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Monday, August 01, 2005

Next Punk Show - Photos and Bands

I can't tell you how proud I am to be showing the traveling collection of Punk Turns 30 pix at the Goner Fest in Memphis, TN, birthplace of rock n roll, breeding ground of rock, soul and blues, final resting place of Elvis.

As someone who is an age peer of the original punk rockers, "class of 77" as we've been called, I have a stellar benchmark against which I compare any punk band subsequent to our heyday. Its a pretty typical human reaction, I think. Goner has a punk rock pedigree that fits right in with my "class of 77."

Old school punk had a good run, and then the 80s happened. The 80s gave us, for better or worse, among other things, the birth of MTV (now a Goliath media network for whom even I worked for a while), the "Miami Vicing" of style, Madonna and the taking of derivative homage to a Baroque degree, the Reagan-Bush years, and King George Bush I, the rise of synth-pop.

Working for a record label during that time, doing A&R, you can imagine how frustrating it was for a punk rocker to swim in the musical pool of the 80s. I mean, who was out there that I could relate to? Luckily, as a woman of my word, I lived up to my promise that I would leave the country if Ronald Reagan were elected President.

I spent most of the 80s in London and Paris. Stiv Bators and Michael Monroe were my room-mates for a chunk of time in London. Through them, I either met, or further bonded/cemented relationships with other old school punks. My friend since teenage years, Kid Congo was always in London as he was now playing with another old LA pal who expatriated, Jeffrey Lee Pierce in The Gun Club. Stiv, Michael and I had a regular circuit of bars and restaurants where we hung out with the likes of Rat Scabies, Brian James, Jaz Coleman, and my favorite guy from the old days, Tony James.

Jeffrey Lee Pierce, 1980
Jeffrey Lee Pierce

I'm not saying that all of the music around in the 80s sucked. But trying to make a living in a company that relied on mass consumption of music was proving to be a BIG HEADACHE for me. It came to a place where personal taste and professional obligations separated.

So, I went indie. Then I decided to move to New York and the cost of living here forced me back into the real work world.

Working for the largest media company in the world has its ups and downs. The ups being that you can in fact shoot your television programs (or parts thereof) in Europe. The downs being the likelihood you're filming music you love in Europe may be low. However, I found during the 90s that a lot of my favorite American musicians of the indie/underground/punk/garage vein were finding solvency by touring in Europe when America wasn't paying the bills. So, whenever I could force the coincidence, I found myself enjoying the likes of bands and artists ranging from The Fleshtones to Sid Griffin while on the Man's dime.

Perhaps one of the more extravagant things I got to do on The Man's dime in Paris was stay at the Hotel Lutetia, have room service anytime I wanted, treat co-workers and cute French boys to dinner at St. Germaine hot spots, get a free accessory from the Christian Dior boutique because I was filming in it, and the possibly the most wonderful music thing I experienced in the decade happened on one such trip to Paris for The Man. I saw a live band that reminded me of LA, circa 1977: The Oblivians. I caught about ten or fifteen minutes of a chaotic, raunchy, and furious set. Earlier in my evening, there was the typical dinner with a client or vendor and it was proper and sedate (the food was amazing; the company was all business). This rock n roll woke me up and revitalized me for the rest of my stay in Paris, left a permanent mark and installed a new benchmark for measuring up other bands.

I've been a big fan ever since, and one of my greatest disappointments in recent times was that I was unable to attend the Halloween 2003 Oblivians reunion show, despite having the total Memphis hook-up if I wanted to go.

So, in the years since I caught my first glimpse of the Oblivians, I've become friends with Greg Oblivian and have done everything I could to spread the word about his music and bands, including getting into ridiculous conversations and debates over it with an ex boss who should know better.

Me & My Hero
Me and Greg Cartwright aka "Oblivian"

If the Stooges set the bar as the 60s closed, and The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Clash, and Dead Boys set the bar in the 70s, then the 21st Century standard was set in the 90s by the Oblivians and Detroit's Gories. When history is written, I think I'm not going to care what was written about the 80s. It was a decade where cool things got hot, and by extension, overdone. It was a decade that gave us a lot of culture that plainly doesn't hold up in my book. It gave us Reagan-omics and I'm not sure we've recovered from their aftermath. But ultimately, the 80s gave us the 90s and the re-birth of the kind of punk rock that kicks my ass.

Finally, with Greg's encouragement, I've been talking with the punkest Oblivian, Eric, and during his Goner Records Goner Fest, you'll be able to drop by his store and see some of these Vintage Punk Photos in person. There's a lot more space at Goner than anywhere I've shown before, so I'm going to make a few BIG pictures to fill up those walls.

Why do I refer to Eric Oblivian as the punkest? In true punk rock DIY fashion, he started a label to release his own band's records! Seeing them play live, even though it was many years ago, he seemed to be the trash guitar monster of the three of them. And now, Eric has continued to put out records, great records by cool bands that seem to have one thing in common: he releases them because he likes them. Or so it seems.

My record recommendation of the day: "Live at Maxwell's" The Reigning Sound. (Its on the Telstar label out of Hoboken) I was at that show. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime shows that people who attended will always talk about -- Greg broke many strings, yet played all your favorite songs on a guitar with three strings, making more noise than a band with two fully functioning guitars might make. Even with all the trash and thrash, the Reigning Sound deliver some soul and its one of those bands that doesn't skimp on the great harmony vocals (original bass player Jeremy Scott delivers.) For people who missed the opportunity to see this dynamic rock action in the hot and sweaty Maxwell's last summer, you'll always have this disk. Fourteen songs. Not a single dull moment.

Not like I won't tell you a thousand more times before it happens, but mark your calendars for Goner Fest, September 22 - 25, Memphis, TN. Photo exhibit and reception at Goner store on September 23. Hot dogs! For more info: visit Goner online.

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