HomeBlogsJeff Hewitt's blogBook Review: Banned in DC. Plus Bato, Nervous System, and Shadow Age burn it down.

Book Review: Banned in DC. Plus Bato, Nervous System, and Shadow Age burn it down.

May 25, 2018799Views

There's a dichotomy that's always existed for me between the inherent foundation of the nihilism that defined Punk and those who dedicated themselves towards documenting their respective scenes. But that's a slip on my part -- not all punks were bent on self-immolation.

Banned in DC: Photos and Anecdotes from the DC Punk Underground Sun Dog Propaganda. $24. Click here to order.

It probably makes sense that those with the predilection towards setting moments down on paper, film, or whatever would work to capture the lightning in a bottle aspects of a musical movement that has come to dominate every aspect of our modern age -- while at the same time spawning countless arguments as to how long it actually existed before dropping dead in a gutter somewhere. Or even a more infinite combination of debates as to whether it ever actually existed at all.

A joint effort from Hardcore Norfolk and TBA Productions turned out a full house of Punk enthusiasts last night for photographer/curator/artist Cynthia Connolly's slideshow talk centered around Banned in DC -- a retrospective borrowing its name from an old Bad Brains song off their first real record back in 1983. The stress broke the group up soon after, which began something of a pattern for them as they reformed and split apart again and again, like some sort of musical recursive loop. As the story goes, In 1979 the band was essentially prohibited for a time from playing most clubs in the DC Metro area for any number of reasons depending on who you ask. Fun Fact: Did you know that their first producer was Rik Ocasek of the Cars? A man whose contributions to American music are egregiously being forgotten as time slides along.

The book is an gorgeous affair, slammed full with images that were painstakingly restored from original negatives. It's difficult to impart the difficulties photographers faced in those days as compared to now -- low light situations in which most had no access to higher speed films. The challenges that come with storing developed film, print making, etcetera -- many adherents often found themselves bouncing back and forth between living on the street and surfing couches and had to rely on storage units that weren't terribly conducive to preserving film. And if we're being honest, a lot of people died be along the way. Drugs, violence and later -- the HIV/AIDS epidemic, took more than its fair share out of that scene. And in a lot of those cases, what they left behind has been lost. It's something of a miracle that this many photographs from that time exist today, and a testament to the efforts of the collaborators who first put this book into print back in 1988: Cynthia Connolly, Lelsie Clague, and Sharon Cheslow.

Connolly's presentation last night was a masterclass in the genre with stunning pieces of ephemera sprinkled into a breathtaking collection of images, recollections, and other scraps and bits from the era. Kudos to both Hardcore Norfolk and TBA for making this happen. Efforts like hers and those of her peers are the cornerstone of why sites like the Antonym exist in the here and now. We owe these people a debt.

. . .

Nervous System, a band that has somehow managed to fly under my radar thus far, kicked off the music portion of the night with a ferocious, all-out assault. I chatted with one of their members to learn that they've been together for about a year and are based in Chesapaeake. Great band. No social media presence that I can find -- if you know of links holler at me and I'll add them here. This is the third time I've caught Va Beach's Bato, and they never fail to bring it. Hardcore for the hardcore hardcore fan.

Of course, if you know where my tastes run, Shadow Age from out of RVA was the reason I left my house last night. This is my second show for these masters of mid-eighties goth-rock ambience. Their first full record that I'm aware of is close to dropping, and I can't wait to give them my money. The grapevine tells me we can expect to see them back here before the end of the year.

Nervous System


Shadow Age

Words & Photos by Jeff Hewitt