Showing posts with label punk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label punk. Show all posts

Sunday, December 30, 2012

One, Two, Three, Four Who's Punk/Geek, What's The Score?

This article on The Mary Sue discusses one of 2012's biggest pot stirring topics in the world of geekdom: the fake geek girl. I'll let the article speak for itself as the first 2/3 does a great job of introducing and analyzing the issue at hand. The part that really interests me comes after the line "Why does the impostor  who represents a small fraction of our community, seem to have grabbed so much focus and power?"

As a lifelong geek and a more recently self-identifying punk, I'm very familiar with the witch hunt mentality that develops around seeking out fakes and impostors in outcast social groups. The punk world particularly has dealt with the issue since the music first moved out of the basements and garages and onto the airwaves where anyone could hear it. Arguments over who or what punk really is still rage to this day. There are even punk songs about the topic such as Jawbreaker's "Boxcar", wherein Blake Schwarzenbach advocates dropping the labels completely because who cares?

The article covers pretty much all the bases in exploring why this behavior occurs. What really interests me though (and what I'd love to see someone with the appropriate background delve into) is the anthropological underpinnings of it all. What is it about outcast groups that seems to drive them to so vehemently weed out impostors and how far back in the human psyche does this reach?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Final Zlam

Bands come and bands go, and it seems that the closer you get to the local level the greater that churn becomes. Making a livable career out of making music is a huge undertaking and one that even for full-time touring bands doesn't pay much. There comes a point in the life of many bands where a decision has to be made as to whether people want to continue putting the effort into making music or pursue other options. While some bands may linger around and play a show from time to time without putting out any new music, others often feel it's better to just call it quits and hang up the guitars. The latter is a decision that Austin's Zlam Dunk has made and they'll be playing their final show along with Equals and The Couch at Red 7 tonight.

If you've read any of my articles here and on OVRLD this year, then you've likely seen me write about Zlam Dunk before. Back sometime in April I realized that after living here for three years I hadn't really been exposed to much local punk music outside the burgeoning garage scene. I took to in order to search for the kind of punk and hardcore I was into and among my first crop of finds was this energetic, danceable, but totally hard group called Zlam Dunk. I immediately took a liking to their 2010 LP "Nobel Ancestry" and as luck would have it, they were going to be playing a show just a couple weeks later at the Beauty Ballroom. Zlam Dunk played last that night on a bill with Searcher, Goldspine, and Boyfrndz and by virtue of the fact that the Beauty Ballroom is not a venue with much walk-in potential and that the show was on a Thursday night, there were maybe 15-20 people tops milling about by the time they played. Despite this fact, the guys played their balls off and I knew then that I would need to catch them again.

Following the early May release of their "Balcones" EP I saw Zlam Dunk several more times over the summer, sometimes playing to small crowds and other times to big. No matter who or what size the audience was, Zlam Dunk always left it all on the stage or in the case of lead singer Charlie Day (especially during the cowbell breakdown in "Ghostwoman") out in the audience as well. During every show I was up front getting my dance on, pointing my fingers, and singing along. Yeah I liked the music, but the energy of the show was what drove me. It's one of the things I love about punk music. When I'm out in a crowd and it's sweaty and loud and there's adrenaline in the air, I feel alive and to have that experience with a local band all summer long was a great time indeed.

Am I sad that Zlam Dunk are calling it quits? Of course I am, but these guys need to follow their dreams and if that means something other than entertaining my 34-year-old punk ass, well then I respect that. At the end of the day I still live in the music capital of the world and while bands may come and go, I've got my pick of the litter. For now I'm going to keep spinning my Zlam Dunk albums and make sure I enjoy the hell out of their final show and remember that sometimes it's better to burn out than to fade away. If you dig danceable punk music or just want to see what these kids are all about, come on down to Red 7 tonight. I’ll be the guy in front, having a great time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This One Time at Markov

Continuing our journey through my recent discoveries we have:

