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PO Box 26632 / Richmond VA 23261-6632

Some Thoughts #80

    I wish I didn’t have to wait until the last minute to write my columns, but it’s how it always is.  It’s been a frantic warm season thus far this year, with lots of travel and show going and the photos are here to show it.  On one hand I think the punk scene is more exciting and happening than ever before, with all these fests and so many international touring bands this summer, it’s been a great season.  But this issue of S&L has been one of the hardest to pull together.  There is a certain amount of that challenge that comes with each issue, but this one really took me a step into the other direction and made me look at things and accept possible changes in a way that I really had not before.  See S&L has been a self-sustaining entity for a long time.  I drag it forward and if I lag, it drags me forward, but it sustains itself.  The schedule is timely and predictable, the ads come in and keep it going.  But that is what has taken a new turn.  Everyone is broke and struggling these days, from individuals, to bigger indie punk labels, to the small punk labels.  The ads that for awhile I could count on to sustain this zine have almost dried up. It seems no one can afford to advertise, and those than can are budgeting like crazy.  I understand it, advertising is a strange animal, and I wish that I didn’t rely on it as I do, but the fact is the ads pay for the printing and postage of this free zine, and I’d like to think that we have a good arrangement and a formula that works.  The other shift that I’ve seen happen gradually that hit me hard just recently is everyone’s need to go digital.  Everyone wants to send me digital ads over the computer, and I’m still struggling in the dark ages with a computer from the 90s that isn’t compatible with these snazzy downloading capabilities.  I’m lucky to be able to deal with the text files and email.  But all of a sudden I’m up against people that don’t deal with paper anymore, they tell me, “well we don’t have a good laser printer... can’t we just sent it digital, the quality is so much better.”  Ugh.  Except in my experience that isn’t true.  The digital ads look digital, but when things are printed out and glued down, we all know what it will look like, and it looks so much better.
     The saddest thing is that I’m fighting this digital horizon and the financial impact in all facets of my life.  I work in a photo lab and the photo industry is struggling big time.  Digital has taken over and people are ceasing to use film.  We’ve seen our workload drop in half in the past year alone, and that is after dwindling for awhile before that.  Everyone is going digital and you can do that at home.  My parents are a perfect example, they just went on a cross country trip and shot like 10,000 photos on their digital cameras.  Just think how much film that would have been.  And I have mixed feelings all around.  As a do-it-yourself supporter, being able to have your own digital photo lab at home is awesome, and something that I should be supportive of, and finally the technology has gotten go good that it’s become hard to argue with.  But I’m a photographer, and I love film, and I love the traditional process and I guess I must feel the way painters in the 1800s felt when photography was a newly developed art.  It’s hard to watch the world change around you, especially when you’re not really caught up in the progress and change.  I can’t really knock the digital revolution anymore, though I still cling to my film and paper and glue and old ways.  I dragged my feet about using a computer for desktop publishing in the early 90s and S&L would be impossible now without it.  I dragged my feet over email in the late 90s and now I rely on that too.  I’m slow to accept changes sometimes, even though I feel like I fight with most of my energy for change in many regards.  But I’m a stubborn old goat in many ways too and I like what works and I hate gadgets and new technology which while on one hand empowers us to be able to do things ourselves without others, also requires you to be depending on the continual evolution of new technology, which of course comes at a high price, and thus far isn’t so well time-proven.  And when your brain doesn’t work with electronics and technology naturally, well that is hard to deal with most of the time.  So this month I have been watching people lose their positions and hours at the photo lab because there is just no work for them, and I’m watching the ads all but dry up in S&L because people have no money and or want to stay digital, and it has really shaken me up a bit and made me reevaluate and think about possible new directions that S&L might have to go in, which is mostly just possibly shrinking in pages and therefore having to focus a bit more on the stuff that I think really matters.  We shall see.  I’m not giving up yet.  And this issue manage to maintain the same page size and I’ve got a photo collage poster in the centerfold which I think is pretty exciting.  I’ve also spent a lot of time lately trying to salvage and organize my S&L archives, which have been in a sad neglected state in my molding nasty garage, much to the horror of many of my friends and fellow respected zine publishers.  I got some good storage crates for them to protect them from the elements.  The stacks on the front and back porch have been taken to the new shelves in the almost cleaned up garage.  My latest photo plan is to do a 20 year anniversary of S&L photo book which will include all the band photos that have been in S&L in that time.  Since my NYC photo book has not progressed any further, though I still hope it will, I am hoping to be able to get the S&L one done in conjunction with the 20 year mark.  I dragged out the originals for the early issues and realized how bad they were, as well as how good, and just how long it’s been.  Talk about a trip down memory lane.  So this is as good of a place as any to give a shout out to the old punks, 30 years old and over, who by my side, even if many miles away are still at it and keeping things alive.  It’s my inspiration every day to watch the punks grow older and make punk truly a way of life.  Cheers!
