Saturday, October 24, 2009

The cloud has obscured the entire mountain

And still fucking shit up 110%

Nathan Howe has been a most awesome host here in Bozemen. Nate and I grew up in much the same way, with respect to being small-town punk rockers, and yesterday during an adventurous drive to Fairy Lake we had a chance to hash out our styles and where we’ve ended up as punk rockers that have grown up and gotten on, but are still tied into subversive ways of thinking.

Bozeman is as landlocked as a place can be, and so my surfboards and Nate’s skis are essential synonyms for where we’ve ended up now that we are both in our middle years. Years ago both of us carried skateboards, punk’s weapon of choice, as part of the common uniform. Without knowing him back then I would imagine that he, like me, like thousands, wore cut-off jean/camo-pants, a shredded band tee-shirt, a flannel shirt, Vans or Converse, had some sort of funny hair, and that was just what was expected. The image was so common in the 80’s hardcore underground that it had a name; Skate Punk, and its own bands; Aggression, JFA, Ill Repute, etc, etc.

At any rate, skateboarding was the official live-by-the-sword lifestyle choice of landlocked punk kids until it was co-opted in the mid 90’s (think; Tony Hawk 360), toned down to meet the expectations of upper-middle-class parent nationwide, and put on display at the X-games, and given “SPORT” status. No more would skateboarding be a radical way of life. Now it was a “look,” a “product,” a “consumer choice,” and oh so very “mall punk” in the most clich├ęd way imaginable. To lifers, however, the co-opting of the skateboarding lifestyle meant that it had to be trashed from our common dream, and then had to be replaced by something that meant as much to each of us as individuals.

Note: I am not saying that to some skateboarding has not remained totally part of their radical way of life (think Vallely, Jesse, Roy, many others). What I am saying is that by the late-80’s and mid-90’s it no longer defined punk rock (and punk rockers) like it did in the early-80’s. What radical activity Punk “WAS,” then, needed to be redefined, but, well, never really was. We all seemed to set out on our different paths.

For what it was worth I chose two-wheeled urban transit in the form of the bicycle, and then found my way into surfing later on. Nate found two skis, and he stuck with it. As we talked on our drive into the mountainous winter wonderland it became more apparent that our paths were not only destined to cross, but that both of our lives had come full circle. And here we were on some of the craziest snow covered roads (if you wanna call fire access dirt roads in Montana roads) I’d been on in a long time and we were talking the exact same language. And it was refreshing.

There were times when he and I could finish each other’s sentences by simply exchanging the word surfing with the word skiing, or the word snow with wave. The concepts of “energy” and of “nature” just weaved a storyline that sounded, on the outside, a bit like the language of the stereotypical hippie, but instead seemed totally natural because there are few other words to describe what we do for fun. We don’t go out into the ocean or onto the slopes to “tear shit up” anymore, but we go out to “blend in” and to “take part” because it seems like one of the most subversive things to do these days is to actually work with nature, to respect it, and not simply look at everything as though it is an obstacle to surmount, co-opt, and tear up.

In fact, as it turns out, surmounting, co-opting, and tearing up are quite common threads in what is making America a rather disenchanted place to live (think politics, foreign affairs, economy, bank bail outs, and so many other newsworthy catchwords appearing in the media-eye these days), and what could be more punk than to eschew all of that anger and aggression and redefine what is radical and what is subversive.

Besides Nate, I have had the pleasure of speaking with a lot of older punk kids (a term used to describe punks who are no longer kids) and the verdict is the same. Amy in Boston spoke of her changing role in a scene that she has been part of for 20 years, and the folks at the Trumbull Plex in Detroit talked about looking at these tracts of abandoned urban green space as an opportunity to get back to the basics of urban farming, Peter in Milwaukee has become a family-man, who so fully embraces bicycle culture that he has been publishing a VERY respected journal (COG-Magazine) about its international (and underground) appeal. Pro-natural, back to basics, and green seem to be the new Punk objectives (and have been for quite sometime, tough quite under the radar). Oh, yeah, and documenting things. We cannot forget about the importance of documenting things, can we now…?

So, while the old uniform has faded away, and the old tools of the trade were co-opted and reformatted, older punks have been curiously finding new, and more subversive, social implements (implements that on the surface appear to be rather commonplace) that actually seek to erode society’s current trend toward total disorder in no-time-flat, and THAT IS FUCKING PUNK…!

I have chosen surfing and cycling. Nate has chosen back-path-skiing. My friend Doug has formed a Philadelphia off-shoot of Dharma Punks. My friend Chris has chosen to write a book about his former scene. Peter has chosen to push COG. Trumbull has chosen urban homesteading. And, as you might imagine, the list goes on and on and on.