This Quiet by Markov
Twitter: @thisismarkov

This was another album that I really dug after finding it on Bandcamp. With tags invoking the likes of Hot Snakes and Refused the bar was set pretty high, but in the end Markov deliver an album worthy of worshiping at the feet of those hardcore gods. To put it plainly, Markov's "This Quiet" is an exercise in the application of raw energy to audio. Clever vocals complement well-crafted songs and tight playing as Markov explore a variable sonic landscape, clearly not satisfied with belaboring the same riffs and rhythms over and over. Songs like "Lucky Me" accentuate the loud-quiet fury of influences like the aforementioned Refused while "Jaws of Life" and "Debaters" recall the undulating rhythm of Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu. For all the pride and skill with which Markov pay tribute to their sonic patrons they do plenty on this album to develop their own sound and it never comes off sounding like mimicry, instead what you get on This Quiet is a whirlwind blend of razor sharp riffs and tight compositions hurtling around like a kid in a circle pit. When all is said and done This Quiet is an energetic, aggressive, and anthemic album with plenty to reward repeated listening. I'll be looking forward to more from Markov if at all possible.

Next: Edge of Collapse by Bad Chapters

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This One Time At Zlam Dunk

A couple weeks ago I posted about how I had decided to search in order to discover some local Austin punk bands. You see, while I love all kinds of music, if you were to ask me what kind of music is my favorite I would say punk. What does "punk" mean though? To many, that is a loaded question and the answer really varies from person to person. For some "punk" is something that happened in the 70's when bands like The Ramones, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols railed against the excesses of 70's rock, disco, prog, and glam, and produced a stripped down, hard-edged, uncompromising soundtrack for those unsatisfied with the status quo. For others "punk" is something that doesn't even take hold until the 80's with bands like Bad Religion, the Dead Milkmen, and the Descendents coming onto the scene. For others still "punk" refers almost exclusively to hardcore punk, a louder, more aggressive form of music pioneered by the likes of Bad Brains, Black Flag, and Minor Threat. There a people who think garage bands are punk, that Green Day is punk, that emo music is punk, and that the 80's "New Wave" was punk. They're all right. They're all wrong. Fuck it! Who cares?

While it may be impossible to define whether something is punk or not punk, depending on who you talk to, I know what I consider to be punk. My personal preferences lean distinctively towards the hardcore branch of the punk family tree and encompass many of its offshoots. Since moving here and before beginning my search on Bandcamp, a number of Austin and Texas punk bands had been brought to my attention. These bands were actually a major impetus in my search as there seemed to be a common thread running between all of them: a certain garage rock like style and presentation. You can hear it in bands like The Marked Men and Bad Sports, that lo-fi garage-rock/protopunk sound that recalls punk music from the early days of the 70's. While certainly not bad, it wasn't what I was looking for and after hearing so much in that vein, I began to wonder if there was any punk music being produced in Austin that had a bit more of a hardcore bent or at least didn't ascribe to the extreme lo-fi aesthetic that seemed to be so prominent.

It didn't take me long on Bandcamp to find several bands that fit the bill for me in various ways and now, after having spent a couple weeks with these albums I'd like to give you my thoughts:

Noble Ancestry by Zlam Dunk
Twitter: @Zlam_Dunk

Of my recently acquired albums, this is probably my favorite. Noble Ancestry turned out to be exactly the kind of music I love: something different, but still somewhat familiar. Zlam Dunk play a tight, relentless brand of post-hardcore that's as technically impressive as it is danceable. While the album leads off with the anthemic "Vice" the tempo quickly shifts into territory that can only be described as dance music for hardcore kids. With the one-two punch of "Tomorrow in Twenty-Million Years" and "Midnight Runners" - a duo of songs whose driving beats, frenetic picking, and scorching synth practically beg you to move your body - Zlam Dunk recall for me the later works of DC's Q and Not U albeit with a bit more of an edge a la At the Drive-In and Fugazi or even Athens Georgia's Cinemechanica. When all is said and done Noble Ancestry is a well rounded experience with a lot of talent, power, and creativity on display. The band's next release, "Balcones", is due out on May 3rd.

