Saturday, October 17, 2009



After three less than stellar shoot with rather low turnouts, Columbus came through BIG-TIME. There was this point while I was putting together the plan for this book where I was worried about people hurrying out to their local tattooist to get the bars just so that they could be ready with a story when we got to their town. In fact, I was really interested in turning them away because I saw it as a bit unfair to be a newly barred participant instead of having had the bars for years and years and years. But there was something sort of shitty in that logic. Over the last few years that we've been interviewing people it has become obvious that you cannot have it all one way or another way; YOU'VE GOT TO GO WITH THE FLOW. Plus, after having visited a few cities where the "barred" citizens, those who've had the bars for a while, seemed to either actively boycott my project, or were just TOO LAZY to get out from behind their beers and television to come out to the events, well, it was refreshing to stumble into our next experience on the road.

Scotty Niemet is a Columbus legend. First having been an active part in the Cartwheel Collective back in the early 90's (introducing hardcore shows, food not bombs, and the like to Columbus), then a member of the Neilhouse (one of Columbus' longest running house-show venue), fronting the band Inept, and at the same time vocal in making the "LEGION OF DOOM" house even more famous in the hardcore scene than the Neilhouse, and so much more. When Scotty agreed to run the show in Columbus I was stoked. Very stoked.

We teamed up with the Soverign Tattoo Collective on High Street, which is housed in an amazing building that is both a tattoo shop and art gallery. Soverign signed on and offered a special on The Bars at $40 all day, any placement, any size. We were still in Cincinnati when the tattooing started so we missed a lot of opportunities to shoot live tattooings, but on our way to Columbus we stopped in to Thrill Vulture, the shop where the idea for Barred For Life was born, so that we could shoot Naomi Fuller again. Long story but at the beginnings of this project we had two photographers, Jared and Will. Some fallout over shoot schedules and other silly stuff found Will on the outs. He withdrew his pix and bailed. Naomi was among the shots. I was devistated. So it seemed only fitting to show up to Thrill Vulture unexpectedly, and shoot Naomi again.

Upon entering Soverign I was blown away. There were people waiting to be photographed, people waiting to be tattooed, and people just hanging out listening to Scotty spin old hardcore records. After hours of shooting and interviewing we ended up with 14 new additions to the book. 14 is a pretty good one-day shoot given that we didn't even manage to do that in the last three shoots combined. So, with my confidence up it was time to go back to Scotty's home and get some sleep.

In the past three shoots we've managed to score some pretty delux accommodations, and last night was no exception. Scotty lives in a mansion that was originally built for the aunt of a long dead president. It lies on the east end of town along side a number of other such mansions. There is a long story about the rebuilding of this area a few years back, but we were quite lucky to end up in such an amazing space. Seriously, this place if fucking amazing. At any rate, as Stefan and I wake up and set our compass toward Chicago, I look forward to hanging out with another old friend from my Ohio years and hope to score my interview with Barry Henssler, the former front man for both the Necros and Big Chief. Today, in the words of the immortal Ice Cube, is gonna be a good day.


Friday, October 16, 2009


Stewart Here:

Okay, we've spent the last three fucking days under gray skies and at the 45-degree mark. I most certainly packed for the trip with extra jackets and sweaters but, damn, I thought that I would make it a bit further than Detroit before I had to unpack all of that stuff. Don't get me wrong. I love the cold weather just like any east-coaster. However, I don't like for it to attack me from behind like this. Anyway. Luckily for Stefan and I, we ended up in a town where I know many kind folk, and many cute kitties.

Arriving in Cincinnati two days ago, we made our way to my friends, Eric and Alice's, home in the Northside section of town. Northside is the equivalent to the Mt. Airy section of Philly, with big homes and lush lawns, and cool people. Our hosts have been nothing but gracious since we've arrived, and this is what I've always loved about this town; the people, my friends in particular, are super accommodating, and always cool as hell.

