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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On Being an Old Lady Watching Hardcore On TV

Darby Crash of the Germs - who I credit for inspiring hardcore

Over the weekend, I was relaxing in front of the TV set with my friend, Jackie Sharp, who was (and still is) a principal in Target Video, the collective that I always refer to as the San Francisco punk rock version of the Factory (as in Warhol, and not like Tony Wilson's record label). We were watching American Hardcore and reminiscing about the old punk days and the birth and rise of hardcore. We even joked to ourselves that we were a couple of middle aged women watching punk rock on TV and laughed out loud at the reality that since Punk is 30... PUNKS themselves are 45+....

3 guys in a trailer park
Mike Watt, Evan Foster, Michael Kastelic, 2004

Hardcore has always been a difficult one for was hard core... literally rough and violent and way too much for a girl to withstand. And in watching American Hardcore and seeing all the footage, Jackie and I were noticing that the scenes in Washington, DC and other non-California venues didn't have any women in the crowd shots. It wasn't until the interview with Black Flag's Kira Roessler came on the screen that you saw a woman.

And Kira's an LA Woman. You see, in California, women were part and parcel of the hardcore scene. They'd be in the mosh pit, duking it out with the rest of the people...all guys. Tough guys. It was way too much for me. I watched from the back of the room.

Intellectually perhaps I always "got it." But the reality was that I was not going to be IN that kind of situation. No, I don't like being accidentally smacked in the head! So pretty much, I wrote off hardcore as music to see.

I credit the Germs somehow for inspiring hardcore... whether it was Darby Crash and his unpredictable and often self-mutilating performances that inspired violence in others, or something else entirely. I also credit the South Bay and its native son, Mike Watt for raising the stakes and hardcore's profile.

Then the 80s came and punk rock seemed to be only hardcore. Anything with a pop edge was New Wave, or else a more straightforward rock n roll with a punk edge stayed in the garage, genre-wise. But in watching American Hardcore more than 20 years after the phenomenon itself started, I gained new respect for the genre. It still doesn't mean you'll see me in the pit! GO ahead and call me an Old Lady! I am one.

Certainly, one of the best interviews in the documentary was with Ian MacKaye, a DC native son who explained it for everyone in a way that allows even the most disapproving of the genre to have some empathy. I was going to call him, actually, and tell him so. Then I read some bad news on the internet in the form of a question, "Did Ian MacKaye Die?" There was none more freaky a coincidence than that. But thankfully, the all-knowing Goner Board Donkey cleared it all up with a useful and informative link to a paper of record in MacKaye's stomping ground. So without further ado, ladies and germs... I give you the Baltimore Sun.

Ian MacKaye is alive. Elvis is still dead

A phone rings at 6:08 p.m. in Arlington, Va. A 45-year-old man picks up. The caller doesn't even have the chance to offer a greeting.

"I am still alive," reports Ian MacKaye, the frontman of such punk acts as Minor Threat and Fugazi, and the founder of Washington's Dischord Records.

This would not be news except that The Sun and apparently many other organizations had been told that MacKaye was, in fact, dead. We were told that he died Monday night at Baltimore's St. Agnes Hospital. A call to the hospital found no evidence of such a patient. We followed up with calls to Dischord (left a message) and to MacKaye's home.

"I am happy to report that I am not dead," says MacKaye. He and the record company had been blasted with calls, he says, after premature reports of his death were posted on MySpace and Wikipedia. He says he hasn't been able to find the MySpace reference, but had the Wikipedia posting removed -- and then re-removed, once someone reinserted the false news.

That just goes to show.... Caveat Emptor applies to wikipedia and myspace double!

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