Sure, hip hop kind of eclipsed the punks over the years in that regard, and the late ‘80s metal bands tried their best, but where would punk have gotten without the martyr Sid Vicious? Still dead punks can make a reunion more difficult.

There’s a lot more processing amongst punks about which reunion shows they feel are valid and which are cynical. It’s a useless exercise really, but hey, so was a lot of punk and that didn’t make it any less fun. Not useless exactly I guess, but certainly nothing people will ever come to consensus over. It kind of boils down to the fact that one person’s Clash is another person’s Sham 69. And as the Clash once said, "He who fucks nuns… will later join the church"

So without further ado, here is my deeply felt and completely subjective list of what punk reunion shows are work going to and which are a scam.

Bands I would see in a second:
Au Pairs
The Proletariat

Tragic Mulatto
Bikini Kill
Feelings on a Grid

Bands I would probably see:
Big Black -- Though when I saw them back in the day, they weren’t that great. They blew out the speaker in the first song and everything was tinny. That 4-song reunion they just did seemed to get mixed reviews.
Poison Girls -- I’m a sucker for anti-imperialist songs
Code of Honor -- I hear they’re featured in that new hardcore movie coming out so you never know…

Bands I would see under no circumstances despite liking on some level:

Sex Pistols --They joke would so obviously be on me
Stiff Little Fingers --This may be unfair because they were one of the early reunion bands. But a friend went to see them and said "Man, they were total wanna be rockstars. They even did the two guitar players back-to-back thing"
Buzzcocks --I have no reason for not seeing them. They made no political pretense of their modernity. I like the homo punks. I just never liked ‘em that much. Sorry

Bands I wouldn’t see because I always thought they kind of sucked:
The Exploited
Anti-Nowhere League
Sham 69

Bands I would have gone to see if an important member hadn’t died:
The Clash -- Do you think when they get desperate for money they’ll pull in Shane McGowan to sing?
Big Boys

Bands I have seen on reunion tours:
Team Dresch
Gang of Four
Nina Hagen
Mission of Burma

Bands I have seen but wish I hadn’t seen on reunion tours:
The Specials --Terrible and I ran into a bunch of assholes from high school
Social Unrest -- I loved this bands and I set up a show for them at Epicenter. It wasn’t that it was bad, it’s that no one cared and it made me sad.
Frightwig -- Same as Social Unrest

Bands I would see if…:
X Ray Spex -- if it isn’t a Krishna recruiting drive or fundraising tour

Bands I’ll probably see because it seems unavoidable:
The Contractions -- Playing the Castro Street Fair! I’ll hear them from my apartment even if I can’t see them.

Bands I will see I the next couple of months :
The Slits
--Never played the West Coast!

Bands that no one should see:
Dead Kennedys without Jello

I’m sure I’m forgetting a million bands so if there's someone you feel strongly about, post a comment and I’ll tell you how you should feel about them. Also, no promises I’ll keep my word on any of this. Except for the Dead Kennedys/Jello thing.

* bands in italics I never got to see before they broke up.
gordonzola: (Default)
So you know how you have certain albums that you probably listened to a lot back in the day and you burn out on them? Maybe you put 'em away and don't listen to them for years? Then one morning you put one on and you're like, "Damn, this really was one of the best albums ever made."

Operation Ivy -- "Energy" that's all I'm saying.

And, to continue my nostalgia post, I bought Slits tickets despite the chance that it might be an hour of Ari Up reggae disguised as a Slits show. But is anyone going to see ESG?

As [livejournal.com profile] jactitation once said, it is truly the messianic age of rock and roll. The dead are roaming the earth.
gordonzola: (Default)
Queer punks and their friends should go check out [livejournal.com profile] crusherrrr's post about the Dirty Bird Fest which happened ten years ago today.

Part nostalgia, part anti-nostalgia and a lot of awwwwwww.
gordonzola: (Default)
It’s not going to be me, but someone really needs to curate a punxsploitation media festival. If you haven’t seen it, the new Chips Ahoy! ad features an animated Chips Ahoy ! cookie surrounded by mohawked punks marching down the street yelling "Punky Chips Ahoy! Oi! Oi! Oi!" until a cop tells them it’ s chunky Chips Ahoy! not Punky Chips Ahoy!

With that "Ahoy!", you’d think they’d be working a pirate theme these days since pirates are so trendy.

But anyway, someone could really make a name for themselves by gathering and touring with bootlegs of the "Quincy", "ChiPs" and "Jump St." punk episodes and ads like this one. They could trace the trajectory from evil incarnate to "Mothers love us because we’re so sweet". (Pop punk is to blame for this, isn’t it?)

What other movie/TV/ad moments would you include?
gordonzola: (Default)
Though my market research has shown that my music writing is the least interesting thing to most people who read this journal, I’m afraid I am compelled to make another punk entry. Sadly, this one is to mourn another fallen comrade.

Most of the time I worked at Epicenter, I lived less than a block away. Our House quickly became known as the "House of Failure" because our Pac Bell given phone number was 552-FAIL. Soon, we got friend to rent the other apartment in the building and 7/8 of us were Epicenter workers. We even got mentioned in the SF Weekly as a punk crash pad, giving the above apartment its own nickname. Aaron Probe, who did NOT live there, provided drama by breaking down the front door in some kind of drunken rage. We even starred in a J Church song:

My house, my tomb,
I can't even write a song about sitting in my room,
There's no room to sit,
I just wait in apprehensive gloom

Most memorably though, the three Epicenter workers in our apartment put on a lot of shows over the course of those years. Some of the best bands of that time either slept there on tour or used the house as a dressing room because it was so close to the store. Though he paid no rent, one member of the household did more than any of us to make those shows go smoothly. It would have been impossible without him.

Bikini Kill, Nation of Ulysses, The Ex, Tribe 8, Slant 6, Team Dresch, Fifth Column, Tattle Tale, Stay Prest, Pansy Division, Kicking Giant, Los Crudos, Born Against, Taste Freeway, even reunion shows with Frightwig and Social Unrest… All relied on our fallen friend.

I went into my room yesterday and knew something was wrong. My clock wasn’t working but there was no power outage. I investigated. There he lay, lifeless. I tried to resuscitate him but it was no use. The House of Failure Power Strip was dead.

I think the only reason he lasted so long as that people were afraid to steal him because "Failure" was literally written all over him. The individuals who made up the House of Failure have all moved on. The phone number was changed years ago when the drug-addled riot kids accused us of being racy, classy, and sexy and kept crank calling. Epicenter closed its doors for good in 1998.

failure death fronte016
1993-2006 Rest in Peace, friend. You were my last tangible link to those times.*

*Well, except for all those promos I took at the closing party.


gordonzola: (Default)

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