Next: This Quiet by Markov ...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

This Wouldn't Have Happened if I had Google Glasses

Think of one of your all-time favorite bands, the kind of band that helped shape your musical tastes ... the kind of band that helped define a generation within it's genre. Now let's say that this is a band that has been broken up for years and let's say you never got a chance to see them live, because you didn't really start listening to them until right when they were calling it quits. Now imagine that this band recently decided to tour again and you just happen to live in their home state. Imagine that since this announcement they haven't published any home state show dates. Imagine that when they finally do post home state show dates, it's in a city 6 hours away and you missed the window to buy anyway. Imagine that several days later they announce a last minute show in your city at a small venue ... the kind of place they are NOT likely to play ever again. Imagine that had you been monitoring your email or twitter, you would have known about and had a chance to see this show. Imagine that you were doing other things instead.

This is what just happened to me with At The Drive-In. I've spent the last several months complaining that since announcing their reunion tour they haven't planned any TX shows ... their home state. Then earlier this week they announced a show in Marfa, much too far away for me to go see them and I missed the small window of opportunity to get tickets anyway. Now this afternoon at 1:05pm they announce a show for this Monday at Red 7, a small punk venue in Austin and I missed it because I was playing video games.

Now to be fair, chances are that I would have missed it regardless of what I was doing. Unless I'm at work, I'm rarely sitting in front of my computer and constantly hooked into email or Twitter updates. There was still a chance though, that had I not been otherwise occupied, I would have caught this announcement and I would have gotten a ticket to what is likely to be the most intimate show ATDI will do on this tour and that I have access to.

I know I'll get to see them at some point during this tour - if they don't do ACL or FunFunFun Fest then I'd be incredibly surprised - but it would have been amazing to see them at a small show with a bunch of die hard fans like myself. The funny thing about this is that earlier this week there was a lot of sarcasm directed toward the "Google Glasses" video, but honestly ... if I had me some Google Glasses, this would have never happened.

Friday, March 30, 2012

This One Time At

I always have to call bullshit on people who claim that they'd listen to more non-mainstream music if it were more accessible. There's great music everywhere if you just take a few minutes to look for it. For instance: spring is here and as is usually the case I'm in the mood for punk music. I decided that instead of my usual sources, I wanted to see what local punk bands I could find. I enjoy supporting local bands because:
  1. It's just easier to see local bands live more often.
  2. I live in a city with TONS of them, so the variety is fantastic.
  3. Local bands don't really make money off their music, they play because they love it (and maybe they hope to someday make money off it) and to me that reflects in the sound.
  4. Supporting one's own community has always struck me as both decidedly "Punk" and somewhat "Socialist", which are both things I personally identify with.
So to make good on my local punk search all I did was Google the following: "austin punk". That's it! I've already discovered 5 new bands. Now don't get me wrong, there were just as misses as hits in my search, but in those cases I listen to a track or two and then move on. My point is that it's not hard to find new music if a) you know vaguely what to search for and b) you're willing to spend a little time. So get out there and support your local scene ... support all the local scenes and don't just listen to the music that's handed to you, find the music that speaks to you.


Maybe I should post links to the stuff I just discovered ... duh!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The World That Can't See You

I just read an article about pop music and the Grammy's and for whatever reason it got me thinking. I'm fairly vocal about my love of sincere music and while that's a difficult concept to explain, for me it's easily quantifiable when listening to music. Because of this I often find people who like to challenge me, especially when I release a new mix tape.

"This band sounds just like (insert mainstream artist here), I don't understand why you think (insert indie band here) is better" is a popular refrain to my reply usually ends up being that "(insert indie band here) wants it more, they're more sincere." which usually draws a blank stare or a frustrated sigh because I'm obviously being unreasonable.

When it comes down to it, if I had to choose between listening to a mainstream punk band that I am not already a fan of, but sounds very much like The Menzingers or listening to The Menzingers, I'm going to choose The Menzingers because they want it more. The indie bands have more on the line, they're more involved with their music and the process and to me that comes through in the sound. At the very least it makes me feel better about supporting them, like eating at local restaurants as opposed to national chains.

