Some Thoughts #74

    I hit a real slump this past fall, which I can fortunately say that I have now come back out of.  Even though it’s the middle of winter and colder than I can remember in years, my spirits are pretty high.  I’m still waiting for the big snow storm that I just know is coming.  But in the meantime the ground here in Richmond is actually frozen and that rarely happens.  I’m hoping it will be enough winter to kill the ants so that I can have a new start to the garden this spring.  But enough of that.
    I’ve been digging out old records that I haven’t listened to for ages, years even.  And in looking for one, I find others that are also long forgotten.  Bands like Dead and Gone, Still Life and Gag Order; Samhain, Nausea and the English Dogs.  It’s almost overwhelming how much music there is and how much of it gets so quickly forgotten when that should not be the case.  When I get into something I get passionate and fanatical about it.  I want everyone to hear it, read it, share it.  I remember how important it was to me many years ago to spend hours and days making tapes at friends houses who had great record collections.  I don’t fancy myself a record collector - but I’ve got more stuff than I can listen to on a steady basis and I love my music.  I think it’s time to start listening to all these old records and see just which ones hold over into today, and also to rediscover those old favorites.   Listening to music is my life.  Sharing music is so important.  Music is the soundtrack to my life, our lives.  Some of my most favorite times are documented in a song, or a record or a tape.  When I hear a great band, song, or record - I want to play it for everyone I know.  I was invited to a mix-tape potluck party a few months ago.  I had never heard of such a thing but I thought it was the coolest idea.  You make a comp tape and take it to the party and then everyone goes home with a different tape.  I mean what a great idea!  What a great way to share music and turn your friends on to new stuff.  I was giddy all week and had the best time making my tape.  I ended up dragging out old stuff that I thought people might not know and I liked my tape so much I had to make myself a copy of it.  I used to trade tapes with pen pals.  In fact that is how I learned about a lot of my now favorite bands back then.  I fear that this is almost a lost art form in this day of internet immediacy - where fewer and fewer people actually write letters and more people probably download songs from the computer than take the time to make a tape and send it in the mail.  But that is a shame.  I’m not down on CDs, but man, tapes are the best!!!  I couldn’t live without my tapes.  I have tapes I’ve been listening to for over 15 years and they skip and jostle and all, but that has become part of them.  Like I said, the soundtrack of my life, right there, in that box of tapes.
    After the dry spell of the fall — I got my wish in the past few months and got to some amazing shows.  The kind of shows that make everything right in my life again and give me hope and inspiration and put me back on track so to speak.  The rollercoaster started back in early November when Strike Anywhere played.  If you have not had the chance to see this band yet - do yourself a favor and check them out next time you hear their name mentioned cause I’m telling you they are one of the best bands going.  They’ve exploded into popularity across the world and there always quite a buzz about them.  Sometimes, that is enough to make me wary, but in this case the buzz is right.  They’re an energetic hardcore band with politics to make you want to fight the system and feel like you can win.  I was so inspired in everything about this show... the bands, the environment, the rallying for the anti-war demo the next day.  It was honestly one of those pinnacle shows that reminds me of why I do what I do and makes it all worth it.  I got on a good roll and literally got everything I wanted cause the next weekend I went up to Pittsburgh, a favorite city of mine, which I have called home in the past.  I went on one of these mad furious one-day road trips to see the show.  I filled up the car with friends for the 6 hour ride to the Mr. Roboto Project space which was everything you could dream of in a collective showspace. The place was packed with punks - happy punks making pyramids and generally jumping around in the silly pits that I don’t know if I’ve seen since the early days at ABC NO RIO.  This is the kind of thing that comes from having a close knit community - a punk rock family.  It was awesome.  Well  I don’t know what the attendance is usually like but this night it was packed cause Tragedy  and Behind Enemy Lines were playing, as well as local bands Corpus Christie and Aphasia.  This is why I knew I had to be there cause I like all those bands and I knew it would be worth it.  Just how worth it would only play out when I fell in love with everything.  Seeing old friends, seeing new favorite bands and old favorites as well.  There’s an infoshop, bookstore, zine library, bike fix-it space next door and it really was almost to good to be true.  I think I walked around half the night going “I’m at a punk show” as if I never am, which is almost the truth.  I fell in love with Aphasia.  A heavy punk band with a metallic edge that screams Pittsburgh to me and amazing, I mean amazing female lead vocals.  Corpus Christie are an all girl punk band that were also a real treat and seeing a ‘Metalmorphsis’ English Dogs t-shirt really made me feel like I was “home”.  Pittsburgh’s always had this metal-punk scene and it’s where I spent my formative years and it’s about the only place I know people who like the English Dogs as much as I do. Seeing Behind Enemy Lines was a rare treat cause they don’t tour and rarely play.  Amazing as expected.  And Tragedy.  Well there is no doubt that they are about the band of the season - sending me and many around me into fits of euphoric ecstasy.  They transcend words and deliver some of the most beautiful yet intensely apocalyptic music.  I think they are one of the most important bands of our time.  As soon as the show was over, and I couldn’t stop smiling, chatting and hugging my friends goodbye.  But too soon, we turned around and drove back to Richmond.  I had a date with Avail the following night.  Like I said, it felt like I was getting everything I wanted.  Even though they live in the same town as me.  Even though they inadvertently were somehow part of how and why I ended up in Richmond in the first place - it’s been a couple years since I’ve seen them play live (and not by choice).  Their new record was getting heavy rotation on my stereo and rockin my world and when I found out they were playing on a Saturday night I jumped for joy.  So on no sleep back from Pittsburgh, I frantically ended up at the Avail show, and it was like jumping back in time.  All the bands that played were great.  The show was packed and crazy.  But Avail.  Fucking Avail.  God damn.  I so rarely cut loose.  I so rarely just go crazy.  I mean over the years I’ve had the opportunity to see many of my favorite bands.  And there have been many times when I thought, if only I could see this band, I would go totally crazy.  But my version of going crazy is still a pretty contained euphoria that doesn’t involve flailing my body around or getting outside of my personal space, ya know.  But Avail cut all that loose.  I was taking photos on stage and flailing like crazy.  It’s amazing how after all these years the reflexes for those parts - the finger points, the arm rolls - all just instinctual.  I had the best time.  I wanted to head out on tour with them the next day.  And it certainly wasn’t the first time I felt that way.  But I stayed in Richmond and nested down for the winter depression, which inevitably hit in December.  The shows I’ve attended have been few and far between since.  But November gave the kind of shows that revitalize me for a while.  I store up all that great energy and make it last. 
