Friday, January 29, 2010

Seduction Of The Innocent: How One Kid Got Into Punk Rock

In another interview segment from Mike, he describes a pivotal time in any punk kid’s life: How he was first exposed to the underground DIY scene.

I grew up on a small beef farm about half an hour from Springfield, and attended k-12 in a small town of about 3,000 white people. I went to my first “real” underground punk show around age 16, in 1990 or ‘91. Months earlier, a friend named Chip and I saw the Dead Milkmen and he was wearing a shirt he’d bought at the show when he was shopping somewhere with his mom. Upon seeing that shirt, these two crazy looking people gave Chip a birthday card that had “happy birthday” scratched out and the time and directions to a show at the Commercial Street Club scrawled inside. Later, he showed me the card and we decided we’d go if we could gather up a couple of carloads of friends for safety. Punk had an exaggerated reputation for being violent, as did all of Commercial Street at that time. I remember it was one of Now or Never’s earliest shows, and I think Walking Octopus or The Rising Sun may also have played that night (they were older local punk bands) and headlining was a band from KC or St. Louis or thereabouts, they may have been called Never Alone or something like that (I just remember they also had “Never” in their name). Now or Never made by far the biggest impression on me of all the bands, but the event itself, the whole unconventional scene, the freaky punkers, the radical political overtones, the dilapidated venue casting menacing shadows on eerie old railroad tracks in the bad part of town, just the absolute craziness of it all completely captivated me and immediately I began to fall in love with the punk movement. None of the other people I came with seemed impressed at all, and none of them ever came to another show, except for Chip who occasionally made one, but I distinctly remember only missing two shows there (one for sickness, one for girlfriend issues) for the next several years until Dave stopped booking at that venue.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Punk Veteran Tells His War Stories

Mike is an old friend of mine, and was involved in the Springfield punk scene for several years before I was. He was interviewed for the Riverfront Times article on the Ozark punk underground that came out last year, but only a small part of the interview was used. Here’s a longer chunk, with Mike answering the question “Did you attend any particularly memorable local punk shows?”

Wow, I’m afraid to even begin to try to answer this, there were so many. There were many shows that seemed to lift me out of my body in an ecstasy I’ve since learned may be akin to religious experience. A positive, joyful, profound release and enlightenment on many levels is what I took away from countless shows, but the ones that make the most interesting stories are the opposite, where serious violence occurred or even where its threat immensely intensified everything. This always seemed to be provoked by nazi skinheads.
There was a show where a fearless band named Demise (from Detroit? Minneapolis? Milwaukie?) stood up to very offended, very angry, and very much larger skinheads during a terrifying live set. What’s just as impressive, Demise came back several months later and played for us again! This time the knuckleheads didn’t show up but the band told us about having their house burned to the ground by angry nazis in their hometown!
There was the time Dave decided to book a show at an old bar further down Commercial Street for a change. Schlong (from the Bay Area, maybe?) was the out-of-town headliners, but they never got to play. Skinheads went on the rampage early on, there was lots of blood and people running everywhere, I hid behind the bar with all the members of Schlong who surprised me when they said they had never seen anything like what was going on and shouldn’t we call the cops!? There was an African-American bar nearby, and eventually an actual riot of sorts broke out between their patrons and the skinheads on the street in front of the bar. That’s when we made our escape, while bottles were thrown at us and cars suddenly screeched to a stop and reversed in high speed away from the melee!
Then there was the return of the infamous, legendary NYC hardcore band Born Against. There first show at Commercial Street dropped our jaws to the floor – none of us had ever witnessed anything that hardcore. But nazis had been waiting for their second visit all day at the club, and attacked them with brass knuckles and such as soon as they tried to exit their van! They fled and called Dave, who set up another venue for them at a friend’s basement and started spreading the word to regulars on where to go. Somehow the nazis found out where it was and showed up in force. After some crazy violence in the guy’s house, the nazis were driven outside and SHARPs were called who quickly showed up and began a face-off with the nazis in this guy’s front yard! I saw clubs, chains, weaponized vodka bottles, an actual meat cleaver, and even a flashed gun before cop sirens started blaring in our direction and everyone scattered. That was the infamous end of the Commercial Street Club (which has now become a police sub-station!). Our town gained some notoriety as Born Against thanked everyone in Springfield, MO who saved them “from certain death” on the inside cover of one of their last albums. Last but certainly not least, there was the GG Allin show in Joplin, for which the aforementioned Syphilis opened, but that’s a whole other phenomenon in itself!