Going to my third punk show...

Junior called me up shortly after returning to Seattle to let me know that there was a concert at a "Punk House."  Punk houses are just homes that host concerts, usually in basements.  I never would have thought anyone could get away with that, especially on weeknights!  I met Junior at Tangletown, which is a restaurant and brewery owned by the Elysian Brewing company... yes, this is where Brad got that sweatshirt with the AK-47 Ale on it.  Junior works in the kitchen.  I ate and had a couple of beers with Junior when he got off work, then we headed over to The Retirement Home, which is the name given to this particular punk house. 

Punk houses are named so that addresses do not need to be given out, which keeps the possibility of getting shut down to a minimum.  Word of mouth and a lot of text messaging keeps everyone informed of shows.  We were there early, so I helped Graham from Cyanide Destrukt unload some of their gear.  They were to be one of three bands to play that evening.  Graham is the drummer, and Junior mentioned that Graham would hang with Brad when Brad was in town.  I did like Graham, and hope to get to talk to him.  I was asking about the drum tensioner, and he was kind enough to explain the process... and humble enough to say he wasn't really good at it!

As people started showing up, I sort of retreated.  I've always been more of a people-watcher than a talker, but I was still reeling from Brad's death so I was more withdrawn than usual.  Here I was, in the middle of Brad's scene, where I would feel like an imposter on a normal day.  I mentioned to Junior's girlfriend that I had overcome a lot of my social anxieties after my first quarter at community college, but that I could tell that I had regressed quite a bit since Brad died.  I figure I'll get some of my confidence back, but right now I have trouble looking people in the eye again.  I was very nervous that Junior was going to feel like he had to keep me company, but he wisely did his own thing and did not babysit me.

Junior's band, Slightly Less Than Nothing, consists of Stace on vocals, Zu on guitar, Junior on bass, and Ryan on drums.  They went first, and I honestly was not impressed.  I did not understand a word Stace was saying, and everything just blended.  I did like Junior's "voice," which is screaming since this is hard and fast punk music.  The second band was Cyanide Destrukt, which are a bunch of older farts... they are pretty damn good.  I like the singer, I thought their playing was sharp, and I liked what they had to say.

I feel like there were four bands, but I can't think of any others besides the last band.  This last band was the travelling band, which were supposedly from some other country.  Earlier, a hat had been passed around for donations to the band on the road.  The guy holding the hat seemed shocked that I threw in $10 and didn't want change.  I sort of felt like I was showing off, but I also felt that the idea was to give what you could afford.  Do I cheat so I don't look like a showoff?  I'm trying to do the right thing by the scene, not for my image, so I will continue to give what I can when at these events, regardless of how it makes me look.  Nobody sees it but the guy holding the hat, anyway.

So, the band from Norway (I think)... turns out the singer just sings in some other language, and the band is actually from Arizona.  The singer had been wasting no time getting blotto while the other bands played.  While his band was setting up, he was barely able to keep upright in his seat, and was spouting off gibberish.  I was not expecting much from these guys.  From the start, though, they played clean and hard.  I was impressed.  The singer was terrible, and I don't think it had much to do with being drunk.  The band even brought some entertainment with.  There was a guy who put pins through his cheeks and other places during the show.  He even let you staple money to his body.  When the novelty wore off, he terrorized the singer and bass player with the staple gun.  Speaking of the bass player...

Junior had showed me where he stands during concerts at the Retirement Home.  Off to the side, you can kind of avoid the thrash pit and traffic of people coming in and out.  He had a great spot, however there was something he hadn't figured on.  I don't quite know how he managed it without being obvious, but somehow the bass player managed to get naked while he was playing, and he was about six feet away.  Needless to say, as people started to realize, the camera phones were put to use.

The crowd throughout the evening was interesting to watch.  I figure that less than half the people there came in the basement to see the bands.  Many people just stayed in the backyard and socialized.  Very nice bunch.

I won't go into as detailed of a description about the second show.  This one was held at a bar in the U-District, and it was Junior's birthday.  Another weeknight concert.... ugh.  And FOUR bands were to play.  The travelling band was from St. Louis, and one of the members used to play with Brad.  His name was Pat, but I did not get to meet him.

Junior's band was much better than the first time I heard them, which was attributed to the fact that it wasn't in a basement.  I really do enjoy the songs where Junior does some vocals.  All told, I could pick out something from every single band that I enjoyed, and it wasn't because I was looking for something.  Junior's band was just good all around.  I really liked the second band's singer.  The third band, the one from St. Louis, seemed very happy with the crowd, and the interaction was great.  They also were a strong band in general.  The last band was tough, because I knew I really shouldn't stay.  They were good, and I especially liked how the guy singing backup would carry his screams out longer than the lead singer... it was a great effect.

What I do not care for with this thrash punk is the way everything blends.  I have started producing some covers in my head and applying the thrash punk formula to them, and trying to come up with ways to allow the different instruments to shine through without losing the effect.  Kind of like a Me First and the Gimme Gimme's effect, but less commercialized and much harder, even with covers of the strangest, most unlikely tunes.

Yet another thing I would like to dabble with. 

Oh yeah, the third concert is tomorrow night... Friday the 13th.  I'll report on it.

