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!

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