    Last week the moon was full and it was 10° and I went up to Philly with ATP to play with Neurosis.  Neurosis - another band that instills a fanatical dedicated following.  And they haven’t played on the east coast in years and have all but quit playing live and definitely quit touring.  So this was a landmark day, not to be missed.  It was cold as fuck.  The kind of weather that permeates your very existence and makes getting through the day feel like a real accomplishment.  Okay, we had no heat in the van either.  One of my goals in Philly that day was to walk to the Wooden Show Bookstore.  I was so excited that it was in walking distance.  Everyone said “take a cab” and I was like “I don’t take cabs are you crazy. I like to WALK.” (even when it’s 10° and I’m a total wimp for the cold.)  Funny thing is even I forgot just how much I like to walk - especially to walk in the city.  Philly is a cool city.  A nice old city and a pretty big one at that.  I walked the 15 or 20 blocks, past the liberty bell security fences and old brick roads and colonial homes and big old trees, and finally getting to the bookstore was all the more of a reward from the brisk walk.  They’ve got a really nice space with lots of books and zines and even some music.  I ran into a friend there and after talking to another Philly pal I can tell just how much that space is appreciated and that makes me happy. I think that these collective spaces are about the most important thing in our community right now.  Especially cause it feels like there are less and less of them - it makes me appreciate them all the more cause I know what it takes to keep these places alive and thriving.  Hooray for the Wooden Show and the Mr. Roboto Space!!
    Seeing Neurosis was more amazing than I was prepared for.  It was like a spiritual experience.  It was a total mind and body experience that transcended reality.  It was like a drug experience while being sober as can be or like a religious epiphany for an pagan/atheist.  I feel like that is a bit hokey and over the top but I know that there are those who understand.  I mean I was swooning, with goosebumps and weak knees.  There was that moment when the music just exploded into such intensity that it was almost scary and then when the vocals all at once just maxed out at this crescendo and I thought, “man, if I were on drugs, this could borderline on a bad trip.’  But there was nothing bad about it.  Just a level of intensity that I’m not used to feeling.  And it was like my brain was cross-circuiting and melting and it was just unbelievable.  I didn’t take any photos.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I regret it now.  But at the time I guess I just needed to swoon.  And swoon I did with all these other dreadlocked spiral tattooed people that probably understood my epiphany.  I ran into my friend Ron from Long Island who is the kind of friend that I fall into easy conversation and it feels like the more time we’re apart the more we have in common and the more alike we become - even though in reality I think we’ve always had that much in common, just never spent enough time together to really get that all figured out.  We talked about bands, about NYC, about ABC, and about how things have changed.  This has been a common theme for me of late in seeing old friends and really bonding over what we’ve experienced together.  It’s as if the people I’ve know for the past decade that are still around, still going to shows, still doing whatever it is that they do have become the battle-strong stalwarts and that the bond we share from that is all the stronger.  So many people have come and gone.  So much has changed.  It seems that those people who you can just say “hey remember when” or that you have a common ground to stand on from a history of past lives lived together - well it just makes things make more sense.  It explains that feeling I have to often of feeling so alone; of feeling like there are so few around me who do understand.  For example I recently got to finally see this documentary film on ABC NO RIO that this collective group called Mixed Greens in NY did and it was so awesome and so intense.  I was so proud of all that has come out of ABC and what part I had in helping with that.  But it also made me realize just why I am unable to let go of what I once had there - of what I was once apart of.  That film reminded me not only of why I still talk about how it was at ABC, but also why I feel so empty now.  Because things have changed so much.  The punk scene has changed.  New York City has changed.  The whole country has changed.  So much has changed and on so many levels.  It’s not just me saying “oh back in the day”, or “things were better then”... it’s more like me realizing that things were just so totally off the hook crazy in the early 90s and that I was right in the heart of it all - the right time and the right place - and all the energy and youthful passion to embrace it all head on.  Hell yeah I miss that.  I miss so much.  But it’s not there anymore.  And I’m not really sure that it’s anywhere.  We move on and try and find that kind of passion in new things cause we can’t keep on doing the same thing over and over in the same way.  Well, we can, and sometimes we do.  I know I do and that is often why I feel like I’m left in the past.  So I feel like lately I’ve just become really aware of that - of just how things have changed and of how much I do want to cling to those who were there, to those who understand and in turn to try and bring that kind of passion and energy and enthusiasm into the present.  It seems that a lot of people are floundering and feeling lost now a days.  But just as sure as that is the case, it’s all part of a constantly rotating cycle that will continue to roll along no matter when or where we try to jump off and stop time.  And inevitably just when things are down and it seems they can’t get worse, they usually start to get better.  That is how I feel lately - that things are finally turning around.  So whether that means that I will find my peeps and find loads of DIY shows and rad kids and collective run spaces in my city of Richmond... who knows.  But anything and everything is possible.  I really do believe that.
—Chris(tine) 1/03