I’m gonna tie in a story about Linda Perry with a piece on punk. I'm totally going to make this shit work. Trust me. Don't think I can't see you looking doubtful. But I’m a professional journalist. I know what I’m doing.
. . .
My friend sends me a link to this show she wants to go to, but it’s in Virginia Beach and I hate crossing the border, so I’m not quite convinced. I haven’t been to a VB hardcore show since.. Fuck, it’d have to be 1997. When I saw the Muffs play this temporary hole in the wall dive bar. Thinking about that makes me sad, cause Kim Shattuck died just a bit ago, And that's just. Fuck. You know? And I get a little sadder, thinking about others who have fallen along the path. Dave Hufstedler of Who We Are Not and a dozen other Norfolk bands over the years died this weekend. Too damn young. It makes you think about how long you have left. What you haven't finished. The impermanence of mortality. It’s not fucking fair.
I click on the link for the band. I vaguely know the name from somewhere—Days N Daze. And I immediately fall in love. “This music makes me happy.” I say out loud. It makes me feel warm. It makes me feel better.
This is, of course, what songs do at their best. It’s what pushes me every day to write about bands. It just.. It makes us feel better. The world’s on fire and people keep dying and everything is broken. But I’m at a VB hardcore show for the first time in something like a quarter of a century and damn if I don’t feel fine. A man of twenty-five again. Impossibly, for a few brief moments.
. . .
I’m surrounded by Wave Rider Vehicle shirts and 17th Street Surf Shop paraphernalia. Misfits hoodies. Jackets with Cramps patches. Someone walks past with a homemade Descendents “Who Killed Spiney Jacket” getup. Green Hair. Purple hair. White hair. I love everyone here. Shooting the stage from the center of a mosh pit, rocking back and forth as the bodies push and pull me around like a rag doll. Determinedly keeping an eye to the viewfinder. My hand sure and steady at the ready. One finger dancing along the shutter speed dial.
In one sense, I’ve never been to the Bunker. But I swear an earlier iteration of myself moshed in this same spot once. Ages ago. And so inundated by these icons of my teens, of my twenties.. Carried aloft on the wings of punk rock, I’m alive when so many aren’t. Against every rational expectation, I'm still fucking alive. It’s a reason to celebrate. It’s a reason to fall in love. It’s permission to breathe. To risk. To goddamn try and make this forsaken planet better for the next poor saps unlucky enough to find themselves tracing our footsteps.
I love this music. Nothing else makes me feel the same way. The days are long and dark and filled with every manner of bad news. Tyrants at the fore. Brown shirts in the street with tiki torches and baseball bats and AR-15s. The water is rising. The forces of evil are gathering. Or rather.. They've been here the whole time, but now they're unafraid. Human cockroaches that no longer skitter away as you flip the light switch. Instead, they stand on hind legs. Skinhead motherfuckers. Little Nazi patches on their tiny leather jackets. Slurring, “Come at me, bro.”
. . .
There’s a leather-clad, metal tipped, real life rock goddess standing three feet away from me. Neon green mohawk like a declaration of war. She’s brought this cool little.. Fuck, I don’t know what it is exactly. Like.. The Velveteen Rabbit spent the eighties doin speedballs while hanging out at CBGB and it’s just tagging along to hardcore shows with now grown kid that used to take him to tea parties. The lady has made her way to the front with a sharpie, the rabbit, and a drink. I imagine to get him signed by Scott Sturgeon of Leftöver Crack. Tragically, while trying to manage three things with two hands, she drops her drink.
It spills all over the front of her before bouncing on the floor. She looks at me. I look at her. “Oh man.. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
She makes a sad face. I make a sad face. She holds her whisky soaked palm out to me, and after a second I offer her the hem of my hoodie to clean up. She flashes a beautiful smile, and all is right with the world again.
. . .
There are four bands here tonight. Single Use Plastic, bright shiny young locals who fucking love what they’re playing and are having the time of their lives. COP/OUT, mustering forth every bit of fire and fury they’ve got inside of them. The aforementioned Days N Daze. The legendary Leftöver Crack, who started playing a year after I bid farewell to the VB hardcore scene. I could fill this space about this band did this and they were good, and then this band did that and so on. But fuck it. If you love them enough you were there for it. And if you weren’t, you couldn’t, or you would'a. Let’s assume that they all rocked the fuck out and all is good and well in the world and move on, yeah?
. . .
