Saturday, October 31, 2009


and in San Fran it just eats the city whole

Years ago I was in a band called Railhed. We were early on the "emo-core" scene, but far behind the great bands from DC that made that gave the genra legs in the
middle-1980's. We were lucky enough to play a few songs at Gillman Street with Jawbreaker, and I must admit that I was more than a bit honored. However, the luke-warm greeting, appreciation, and the attitude of the folks that were hanging outside really turned me off to the Bay Area scene.

We were staying in Oakland near the now-famed Arkansas House
that was established by the band Econochrist, and we were invited to a party at said home. The kids that I met and with whom I conversed were a brazen mix of Arkansas-onians and rich-punks-cum-runaways-from the northern hills. I grew up in a rigid middle-class, working-class home in south-central Pennsylvania, and we had just what we needed, and then a bit more; but not that much more. So, when I am in a situation where I am forced to rap with drunkin 18-year-old run away kids who are running away from a LOT OF MONEY, and will most likely be able to return to that LOT OF MONEY somewhere down the road, well, I am not really into it. To have a kid tell me, "yeah, all that my parents care about is money. I am not really into that so I ran away..." is not that interesting.

Here is mine, "I grew up in a place where punk didn't really exist. I hunted and hunted, and then it found me. I got beat up, fucked with, hit from behind, fucked with somemore, could not get a date, and was teased incessantly in school, oh, and yeah, my family is just breaking even." Not that I think that my situation is better or worse then, but my situation didn't
have a trust-fund clause built into it. Yeah, so my first taste of the Bay-Area was not a pleasant one.

On top of that, the house where we were staying had a previous infestation of lice. Yeah, so there goes the romanticism of being a Bay-Area punk for me.

For years I eschewed that same Punk Rock romaniticism, which was only made more intense by the major-label antics of such acts as Samiam, Jawbreaker, and, let us not forget, Green Day. Yeah, it was rather epic for me to believe that SF and the Bay Area had nothing to offer me personally, and so I wrote it off. End of story.


Stefan wanted to make the drive to SF from Portland before daybreak, though we really didn't have a place to stay. Not to mention, I really wanted to visit this place along the Oregon coast called Newport, just to check it out and see what my feelings are for it some 12 years since I visited there last. However, with Stefan offering to drive to the border, and it being like 11pm, I just didn't really want to fight it.

The drive down the FIVE was awful. I tried to sleep but with all the mountain passes and road construction, and trucks, and twists and turns, and all of that shit, well, sleeping was nearly impossible. So instead of
insomnia, on this night I was having massive amounts of bad dreams; crazy, hurried, rushed-to-the max, anxious dreams. After 6 hours of driving, at around 5:30am Stefan handed the wheel over to me. I had no interest in taking it. I was tired, disoriented, and most of all I was pissed. I got over it eventually, but I didn't really want to drive. I just wanted to put my tent up in a rest area and try to get some sound, un-crazy sleep.

The next 5 hours were just me sitting behind the wheel thinking of just how much I didn't really want to be in the Bay Area. On top of that, just days
before, my contact here in SF informed me that she thought that I was dealing directly with the venues and, well, the shoots had more-or-less not been put on the schedule at either Mama Buzz (Oakland) or Modern Time Book Store. Figuring that we wouldn't shoot a soul in SF I just basically condemned my stay here at a split second of purgatory before winding up in SoCal.


Getting in to SF was not such an easy endeavor since the Bay Bridge was out of
commission. New routes were formulated and we found our way in via a more obsucre bridge in the deep south. Upon making it to the home of our hosts, we set up shop and decided to stay awake all day instead of trying to take a short nap before trekking over to Oakland to see if anybody actually showed up to the cafe where we were to shoot.

As predicted, there was to be no shoot at Mama Buzz but we made our way over to Oakland anyway, where I was to meet up with my friend's little brother. The call that I placed earlier in the day confirmed that not a soul had scheduled our shoot so we were just there as a cautionary measure. Yup, Oakland had let a bad taste in my mouth once again.
Back home we trekked with a shit-ton of photographic equipment and no shots to document our trip across the bay.

Home to bed we went.

The next morning I awoke to a call from some friends from a band from back home in Philly called HOOTS and HELLMOUTH. They were still in SF from a show the night before and we devised a plan to meet up for lunch, which we did, and then some.

As Rob, their mandoline player told me, "a taste of home on the road is an unbeatable experience," and I couldn't agree more. Ever since our meeting my spirits have been super high. It was just the fuel that I needed to make it the rest of the way home over the course of the next month.

These MODERN TIMES, they are a changin:

HOOTS and HELLMOUTH gone I started making calls to my east coast friends to put
out their feelers and get people to the MODERN TIMES shoot in the Mission District of SF, proper. I called Modern Times and, as predicted, they also had no idea what I was talking about but would accommodate us anyway.

Stefan and I humped it down to the shop, set up shop, and eventually a handful of folks showed up to participate in the project. Each one of them had individually repsonded to the offers put out there by my east coast contingency, except for my old friend Richard, who was responding to his wife's request for him to make his way there.

Knowing very well that there are probably hundreds of BF tattoos in the Bay Area, scoring a handful, while not ideal, got me to thinking about the nature of BARRED FOR LIFE. And this is what I've determined...

Originally, BFL was going to be a joke mag about people with really poorly executed Black Flag tattoos. While funny, I didn't find the stories behind the tattoos at all funny. In fact, what I found when I started talking to people about their individual work was that these people are passionate about whatever it is that THE BARS mean to
them. Whether Black Flag was their favorite band "back in the day" or whether they believe that The Bars have transcended all of that, these tattoos are intensely personal and, therefore, the book changed its focus toward documenting this personal nature and perspective.

As the idea for the tour began looking like a reality even I found that I was taking the project quite personally; to the degree that I was willing to quit my job and up-end my life to make it a reality. Yeah, it became that personal.

The tour started out solid enough with amazing turnouts in most cities. However, when turnouts began to drop (in Detroit) I was super bummed. Moving across the rt 90-94 stretch between Minneapolis and Seattle, and with poor turnouts along much of the coast, well, I had to once again rethink this project.

Now, sitting in SF for the third day it has dawned on me that I am back to the original purpose of the project; to document a very personal thing that seems only personal to those who possess the tattoos, or are part of this subculture. To those that feel most strongly about their beliefs, and those beliefs are connected to this tattoo, they are
the ones that make it out to the shoots and make it into the book, period. The book is not a documentation of the American Hipster trend to eschew things that don't make sense, or of me traveling to people's house and begging them to participate in the shoots. In fact, this book is about those people who get out and do shit much in way that the bands "back in the day" made punk rock tour routes (before thought impossible), possible.

So, off we go to sunny So Cal tomorrow. With my new love for San Fran, well, now I don't really have any geographic hangups tagging along with me on this trip. Guess that the tour starts today then.

PS. A call to my mom back in PA yielded the following information: "You got a magazine in the mail. Tattoo's For Men I think it is called...? And there is a page about your project in it. And there is a picture of a girl, a tall girl with blond hair, with the tattoo on her leg in the middle." Haha, the beautiful Audrey Dwyer found her way into the mainstream media yet again.

1 comment:

  1. S~ Good point about punk tours being proof of punk ethos. Back in '86 when I worked at the punk venue the Cameo Theater on South Beach, it was a big deal for bands to drive the hundreds of miles south on I-95 to Miami--hundreds of miles out of the way for one freaking gig. Atlanta is as far south as many would go, but those bands that put in the hours, the gas, and the guts in the Florida heat to make an appearance all the way to South Florida--including Black Flag and Henry on more than a few occasions--were living the attitude.