Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Did you miss the punk summit?!

I hereby declare 2006 to be The Year the Whippersnappers Learned Their Place. I have read the writing on the wall, and it states that listening to your elders is not as lame as previously reported. Just look at politics: George Bush Jr. got himself into a fine mess in Iraq, and he's turning to a gaggle of his father's old friends to fix the fracas.

Well, in case you missed it, a similar meeting of the minds kicked off Wednesday night with a similar purpose: It was a summit on the direction of punk music, convened by the Beta Bar and lorded over by the original Circle Jerks. And like any good punk show, there was much rejoicing, a little fighting, and a curious number of underage teens experimenting with leather and safety pins. A strange, new punk value was instilled, too: A solemn responsibility to hear what the old men have to say.

The Jerks, of course, are now venerable granddaddies of the L.A. hardcore scene that birthed them about 1979. That bears repeating: 1979. That's six years before the majority of Wednesday's crowd was even born. Also not born yet: Green Day, Good Charlotte, Blink-182, and numerous other Hot Topic teen bands that do for punk what Zima does for beer.

Frankly, it's gotta be more than a little depressing for the boys in the band to watch the hardcore scene slouch toward a state of capitalist-fueled entropy. Especially for Jerks like Keith Morris of Black Flag fame and Greg Hetson, who strummed for Bad Religion (both of which are, um, kind of a big deal): They suddenly find themselves headlining all-ages shows, half-packed with clarinet-playing honor students who dress as Slipknot members for Halloween and use charge cards to purchase do-it-yourself fashions already done beforehand by Vietnamese sweatshop workers.

As Morris put it onstage, complaining about the Warped Tour punk world, "Maybe we're all just a bunch of old guys, and these 13-year-olds don't get us."

Nonetheless, they took a wild stab at making themselves understood.

The undercard played admirably, with Switchblade Cheetah making its argument in 45-second bursts. In the Wake Of...'s back-to-basics sound reassured the older crowd that it had, in fact, arrived at the correct address. Bless their hearts for blasting out a cover of Minor Threat's "We're Just a Minor Threat," whose opening chords were received like heavenly manna by those of us whose memories of the 1980s are not all programmed by VH1.

Then there were the Lower Class Brats, whose licks and riffs were almost as meticulous as their glam makeup and outfits. Too bad the lowest class of all - about five skinheads and various other of Darwin's walking jokes in the mosh pit - tried to ruin this danceable major-chord set by stomping the doe-eyed teens in the front row.

By 11 p.m., the statesmen had arrived to hold court. Despite their age issues and political alienation (in his between-song ruminations, Morris touched all the typical anti-government, Bush-bashing bases you would expect him to), the fogies made an appeal for punk unity, emphasizing the chorus from their song "The Crowd": "All the world lives here." Tossed into the appeal were an hour's worth of timeless classics - "Behind the Door", "Back Against the Wall", "Fortunate Son" and "Wild in the Streets" (which was broken up by a pit fight, then resumed with gusto).

Most valuably, the Jerks were gracious enough to provide the audience's nubile novices a few free lessons in the basics, hearkening back to the first wave of punk with a cover of Robyn Hitchcock and the Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You" and saluting L.A. forebears the Plugz and the Weirdos.

By the time the boys' four-song encore culminated in "Depression", kids wearing Against Me shirts had found common ground with those of us who still think Bad Brains and the Damned are required listening.

Now, if only we can get those whippersnappers to turn off the MTV and eat their vegetables.

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Tallahassee SHARP said...

You went to a punk show and you're complaining about skins and punks moshing to the Lower Class Brats? Come on. First of all, the Tallahassee skinheads (and the vast majority of skins world wide) are nonracist and antiracist, just to get that straight right up front. We're working class joes who like to drink beer, listen to good music (you must have missed seeing us at the Toasters show last week or the opening of the new 514 space on Gaines a week or so before that), and mosh. We're in local bands, we've run local spaces, we own local businesses, we support local charities, our kids are in local schools. We're not boy and girl scouts, but we're not "Darwin's walking jokes".

Second, were we watching the same show? Those "doe-eyed teens" on the front row were all friends of the local skins - heck, some are skinhead girls themselves - and knew exactly what they were in for standing at the front of the pit. That's part of the fun.

Third, LCBs' look is droog-based, not glam-based. Clockwork Orange, not Ziggy Stardust. They market to and are mainly supported by - guess who - nonracist skinheads and oi punks.

Fourth, that "pit fight" was a misunderstanding between two friends that was overreacted to by a bouncer. It all got worked out easily enough.

I'm a 30 year old, local, antiracist skinhead. I've put in my time in the punk scene - roadying, putting up and feeding otu of town bands, setting up shows, running fanzines. To see me and mine called "the lowest class of all" by someone who obviously only goes out to a major show here and there is par for the course but always annoying.

Adam Weinstein said...

Thanks, SHARP, for your points - they're all well-taken! Lord knows it's a sad day on the green planet when you can go to a raucous punk show and a pit doesn't break out. You can't have one without the other, 'tis true. I think Einstein proved it somehow in General Relativity.
And it *was* a misstep to overgeneralize the handful of token twits (I have a specific friendless few in mind who obviously weren't saints - Gaines Street or otherwise) as representing the majority of decent pit-dwellers. It's especially unfair to AR skins like you, who not only have paid their dues but help make sure there is a punk scene to speak of in our stately burg.
Nonetheless, there ARE some evolutionary jello molds out there who insisted on stretching the pit out a bit too far and giving the how's-your-father to more than a few noncombatants. Mea culpa on not drawing a better distinction.
And just for the record – yeah, I got the LCB’s Clockwork homage, but with all due respect to the very talented boys in the band, I got more of a Billy-Idol-dresses-up-for-Halloween vibe than a Malcolm-MacDowell-readies-for-a-bit-of-the-ultraviolence shtick.
Maybe if they’d had canes, maybe.
But it’s just my opinion.
Now viddy well, and let’s all be malenky droogs. Gimme an OI and lemme buy you a beer (or a moloko) sometime.

Tallahassee SHARP said...

I think the last time they came through, they did have canes. Or hell, I may just have been drunk and imagining it. Or was that the Adicts?

Good all around, man. I'm just saying, don't use us as your scapegoats for bad pit behavior (something I see MUCH more often from the mainstream types who come to one big show and have only ever seen mosh pits on mtv).

Catch me at the next Lucky Scars show. I'll buy the first Pabst if you buy the second.