I’m outside smoking when a cop drives by and thirty hardcore kids start yelling “Fuck the police.” Somewhere Ice Cube is leaning back in a ten-thousand-dollar Easy chair upholstered in the finest Corinthian leather, raising a diamond encrusted Steuben glass tumbler, cracking wise—“Damn straight.”
I myself am keeping an eye out for the fuzz to make a U-Turn cause wise bones don’t heal like young bones, just in case shit’s about to get real and I need to make myself be somewhere else. But the cop ignores them. That there’s a certain level of privilege inherent in one’s skin to be able to shout at the police with impunity is a consideration that does not escape me.
. . .
I came here tonight with two ladies and a black poet friend. The poet's trying to decide whether to get the Day N Daze shirt labeled, "Kill a Cop" or the one that's less incendiary. "What do you think?" He asks me.
I take a moment to frame a response, "Um.. Well.. I think you have to ask yourself. 'Am I a young African American male who might find myself in Park Place wearing this shirt in front of a cop who might already be unjustly inclined to beat my ass?"
He nods. "Yeah.. I'm gonna get the plain one."
Discretion is a motherfucker. But we live in dangerous times.
. . .
Whitney Flynn of Days N Daze is sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette. She’s glorious, and I’d like to tell her how much I enjoy the music she makes, but it feels intrusive. Too many people probably bug her at these shows in venues where there’s no back exit, and I decide that it’s more polite to just leave her be. Two seconds later a pair of kinderpunks slide in sideways to tell her how beautiful she is. It’s wholesome as fuck.
. . .
On the way home. “Do you like spooky stuff?” I mean.. I like goth music, does that count? “No, I mean.. You know. Ghosts.” I respond noncommittally at first. And then posit that while I don’t believe in any kind of afterlife, I suppose human beings might be able to leave some kind of stain behind if they die in a certain way.
And I wonder about that. If our actions leave residue.
We are so poorly constructed. Gossamer dream loosely bound by threadbare cords of hope and desire and fear. Anchored in brittle clay. Breaking off a piece here. A piece there. Day-in and day-out till the center can no longer hold.
When we die, is there anything left but memory? Do we only live beyond insofar as someone holds precious space for us in whatever remains of their own heads? Preserved in nooks and crannies through the minds eyes of those who've outlived us? Until even that is gone?
Write your name in a book next to some words and pray that it is read someday. Hope that you’re lucky that some kid will pick it up two-hundred years later, sparking a one-way conversation. Until at last the page itself becomes dust. Not enough left of us to qualify as ash, do we finally fade? Were we ever real at all?
Did we matter?
. . .
Later one of the ladies apologizes, unnecessarily in my opinion, for her state of inebriation throughout the evening.
"I always feel like such a fucked up mess." She says.
"I adore your mess," I reply.
. . .
I end up at Cogans cause I’m hungry and these kids are all too sleepy to hang. It’s karaoke night and Four Non Blonds hits the lyric screen. That’s right. Linda fucking Perry. You thought I forgot, eh? I told you I’d tie this in somehow. And for a second time tonight I’m transported through the years again.. I’m back in college. Two in the goddamn morning, Winter of ’92. I had found the way home after a horrific series of misadventures involving way too many disparate drugs. A vision of trudging along beneath a sea of blood. I had escaped monsters. Blazed out of my skull. Bruised. Hurting. Picking glass out of my knuckles from a losing battle I couldn't remember why I had felt compelled to start. I didn't know if the sun was ever going to rise again. Propped up against the door of my dormitory when I heard the faint strains of a song. A clarion voice rung out. The music hit, and I..
I felt better.
“Twenty-Five years and my life is still.
Trying to get up this great big hill.
For a destination.”
And if you find yourself in a mocking mood cause I'm having an emotional reaction to a top-twenty Linda Perry song? I suggest you check that. Linda Perry is amazing. If you know, you know. And if you don’t? Get with it. Life is too fucking fragile to be the wrong kind of snob about music.
Everyone in this bar is singing along. The girl with mic is losing her mind with the joy of it all. We're all having a grand old time.
"And so I wake in the morning.
And I step outside.
And I take a deep breath and I get real high.
And I scream from the top of my lungs,
What's going on?"
Don’t listen to the haters. Nothing’s more punk-rock than surviving.
NYC. Hardcore Punk.
Days N Daze
Houston. Folk Punk.
NYC. Political Punk.
Single Use Plastic
Virginia Beach. Skater Punk.