Well, some things went awry with setting up this shoot and, upon checking my email, I found that not a lot had been done to promote this one. So yesterday morning, first thing, I made up a poster, found a local kinko's, fired off about 100 copies of the poster, and then Stefan and I began distributing them to every tattoo shop and punk rock botique in town. The final yield, 4 people. But what an awsome crew. Our first shot was of a woman from Lexington, KY, who had more BF tattoos on her than anybody we've met up to this point. The next few shots were of 3 people that got the bars tattooed for free on with the cavaet of the tattooist that they agree that Rollins was the worst of the four Black Flag singers.

After the shoot we returned home for some well deserved sleep before trekking up to Columbus later this afternoon.

Cincinnati is a wrap.

From Stefan:
After our canvassing efforts earlier today, we ended up getting a handful of folks who descended into the basement of the Comet in Northside. And what a great mix they were: a woman who came up from Lexington, KY (showing off the bars, several Black Flag album cover art renderings and the band's name, all on her forearms), a high school teacher/city councilman, a mom with her infant son, and another guy (who had gotten the bars together with the latter two and another friend of his, whom we hope to connect with in Chicago). Alright, then...
Tomorrow Stewart will put in a few hours of tattooing with his friend Mike Dorsey in Northside, while I will likely spend some time here.
After that we'll be heading off to Columbus, OH (where I hope to score a cheap M-65 military parka in S or XS), but not without thanking our fabulous hosts Eric & Alice (and their 3 cats). Eric's an old friend of Stewart's back from Cincinnati grad school times, and Alice is a native of Washington, DC. Ergo, great conversation for all of us.

Pics and words to come from Stewart later on, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cincinnati, continued.

From Stefan:
Cincinnati was the first stop where we saw ourselves forced to pick up the slack our local contact (who hadn't really done anything, as it turns out...) had created.
So, armed with a handful of posters, we hit up local record stores, coffee shops and tattooers, who were all generally pretty interested and indicated that they would contact folks directly who had the bars. So, we'll see...more on the actual shoot once it'll be wrapped up.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Stewart here:

Okay, we left Pittsburgh at like noon after eating at a hippie owned breakfast joint. Belly filled with a strange mixture of fat and starch, and after having had a night full of insomnia, I left the driving up to Stefan in order that we get to Detroit in one piece.

Anybody who has driven the stretch of toll road(s) known as the PA/OH turnpike knows that this drive it a drive where one might just as easily see humanity or a UFO, an approaching tornado or aperson fixing their tractor road-side. Just boring enough that it will lull you to sleep, and just interesting enough that you might take a look and decide that they never want to make this fucking boring drive again. I am of the latter category. I just don't want to do it. Never again. But something tells me that I will have to for some unknown reason.

Detroit gets a pretty bad rap overall, and especially from its surrounding neighbors in Michigan and Ohio. Admittedly, if you don't know anybody in Detroit it can be a rather heavy experience rolling into town and seeing nothing, nobody, not a soul for very long distances. The tracts of bombed out cottages and mansion surrounded by green space are pretty common features of the landscape as well. However, if you do know somebody in Detroit, especially in the punk community, you will find that Detroit is an awesome place to start new social experiments and watch them grow without the fear of developers or city planners coming along, coopting, and then gentrifying. Luckily for Detroiters, there will be no gentrification any time soon. In defense of a lot of my weird preconceptions, isn't this where the mighty MC5 came from...?

The Trumbull Plex is a compound of three buildings (one show space and two houses); an Anarchist collective that has thrived here for 15 years based on a revolving door policy of willing members and consensus governing. There are such entities in West Philadelphia to be sure, but this one has it all; a show space, lots of living space, lots of green space, and lots of really cool people. Oh, yeah, and chickens.

We arrived here and were summarily put up and fed. After a few hours of getting to know Jon, one of the organizers here, we waited for "barred" folk to show up to be photographed; and they never came. Zero, our worst night yet. To despair would have been premature because we got wind that the band Drunken Ship was playing at the Old Miami (MIA Michigan), and that the drummer had the bars. And, off we went. The show was fun, the club was awesome, we made some Portland, OR connections.