Creative, WAY-outside-of-the-box ways of thinking: This is the cutting-edge. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is what a bunch of once-angry-kids (now up there in years) that were once connected by PUNK ROCK have determined environmentally friendly, productive, and worthy of their efforts. This is DIY, not that other shit that is “called” DIY. DIY is DOING, not “being called DIY.” There is a difference and it is not so subtle, and I am counting on you to be conscious of it. Is that asking to much..?

Okay, enough ranting.

Now off to Pacific Northwest in search of the elusive Ron Reyes (aka, Chavo Pederast). Photos and interview to follow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009




It is not as bad as it sounds but I think that I am going to chime in here with a small rant about things. Remember, rants should be a highway to more positive things to come, and not just some going off, grinding-of-gears, about shit that pisses you off. So with some luck you will see the silver lining in this fluffy cloud over the mountainous Montana Sky.

While I used to be an avid "journaler" on my trips across the country and Europe, I gave it up for the direct experience. Telling my journal what I was experiencing at the time amounted to telling my journal what I wasn't actually experiencing, but was writing. It was my own MST3000 (remember that show) sort of dialogue with the world at large. Instead of living, I was talking about living. I was documenting my talking about living. I wasn't living. There is a difference.


I know way punker people than myself. My friend Allen, who really taught me the ropes about Punk Rock in the very early 80's, was fearless. I am not fearless. I am to the degree whereby I might drive my car into a deep mud bog knowing all the while that I can call a tow truck to pull me out, right..? Allen was fearless. He was the kid at the shows who would dance in the pit when the skinheads stood in the center and scared the rest of us off to the corners crying. He would carry knives to show, would bring a bag of wheat flour to a show and throw it all over the audience just when they were at their apex of sweaty and fucking up a lot of people's nights. To some Allen was a monstrous fuck up, fly in the ointment, flaky, coolest-kid-in-the-scene. He had the raddest girls, the best records, and the most fucked up stories. And it is maybe to Allen that I dedicate this book and this trip because I've become a lot like Allen was to me in the 1980's, now.

Real Punks come/came/will come in two basic varieties, but with way more evolutionary stalwart-types. For the most part, at least on the visual-aesthetic level, you either find your way into it because you are really, really messed up or, conversely, you find your way into it because you are really, really smart. This world favors the average. Thinking outside the box for a normal American doesn't even come remotely close to the day-to-day thoughts of alternative types that LIVE OUTSIDE THE BOX. No matter whether you found your way into punk from the "messed up" end or the "uber smart" end, you always knew that you were different. You knew from an early stage in life that you didn't fit in and all of us chose different ways to express that FUCKED-UP-NESS.

When we found Punk (or it found us), we were ready. We were so fucking ready that many of us just jumped in without testing the water. I, personally, had been dying to find something like the punk-rock-underground for years before I found it. I was the biggest (and I mean tallest and most freakish) weirdo at my school. I was tall, lanky, zitty, and not so beatiful. But to make a point of all of this I didn't much give two shits about the sports that everybody seemed to think that I should be playing or the academic-stuff that I was being encouraged to learn. None of this stuff seemed particularly relevant to a bombed-out shell of a kid that seemed destined to become homeless before he was 20. I was a weirdo living in an ultra-conformist utopia in a south-central Pennsylvanian farm town.

My story aside, we all know/knew that we didn't like the world-story that was being offered to us, so we rebelled. By 16 I was a DEVO worshipper and by 17 I was a punk. At my first show I felt that I had found my tribe, and this, too, was a double-edged sword. Nobody told me that only the strong survive int he scene. Your tribe was filled with pussies that would bail out in a hot-mintue at the point they realized that if they liked a more like-able style of music, dressed a little more preppy, or whatever, that they would get laid more often. And so in our own little utopia there was this factor of folks coming and going to the degree that you never really knew who your friends were on a wider scale of THE SCENE. However, when you met a person at a show or at the record store, and that friend seemed firmly planted in your world, well, you had a friend for life.

And, so, this is the premise of Barred For Life as a documentary and a cultural entity. Here we are years after its inception, its high points, and its most awesome displays of saying FUCK YOU to popular culture, and we still don't know who our friends are. We are lost. We are scared. We are meeting our destinies, individually and collectively. We are in need of direction. And, well, the Black Flag Bars are this secret handshake to the secret knowledge; the booty that is a future that we can all live with and that we can generally agree is good.

After meeting so many freaks and geeks on this trip I have remet my tribe. Even if we remove the words Black Flag from the discourse, the Bars carry an important message of I HOPE THAT I MADE THE RIGHT DECISION WITH MY LIFE. DID I...? And we can all say to one another, shaking, lump-in-the-throat, I THINK SO. RIGHT...?

