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Monday, May 23, 2005

What Year is It? The Year Punk Broke

Black Randy and Stan Lee, originally uploaded by Theresa K.

The Year Punk Broke is the name of a rock documentary... but its more like a thought to me. Punk is bigger than ever, and it is why we can ask right now in 2005, "What Year Is It?"

This photo is from 1977. Its Black Randy and Dickies guitar player, Stan Lee, hanging out in the parking lot of the Licorice Pizza record store across the street from the Whisky A Go Go. We all used to park there for shows at the Whisky. Now, that location is an Aahs greeting card store. This photo was one that I exhibited in Chicago last week, when I was hyping the Horizontal Action Blackout like mad.

The Blackout was such a fun time, and I only attended two days. What is proves is that punk attitude is alive and well in the garage. All the bands that played kicked out the jams with all the fervor and fury of the Class of 1977.

Seems like wherever I go in this big country, I run into a band from home. As I walked in to The Empty Bottle on Chicago's Western Avenue (not far from my Uncle Gus's swell dive diner, Johnny's Snack Shop - please eat there - Wabansia and Milwaukee), NY-NJ's Shop Fronts were hanging at the bar. What a great greeting to see one of my local bands when I'm 600 miles away.

I must have seen and/or heard 10 or 11 bands who are all currently making records and playing out. Each of them caused their own glorious mayhem. I was most impressed by the Gris Gris who made a sublime record and who interpret it fantastically live. It is always a joy to see Jay Reatard bash the shit out of things the way he did with Final Solutions and the Blank-Its had the whole crowd swarming around their merch table after their set to take home some of their sounds. The Human Eye from Detroit, fronted by Tim Vulgar and his dynamic insanity absolutely blew me away. I always liked the Clone Defects and this takes that in a whole new direction. Tim had "Lexicon Devil" spray-painted on the back of his jacket, so that brought it full circle for me.

Whenever the Reigning Sound play, they bring the house down. I guess I am just in their thrall - but I've been a fan of Greg Cartwright's songwriting for ages and its always great to see him mix it up with songs from over the years as well as from the best album of 2004 - "Too Much Guitar." What I like about "Too Much Guitar" is its dirty sound, its emotional see-saw sequence and the rather Oblivians sounding thrash of deep album tracks like "Medication."

Missing the Pagans, I returned to NYC on Saturday to work the show I helped book at the Ding Dong Lounge with The Saints. Chris Bailey's voice is in top form and he is aided and abetted on guitar by Marty Willson-Piper, from The Church. They made everyone happy by opening with "I'm Stranded," and closing with a dynamic rendition of the Phil Spector opus, "River Deep Mountain High." Their show brought out music fans from all corners of NYC, including one of my favorite Finns, Sami Yaffa, the ex-Hanoi Rocks current New York Doll. He has his own band that does crazy gypsy music from hell, so I will tell you about that once I see it.

The following night, I went to see Billy Idol who put on a huge show that had the entire Beacon Theatre on its feet from beginning to end. I was thrilled to hear Billy continually referencing his punk roots and over-the-moon delighted to hear him play "Ready Steady Go." Those two Generation X records still hold up 27 years later. I would suggest you dig em up and give them a new spin.

What it all boils down for to me, in terms of seeing Punk Rock 30 years down the line is this: a new way of playing music emerges, evolves and explodes when we get tired of hearing the same old thing. Rock n roll was the response to pop fluff, and glam was our escape from the stresses of the world, and punk was many things - political, cultural and social. Its just that: young people's music keeps stirring up shit. Doesn't matter what year.

And the great thing is that its all cumulative. So in 2005, in the few hundred miles between Chicago and NYC, in one long, wild weekend, I was able to get my punk on with current bands and vintage ones - all of them doing it full tilt and all of them satisfying their audiences completely.

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