So, now, as I write this we are packing up and taking off to Cincinnati, Ohio, my former grad school alma matter, where I will be tattooed by connsumate tattooer, Mike Dorsey, and will be shooting tomorrow at one of my favorite pubs in the US, The Comet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Detroit #1

From Stefan:
After roughly 5 hours on the road we arrived at the Trumbullplex in Detroit, MI, for tonight's shoot. Speaking for myself, I'm fairly curious what the crop is going to be like...


There were days that I remember from touring with my various bands where I just lost track of days. There were days on my trips to Europe, especially when I stopped journaling, where I just stopped taking note of the calendar because it was too heavy a concept; a point where I might disconnect from the moment-to-moment goings on of the trip in order to control my future (not likely) or revisualize my past (silly). Yesterday was just such a day; the day when days stop meaning much.

I should probably recap the last three days as best I remember them and then alert you to the fact that by the time that you read this I will have remembered things that I should have put in the text that were probably important enough to warrant space. However, until then you just get the bare bones.

It was generally agreed by my travel partner, Jorge, and I that Montreal was a most exciting, albeit bizarre, stop in our travels. As the attached pictures might suggest, our time at Soundcentral Records was rather productive, informative, and enlightening (in a social sense). While the turnout was not a stellar one, our trial-by-Montreal-fire was stellar in a few ways.

Soundcentral is a rather cool record store located near Rue St. Catherine
(Montreal's main drag). We loaded in and were instantly drawn to the fact that there was a lot of vinyl (one of my former downfalls), and a cafe vibe. Setting up shop, I found a pretty good angle at which to shoot and settled in for a minute. Spoiler, the promter, introduced himself (he is the guy in the flanel shirt) and alerted me that there were three people ready to be photographed. Perfect...

Next thing that I know Erin finds her way in front of my lens and I am sto
ked. A most beautiful Montreal-er, I ended up shooting about a hundred pix of her in three different sessions, between a whole mess of impromptu "silly" shots, and a few serious shots. At any rate, I enjoyed photographing her and she seemed stoked to show Jorge and I around Montreal a bit later that evening. After shooting 6 barred folk, and shooting 3 or 4 other folk, we wrapped it up and toured Montreal's party district.

We were shown around by three Montreal-ers in a most tourist friendly way. As we made our way to the Copacabanna, a Caribbean inspired Indian joint, for dinner Montreal's Friday night social situation was just getting started. Montreal is serious about its summer social scene mostly becuase October signals a long, cold, shitty winter. So people make the most of it. The streets are crowded, the bars are crowded, and for the most part the city explodes with activity that often spills out onto the streets; and this freaks me out sometimes.

It was at the point when I had wrapped up dinner that I regre
tted not bringing my camera because what happened afterwards was not something that generally happens to me in my normal Philadelphia existence. Unusual circumstances took us to a "GOTH" nightclub where we were entertained by a young transvestite folk singer who took great liberty with his between-song poetry/satire/rants that covered such diverse topics as getting high, the giving tree, and people just don't understand me. While this all sounds like it could be art-school banter, it was laid out in a stripped down, comedic, sing-songy way that was actually pretty cool. Needless to mention that the clientelle, most looking like expats from an Interpol music video (all dressed up in black and red and white suits and such), made the visuals more than a touch on the surreal side. Realizing that we were only supposed to "come in and check things out before we decided to pay (or not pay) the $8 cover" we split for a different spot where our host worked on occasion. It was a "PUNK" club.

I cannot remember the name of our "PUNK" club experience, but the literal translation is something like "The Electric Ass(?)" This spot has been a punk-rock stand by for like 25 years and most of its party crowd were definitely not born when this club first opened its doors. With a drinking age of 18, um, yeah, the crowd was young as fuck. Floor one was a cluster fuck of metal-heads, punks, and kids watching hockey on one of the 20 televisions that dotted the back-bar area of the club. One of our "barred for life" participants, an older punk rocker guy who spoke poorly in English worked the first floor as a bar-back and gave us the nod to go upstairs without having to pay the $8 (what an interesting cost for floor entry) cover.