As for me most frequently I look like a normal dude, though I've photographed some that look way more "NORMAL." As well, I shot some really fucked up looking people too. And, then, I've shot everything in between. So one thing has made it through the filter of my camera, and my conversations with my people, and that is that while the disguises that we wear as punks, undergrounders, or whatever you want to call it, the desire remains to not buy in, and to stand strong with a set of ideas and beliefs that are not NORMAL, not AVERAGE, and not altogether American.

Maybe the most important thing that I have learned on this trip is that those of us who still believe that our individuality, our individual fucked-up-ness, is a postive trait, well, we still believe in something greater and are making moves toward an out-of-the-box future that is still light years ahead of popular culture. So, if we remove the words Black Flag, and the words Punk Rock, and maybe even sub-culture from this dialgoue I have been having with people across the country, what remains is a segment of the population that is so far ahead of the pack that the path we/they are blazing seems a bit daunting. And there is fear. And there is indecision. And there is an willingness to let the pack catch us. But we all know that what we are doing is far more awesome than these other things. We are not only progressive but we are smart, clever, shrewd, and motivated.

With only 1/3 of this tour completed, and Europe not even fully planned, I may end up coming out of this episode of my life feeling empowered instead of daunted by the masses that don't get me, you, and we collectively. More on this later.

As for the trip, um, what can I say..? Stefan and I have seen the following awesome things. COG world-industry HQ, Peter's awesome family and beautiful home in Milwaukee, our first BF BRAND on the former singer of 309 Chorus and owner of High Hat Garage, a bunch of amped punks in Minneapolis, a street where a tornado touched down in August and ripped the rooves off of most of the houses, Jack Daniels being shot from shot glasses shaped like cowboy boots, Fargo, North Dakota, a long, flat, fucked up plain called "the rest of North Dakota," the Montana (big sky country) border, a definitive change in landscape from boring to holy-dramatic, a deserted rest area that became our abode in what turned out to be one of the coldest nights of our trip (and I spent it in a tent), a Montana State Trooper that didn't like that I had set up a tent and woke me up to tell me so, Mountains, more big, beautiful mountains, some trains, a few rivers, a lot of ranch-land, tons of animal carcasses on the rolling roadsides, and finally Bozeman.

We are staying with a cool cat named Nate that used to drum for Steel Pole Bathtub. Steel Pool made up this story in the early 90's about their van flipping, thus killing all of the band, and I believed it. So, when they toured a bit later I was mystified as to how this was possible. Now Nate has a cool home in the skirts of Bozeman, in sight of the mountains, and we are hanging out there.

Now, fuck you and go start your own revolution. I am way ahead of you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Minneapolis, MN

From Stefan:
Triple Rock Social club was a highlight on our tour of the midwest. 
8 folks total!
And one tattoo that combined the love for Black Flag with the love for bacon!
And 2 beers for 1 on Tuesdays!
And a gigantic veggieball sandwich (a gutbomb candidate)!
All those exclamation marks came easy in anticipation of our monster drive to Bozeman, MT.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009



From Stewart:

Inertia kicked in for just a hot minute while in Chicago and it was hard for me to break free. So, let me explain and see if it makes more sense. Doing some quick math it seems that I've driven across the country 5 times now; 3 times in bands, 1 time as a geology student on my way to field camp in Wyoming and Montana, and once when I was 14 with my parents going across the country to pick up my brother as he was discharged from the Air Force in Las Vegas. In all cases I was under 25, and so seeing the country as an under 25-er was more than overwhelming, and in most cases I was either sleeping in a tent, on a floor, in a van, or some combination of these venues, or worse.

This time however Stefan and I are staying in some pretty deluxe accommodations. Aside from the heat being off in the mansion in which we stayed in Detroit, everywhere else has been warm and toast (in this crazy cold snap), with great people, and all of the comforts of an awesome home away from home. So, trip number 6 is not only taking us, me in particular, to places where I have been before and long to return to, but it is taking us there in relative comfort. So, this isn't exactly PUNK ROCK, and that is fine by me. I am, after all, not 25 anymore.

In Chicago we stayed in two wonderful homes, and by day number three not
only was I not all that interested in quickly getting out of dodge, but there was sooooo much that I hadn't seen and wanted to, including hanging out with a friend from Philly that now lives there, and whom I haven't seen in years. Add to that an unexplained anxiety attack that was calmed down by a strong-as-fuck cappucinno and a trip to Whole Foods for my (and I assure you I am addicted to this stuff) daily "Green Goodness" drink. So, yeah, and it was then that I realized that we were getting out of dodge.