Anyway, I was thinking of that this morning and it called to mind (as it often does) the lyrics of the Kid Dynamite punk anthem "Shiner"
Where do you get off wanting the royal treatment?
Who put you on your pedestal? I'll tell you who, the kids did!
They created you, and how do you repay them?
With your snotty looks and your catchy hooks and your rock star image.
They created you, and how do you repay them?
With some words of truth to guide them trough your mind manipulation.

But when the time comes to back up what you say, will you run away?
I'd bet all I had on it. That's what I said, I'd bet it all.
We're all singing along to the same tune (just like you.)
Big deal, you wrote it, but you don't promote it. (YOU DON'T PROMOTE IT!)

It may sound cliche. I don't care. I've seen the way you cheat at all the games you play.
Misuse trust to get what you want it's so easy to believe you.
Cause you're in a band with a mic in your hand and everybody wants to be you.
Well I won't try to. because I don't want to.

When the time comes to back up what I say. I won't run away.
Run away from you, run away from this, Because it means more to me.
We're all singing along to the same tune, (just like you.)
Big deal, we wrote it....Now it's time to promote it. Remember, we're all in this together.
I gotta know!
What could it be that makes you unhappy?
Is it the world that you see, or the world that can't see you?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Book Review: New Brunswick, New Jersey, Goodbye

Punk and hardcore were alive and well in America in the mid 90's but perhaps nowhere so much as New Jersey, a scene that would give rise to punk and hardcore mainstays such as Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, The Bouncing Souls, Thursday, and numerous others. "New Brunswick, New Jersey Goodbye" is a memoir of sorts by writer, teacher, musician Ronen Kauffman during his years living in and around New Brunswick and being part of the DIY punk and hardcore scene of the time. What starts out as a high school obsession with punk music, leads Kauffman to create his own zine "Aneurysm" and become more involved in the burgeoning punk and hardcore scene of the area, ultimately culminating in his moving to New Brunswick to attend Rutgers Univesity as a Political Sciene/Journalism major. Ronen tells stories that will be all too familiar to anyone who didn't have the cookie cutter MTV version of the college experience. For people who were more DIY, artistic, indie, or just plain anti, there are likely a number of touchstones here that will bring back memories from college or before. From flophouse appartments, basement shows, drunken skinheads, and the naivete of believing that punk music can change the world, Kauffman paints a picture that while specific to the punk scene in New Jersey at the time, is emblematic in a more universal way of the punk, harcore, DIY experience at anytime and in any place. As a fan of punk music, especially the NJ scene of that time, I found myself grinning uncontrollably when Kauffman spoke of the first time he met Dan Yemen (Lifetime, Kid Dynamite) and how the guitarrist enthusiastically purchased a zine from him.

This isn't just a book about punks bands though and Kauffman doesn't spend 200 pages just tossing out names for the sake of credibility, in fact most of the bands he mentions were so scene specific as to likely be unknown most anywhere else. It's a book about the the thoughts, feelings, comraderie, and community that comes with organizing, playing, and going to punk shows. In the end though the real focus of the book is as a coming of age story, wherein a DIY youth with socialist tendencies ultimately has to come to terms with life in the real world, but finds a way to still hold true to his ideals in the end. For me personally this struck a chord. I know all too well what it's like to hit that wall of the "real world" after college and how hard it can be to stay true to one's ideals while still making your way in the world.

While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I don't think this is a book for everyone. But if you were ever part of a scene that existed just (or waaaaay) outside the mainstream when you were young, I'm betting you can find something to latch onto here. For me personally Kauffman's stories conjured up memories not only from my own life, but of stories from my friends as well and that's well worth the price of admission.

New Brunswisk, New Jersey Goodbye: Bands, Dirty Basements, and the Search for Self by Ronen Kauffman is published by Hopeless Records and available at finer bookstores everywhere.