Upstairs was a fucking mess. One part cave and one part industrial wasteland, the floor was covered with every genera of underground social experiment known to the 21st century. There were metalheads, punks, poppy punkers, gothy rockers, hip-hopsters, and other kinds of folks that you will either find dotting the stands at the ex games or po
go-ing at the Warped Tour to the sounds of the times.

The dancefloor on floor 2 was just out of control. As we made our way through some hidden hallways, and emerging onto what amounted to a WWE cage-match-like dance floor, we found about 15 kids "moshing" to punk, metal, hip-hop, and shit like that, while throngs of other
teenagers stood in a circle nodding acceptingly of their peer's dancing style. Jorge, a beer in each hand, jumped in and began doing what I think that we used to refer to as "the skank." While he was more-or-less just kidding around, it seemed like he got the thumbs up from the 18 year old crew of judges because everybody began emulating his dance. A few songs later, a heavy one I recall, I jumped into the pit and began what one would call the "picking up change" dance, followed by the "start the lawnmower" dance. Seconds later I was thrown to the floor, trampled, and kicke, and I was done. As I pulled my lame ass off of the mosh floor (and just in time), the DJ qued up a HATEBREED (yes, Hatebreed) song and the floor erupted with floor punchers, wind-millers, and moshers of all shapes and sizes. It was fucking crazy (in a comedic sort of way), and I believe at that point I was done with my social experiment. I just wanted to go home and go to bed.

However, while waiting for our crew to reassemble I hobbled over to the bar area to chill and struck up a conversation with a woman (a very hot woman) who shared with me that it was her birthday, but little else. She only spoke French. My non-existent French tried to understand her but I could not. So, since it was her birthday I just bought her a drink and we shared in a moment of the language of alcohol before her friends grabbed her and pulled her onto the dancefloor to dance to a Sublime song. Lame.

Anyway, we assembled the posse and headed back to the record store. It was now 3am. I had seen so many drunk teenagers, and had been spoken down to in French just enough to warrant wanting to go to the home of our host and sleep; but we did not. Upon arriving at the record store there was more drinking, talking, and number exchanging. This little wind-down was probably the most deserved and necessary interaction of the evening. We parted ways with hugs, kisses, and number exchanges, and made our way to the suburbs where we were going to be spending the night.

30 minut
es later we were in the burbs and sleeping. It was sleep well spent. Montreal blew me away in many ways. Our people were fucking so amazing. The rest of the people, the ones littering the streets trying to get drunk and laid, um, well, they were just joke fodder. As predicted, right...?

Thank you to our new Montreal-er friends for being so awesome to us.


The next morning we were on our way back to Toronto to stay the night with my friend Katya and her family. I will not go into detail on my history with Katya and the Toronto crew, but let me just say that for the past 10-years I have sorely missed my connection to that city and, at its heart, was Katya. In the early 90's I would visit Toronto about every other month, and Katya once made an impromptu drive to visit me in York, PA (yeah, who goes there) just to hang out. So, things all changed when I shipped off to grad school and she got married. Seems like both of those activities, together or separate, promote a decisive inability to be TOO impromptu, and so our friendship waned. On a positive not, it never died because, dammit, we are friends again. Fuck Yeah.

Jorge and I landed in the epicenter of bike messenger culture of Toronto at a place called Jet Fuel; a high-end coffee shop in the Cabbage-Town section of east Toronto. The coffee there was so strong that it may have been responsible for both Jorge and my inability to find a restful sleep some 6 hours later at the casa di Katya, but it was soooooo fucking good. And after a 6-boring-fucking-hour drive between metro Montreal and metro Toronto, we needed a good coffee buzz in order to function highly while meeting Katya's family.

A phone call and some directions later we arrived at her home and met the fam. We were summarily fed and put up, and then we spent the rest of the night just hanging out in one of the warmest homes in which we've stayed all tour. I shot some family photos, caught up with an old friend, ate some more food, and then retired to the loft for some sleep. The next morning, officially Canada's Thanksgiving (Columbus Day in the states) I walked the streets in search of coffee and whipping cream, and then returned to the house with only one of them. Played some street hockey with Katya's boys, and then we packed up and prepared to drive the 6 hours across the US border and down south to Pittsburgh. Immediately, upon pulling away from Katya's house I remembered why I used to visit Toronto so frequently; BECAUSE IT FUCKING RULES. Not only are its people fucking amazing, but it is just a big, beautiful, amazing city; with some pretty cold winters as I remember.


