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Punk Bands Go It Alone

January event showed split with hardcore scene


Back in January, punk and hardcore acts from all over the Southeast got together for Punk Wars "04 at Tremont Music Hall in celebration of the DIY attitude and music that has defined both scenes.

But what had been an attempt to unite the two scenes under one umbrella wound up, at least locally, alienating some punk fans from hardcore followers. So this Friday and Saturday at the same venue, those same punk bands and a host of others will get together for the inaugural Punk Strikes Back weekend to celebrate their past and future -- and put some distance between themselves and their hardcore brethren.

"It turned out that a couple of the bands stood out like sore thumbs at the time," said Tremont manager Mel Hoffmann of Punk Wars "04, and local acts Minority Party and My So-Called Band. After noticing that the heavily out-numbered punk fans and the rest of the crowd "didn't really get along very well," she decided to try and carve out a separate event for Old School punk fans, resulting in the Punk Strikes Back weekend.

The punk bands that played in January hopped on board immediately. Chris Peigler, of My So-Called Band, recounted tales from back in January of punk kids with Mohawks ridiculed for their "Halloween" outfits -- something you might expect more from a frat-infested crowd than hardcore kids -- and one punk fan punched in the face in the mosh pit.

But as Peigler sees it, the two schools of music have never had that much in common once the hardcore scene in the US (Black Flag, the Germs, Minor Threat) died down in the mid-80s and eventually split into a host of tangents, among them posi-core, scream-o and straightedge.

"No, I don't think there has ever been any harmony between the two groups," said Peigler, whose band has a new (Old School style) CD out soon, the aptly titled Weapons of Mass Distortion. Peigler said the differences between fans, more so than between the bands, was the primary cause for the bad vibes. "There was so much tension between the two groups of people that night that I was glad that the show ended without any fights...a lot of times the individual musicians have a broad appreciation for different styles of music, whereas the fans tend to cluster around one style or the other."

Hoffmann also suggested that the name Punk Wars might have unintentionally misled some of the Old School punk fans who did attend the predominantly hardcore show. Because the show was put together by an independent promoter (Sean Lykins) and fully booked, Hoffmann didn't try to get onto the bill any of the bands who called after the lineup was set -- most of them straight-ahead punk bands. That, and the bad vibes, became the driving forces behind this two-night affair.

Part of the problem just may be inherent in the designation Old School punk, and the idea that today's rebellious hellions -- like those of every era -- don't want anything to do with, well, the past or anything else remotely "old school." Peigler remembers being "very serious" about his teenage alienation, too, but he only buys into that explanation up to a point. He cites the "14-year-old Sham 69 fans and the 16-year-old F Minus fans" flocking to these new punk shows and a new young local act, Hungry Ghost.

"I don't think it's generational except that the further we get from the original punk generation, the further apart the two groups seem to grow," he said, acknowledging that intolerance also went the other way. "Some of the Old School punks over the age of 30 start to complain that the kids today don't know anything about punk... that's why we once played with some of the modern hardcore bands (because we) didn't want to be relics who were stuck in the past."

That next generation of punk is what Punk Strikes Back is really meant to celebrate.

"We're hoping this event will motivate people by showing them that we have a lot of good bands in this area," said Peigler, "and that they don't need to feel that they've missed out because they weren't living in London in 1977 or Berkeley in 1994."

Tickets for the two-day Punk Strikes Back event at Tremont are $5 (21-and-over) and $7 per night, or $8 (21-and-over) and $10 for both nights (available at the door and via e-tickets). Friday's lineup and estimated times: Forgotten Youth (7-7:30), IYF Pork (7:45-8:15), Pre-Teen Prostitutes (8:30-9), The Beatdowns (9:15-9:45) Mad Brother Ward (10-10:30), The Louts (10:45-11:15) and Drat (11:30-12); Saturday: Social Riot (4:30-5), The Answers (5:15-5:45), Caustic (6-6:30), Tenspeed Gears (6:45-7:15), The Semantics (7:30-8), MIP (8:15-8:45), OBGYN (9-9:30), The Dead Kings (9:45-10:15), My So-Called Band (10:30-11), Minority Party (11:15-11:45).

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