Punk House

Listening to all of this is amazing. It is like one of those tv shows where people go into places with a hidden camera to check out this mysterious underworld. But anyhow, I found it fascinating to hear about this type of thing. To me it sounded scary and by the time I was done reading it, my heart was pounding. Is this a type of thing that Brad had been to and been a part of many times? Is that the normal type setting for these events? Pat between book reviews and now this you have a really neat style of writing that makes it fun to read. The way you describe everything and the details you choose to elaborate on give a really good picture of what it was like. Like I said, by the time I was done reading, my heart was pounding and I was pretty worked up.

So much to say when I am alone...

Thanks.  I get very self-conscious about what I write, as I often think I go off a little too far.  Maybe a bit too negative.  But, it's what I want to convey.

Here is the report on last night: 

Well, I got caught up on Brad’s website and didn’t get out of the house until 9pm, which was the time that the flyer said the show starts. It was so hard to get out the door with the thought that I was already late – it sure seemed like a good excuse to forget about it and go to bed. But, I had already missed a show earlier in the week knowing that I was coming to this one.

I got there even later because, two turns from my destination, I got spit back out on the highway. As I finally cruised down the street the place was located on, I found a parking spot big enough for the 15 passenger van that has been my daily driver for the last year (I tried to change that today, but it didn’t work out). I heard what sounded like a very professional band playing towards the businesses, so I figured it must actually be in a bar and not a house. After throwing everything back in the van that I had planned to bring with to a house concert, I took one step towards that sound. As I unburdened myself, I thought it sounded a little too mainstream for the scene. I was right. While I geared up for the second step, I noticed a couple of punk-looking characters walking into the backyard of the house I had parked in front of, so I checked the address. Good luck, I was there.

I walked into the back and found Ryan, said “hi”, and asked if he wanted a beer. He said, “Sure.” I headed back to the van to grab my coat and a few beers. All week I had procrastinated bringing a case of very expensive beer into the house, so I figured I would share it with Ryan and Junior, and anyone else I felt was worthy. I noticed Junior and brought him a beer, and found out that I hadn’t missed a thing as nobody had played yet.  It was very fun to watch the reactions of people as they inevitably noticed the bottles amid their cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and other cheap beer... what I brought is a favorite of mine, Kelpie, which is made with seaweed.  People get curious about it for some reason.

When the first band was ready, the crowd descended into a hole that opened up to a small room right away. This was like my basement... ceilings only slightly higher than six feet, and support beams much lower than that. We continued through a very narrow corridor that felt cave-like until we came to where everyone was piling into. This space was tiny!  I thought how awesome it was to see people utilize any space to have a show, and how I never realized that even the “intimate” venues I had been to were a little too contrived compared to this raw setting.

I did not care for the first band, but it was only their first or second show. I didn’t bother going back down for the second band, because I could tell I wasn’t going to enjoy them, either. Right after the first band played, I headed back outside and got a better look at the setting. Walking through the gate and along the side of the house, I was staring at some incredibly tall, lush trees in the back yard. At the back of the house there was a carport , and everybody seemed to be hanging in this area. Since I had already talked to Junior and Ryan, I figured I would wander a bit. Behind the carport, things got interesting. There was a long bench and a few stools where people were lounging. Nestled in the trees, there was a tent set up. It was so buried that I don’t think I would have noticed it had there not been a light on in it. A guy in a mexican sombrero and parka said, “Don’t bother going in there, no dicks allowed.” It took me a second to realize he wasn’t calling me a dick, he was saying no guys allowed. Looking further at my surroundings, I realized that, past the trees and on two other sides of the yard we were hemmed in by thirty foot high, smooth concrete walls. I would not have been surpised to see razor wire topping the walls and guards holding rifles looking down on us. This place was cool.

Junior told me that the third band was a little slower and could be potentially more interesting to me. They sure started off good. I was getting mighty excited about them until the end of their first song. I did not really enjoy them after that. It was really depressing, because I felt they must be proud of the style they started with or it would not have been their opening. Nothing else they played was even close to that.

So far, the night had been fairly tame and the space pretty cramped. For the most part, the crowd was just head-bopping to the music. Slightly Less Than Nothing, Junior’s band, was last and started after 1am. All night long Junior had been talking about how tired he was. He had played three shows during the week AND had seen the Iron Maiden show. As tired as he was, something clicked and the crowd livened up for SLTN’s set. As Stace sung, he was bounced around while the crowd thrashed as much as possible in the limited space. The announcement of “One more song” was wrong as it was obvious the crowd wasn’t done yet. Junior and Ryan looked like they were about to fall over squeaking out an extra two songs.

The crowd’s enthusiasm was an incredible way to end the evening.

I found out that this Punk House, called the FBK, has been around for a long time. FBK is short for “Fire Breathing Komodo” if I remember what Ryan told me... it was fire breathing something. I was also told that, sometimes twice a week, the house shows movies at dusk on those big concrete walls out back, then has a bonfire and a band or two play. I wish I lived closer to the city! This week they are showing Quick Change starring Bill Murray... not high quality entertainment, but sometimes the atmosphere and the company can make a bad movie good. Maybe when I get a more economical daily driver, I will get to some of these shows.


Patrick Cassidy