I officially handed the wheel over to Jorge just outside of Erie after driving about 3.25 hours under a hazy, sunless sky, while listening to a lot of new wave music and driving nearly 85 miles per hour the entire way (except when crossing the border). No sooner did Jorge take the wheel and I feel immediately to sleep. I am sleeping much better on this trip than I was before leaving for the trip, but with the additional work of driving and taking photographs and stuff like that (not to mention moshing it up in dancefloor pits of Montreal), I seem to need more sleep than every before. Anyway...

We got lost a few times trying to find the Morning Glory Cafe in the Morningside section of Pittsburgh. Finally, finding our way there we reconnected with Stefan. We shot a few folks for the book, including the bass player for Aus-rotten and the singer for Submachine. Following the shoot we made our way back to Jessie's house (a fellow messenger from Philly, now student in Pittsburgh) and then to an after-hours speakeasy in the basement of an art gallery in downtown (ghost town) Pittsburgh.

Like I said, I've been missing lots of photo ops as a result of not taking my camera with us following our slated photo shoots but, well, it is needless to say that we are getting into some really cool shit as a result of our travels. The vibe on the road is quite pleasant and our hosts have been some of the most amazingly patient and sweet folks that one could hope to know/meet/want to keep in touch with.

Early this morning Jorge woke me up, as planned, to take him to the train station. At 6:45am I dropped him off and instantly felt a weird feeling in my stomach. Jorge was a most amazing travel companion and a huge help in almost every situation. He is patient, forgiving, funny, and super-loving. We talked a lot about future uncertainties, and I appreciated every second of his presence. From this point on it is Stefan and I until tour's end in November. To Jorge i am eternally greatful.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Canada; Not sure what day; Ottawa; Crew

I was sad to leave Toronto on that rainy morning, and we had a 5 hour drive facing us to Ottawa; Canada's national capital. I took the first leg out of the city and drove until we hit a travel plaza about two hours northwest.

Now I am not saying that my eating habits loosen with each day but, um, well, we ate KFC. Meat is a grounding food, and when traveling sometimes it is necessary to ground yourself. And, so, that is what we did. We fully grounded ourselves.

Jorge took the wheel and proceeded to drive through what looked to be Iowa on a very rainy day. It was a gray, blah, and hectic drive (what I remember of it since I fell asleep in the passenger's seat almost immediately), but we managed to make it to Ottawa with great time.

We found our way to the house where Finner, our host, was staying. When we arrived they were in the midst of making Black Flag themed cupcakes, vegan style, which has been probably the most awesome thing that I've seen since leaving Philly over a week ago.

An hour later we were in Endhits Records basement setting up equipment and prepping to shoot. All at once a mob of people show up and we shoot about a dozen people in two hours.

Back to Finners for shower and then a Friday night out on the town. We left the house and semi-crashed a wedding rehearsal dinner afterparty. Jorge and I proceeded to drink a lot and heckle the band. There was a dude wearing a Philadelphia Fliers jersey there. The band was called the White Wires. Played a fraternity-party brew of old garage rock and took our heckling with a grain of salt. Hours later we were home watching the complete DVD set of "DiGrassi Senior High"

Roommate Dave promised us brunch at his workplace the next morning but by noon he still had not awakened. So we took off to metro Ottawa for coffee and an awful hippie-granola cookie, and started meeting all of these old punks (i.e. Rene, the bearded guy in the photos above) and lots of hot girls (we didn't actually meet them, but looked at them), which Ottawa seems to host in droves.

Next thing we are in the car on our way to Montreal. Montreal..? Never been... More on that later. Cool As Fuck people. Weird As Fuck place. Neither Jorge or I spoke French so my attempts to rap with this super hot girl at a local "punk" bar met with "cultural" problems right off the bat. A drink was needed; Gin and Tonic thank you. But, yeah, more on that later.