I took the wheel and began driving to Milwaukee. 2 hours as the crow flies, but 3.5 hours as the car drives. Rt. 94 was under massive construction and suffering through post-rush-hour mega congestion. I was tired, coming down from my high-anxiety, and behind the wheel. Somehow we made it without incident, and we set up shop at the High Hat Garage. We ate and awaited our victims, two local old-heads; one with the bars in chrome (Michael) and one with them branded into his stomach (Scott), and our host Peter DiAntonio from Cog Mag.

While small in number, our first BRAND is pretty significant. Scott, the possessor of said brand,
also owns the Garage, and so shooting was a dream. Great shots and lots of great talk about punk rock, bicycles, motorcycles, and photography (was in the company of no less than 4 photographers). In a few moments we take off to explore downtown Milwaukee, get our cafe' on, and possibly tour a bicycle manufacturing shop. Next stop, Minneapolis and the Triple Rock Social Club. I haven't been to Minneapolis since 97. Been a while.

Milwaukee, WI

From Stefan:
Fantastic conversation at our shoot at the Hi-Hat Garage.
2 models (one branded, one tattooed).
2 brats
2 beers, and a few more

Our accommodations are awesome. Thanks to Peter from COG mag (and his 4-year old daughter for clearing her room for us...).
I love Milwaukee already and haven't even seen it in daylight yet.

Short and crisp - good night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chicago, Day 2.

From Stefan:
Stewart and I spent the better part of the day on N. Milwaukee Ave.
Stewart bought much needed new shoes and a digital voice recorder, I checked out Belmont Surplus (hopelessly hip-ish and overpriced, and no M65 parkas). For the rest of the afternoon we awaited the arrival of 2 more candidates for the photo/interview treatment right on the sidewalk.
At 5:15 PM, we were all done and finally got back in the car. Before heading over to Bucktown to our generous host Jessica's place, I got all the right ingredients to treat my cold (beer, pizza, 3 different kinds of homeopathic globuli) at Whole Foods.

Time for some rest and Mad Men now.
Tomorrow: a stop by a huge surplus store on N. Lincoln, then off to Milwaukee, WI.




BEGIN RANT HERE: ______________________

So, where do I start with today's post. Well, let's see, TRAFFIC... Now there is a good topic, and a
good rant, but let's just say that somethings suck no matter whether you are trying to translate the information into a sort of adventurer's journal entry or just going off on shit that makes you want to fucking start a revolution from behind the wheel.

Stefan and I got off to a bit of a late start, albeit not too late to get to Chicago on time, but a late start none-the-less. We bid Scotty farewell and, if our measurements were correct, we would be in at Quimby's before 3pm, which was our slated shoot time. So, yeah, about that estimate. I remember watching the movie Stripes way back when I was a kid and the one line that I remember more than any other is when the mean seargant says, "NEVER ASSUME BECAUSE WHEN YOU ASSUME YOU MAKE AND 'ASS out of U and ME'." And so the story goes. It seemed like at every turn onto every new highway there was miles and miles and miles of fucking construction and, not surprizingly, very few places along the construction routes where we actually saw people. It was just long stretches of highway preparing for construction most places. And in a few places there was construction; though that was rare.

Anyway, by the time that we made it to Quimby's, where we met up with another of my old 90's hardcore friends, Steve Wade, there were just two people waiting to be photographed. Steve not only fliered the fuck out of this event (see yesterday's post), put it up on FB, MS, and Twitter, and talked to a ton of people about it, but I talked to at least 10 people though my various contacts that were DEFINITELY GOING TO BE THERE. However, they were
not. What a fucking bummer. It is not just a thing trend in the hardcore punk community, but it seems to be a hipster affliction nationwide. TOO COOL TO LEAVE THE HOUSE, BAR, or BRUNCH JOINT.

Maybe it is the lack of sun for the past 8 days or maybe it is residual angst from the traffic that we encountered today, but I am going on record here today to say FUCK YOU to all you people who flaked out. Luckily I love Chicago, and I am stoked to visit Chicago again, but what is gonna end up happening here (as always does in the Punk Rock scene) is that you will eventually see 250 or so people who showed up to these events t0 be photographed and be like, "I was gonna be there but I had to finish my beer and, well, by that time it was pretty late so I just went to the bar instead," and pursue your copout life without much fanfare attached. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, FUCK YOU...

Okay, now that that is off my chest, let me just say that today was officially,
unofficially, Straight Edge Day. I don't know where this crazy day came from but, well, since our host is an official card-carrying-member of the OLDER THAN YOU CREW, and I was sXe until about 10 years ago (and have a tattoo to remind me), we decided to take pix of our little celebration. While I am a very big fan of my wine and cheese, living the vegan straight edge lifestyle just doesn't really work for me anymore but, well, I honor those for whom it works. Congrats on your hard work.

Thanks to our two friends who showed up today. You will be happy to know that I am stoked that you braved the insane weather changes today to be at Quimby's for the shoot.