    I’ve seen more bands in the past few months that I think I’ve seen in the past few years.  It started out with a trip to Milwaukee to visit Karoline and Robert and then drive to Minneapolis for Thrash Fest on May day.  The highlight of that good time for me was seeing From Ashes Rise and Wolfbrigade both of whom totally fucking rocked my world.  This is not to dismiss all the other amazing bands that played - it was a long crowded day of bands.  Caustic Christ, RAMBO, Damage Deposit, the Leveling, Vitamin X all played while the record distros sold records in a tight corridor and the punks drank cases of beer in the parking lot which was really quite odd to see at what I thought of as the sXe fest.  Later that night Misery played along with Iskra at a bar downtown and though I missed Disrespect while high-tailing it downtown, it was so awesome to see Misery again after ten years.  And as one guy next to me was thrilled to finally be getting to see Misery for the first time, I found out he was an old friend from Canada’s Black Kronstadt who is now playing with Iskra.  The night wound up with a crazed 80s dance party at Chelsea and Dan’s house and I’ve already carried on about what a great bunch of dancers the Iskra guys were, as well as the best organized morning clean up crew I think I’ve ever seen.  But that already feels like so long ago.  I had two more days of From Ashes Rise shows and one more Wolfbrigade show and I was beyond stoked to get to rock out with that.  Two weeks later it was From Ashes Rise and Strike Anywhere here at home in RVA and then in DC.  I’ve been carrying on about these two bands for ever now and this spring was my FAR season and in all the 5 or so times I saw them in May my stoked-ness can not really be put to words.  I rocked like I rarely do, and I’ve got enough photos of them to publish a book.  A couple weeks later I went to Youngstown Ohio for the Emissions festival, which is generally a stoner and heavy rock fest, which is also generally not really my thing.  However, ATP were playing and a bunch of friends were going to be there and I thought it would be fun, and I was actually amazed just how much fun it was.  I was only there for one day of the rock fest and got to see Rwake, ATP, a St. Vitus reunion (!), Stinking Lizaveta who’s female drummer was so rad it brought tears to my eyes, and a whole host of others.  Camera stayed packed away that day and I drank all day long and the best thing about it was that what I expected was going to be a real dude-testosterone fest was not at all.  In fact, the whole of people there were probably nicer, and friendlier all around than at my usual punk fest.  It came down to what it was supposed to be — a bunch of people gathering to see a bunch of bands they love and have a good time.  And I love the bullshit free gatherings like that which are just about the good time.  The next day we trekked off to Pittsburgh to see Kylesa, Behind Enemy Lines and Aphasia play in Pittsburgh at Brave New World, the punk record store and what a great space that is for shows.  In fact, it’s the perfect dream space of all the punks: the totally collective punk record store show space combo.  I was impressed and pleased in my beloved Pittsburgh.  A week later on what ended up being kind of a spontaneous whim, I flew to Austin Texas for the Prank Fest.  Whew, where to start on that one.  Austin is an off the hook kind of city.  There was a 30,000 + biker gathering in town, as well as gay pride weekend, while the punks were also gathering and barely making a dent in this party town.  2 days of amazing shows with crazed parties in between and barely a chance to even get to see the town.  The punks went canoeing in a city park, while I checked out a feminist bookstore, and then had the obsessive and mandatory avocado margaritas in the only free hours of the day there were.  Although I also got to eat at Mr. Natural, a traditional “interior” Mexican health food restaurant that I stumbled upon in 1995 and have been dreaming of revisiting ever since for the avocado salad dressing and veggie tamales!  Turned out that was an easy thing to do as one just opened up around the corner from Jacks’ house.  The first day I got to Austin I spent the afternoon sipping Tecate at the tattoo shop run by this guy covered in leopard print facial tattoos, while Liz and I reacquainted and Ky got tattooed.  It was while we were kicking back there, listening to the motorcycles rev their engines that we found out Reagan had died.  This was quite a way to start the punk weekend celebration.  From there we went to Texas James’ house for a show with Born/Dead and I don’t even know who else.  I was so stoked to see Born/Dead that I said I could left for home right then and there and been satisfied, but happily there was so much more punk rock to have.  It was awesome to find so many friends from across the country kicking it in the yard there.  What on one hand is an unexpected showing of so many friends, should actually be quite expected at this point as many of them I’d just seen in Mpls a few weeks before, and am now looking forward to seeing again in Philly in a few weeks for the next big fest.  I love these gathering for that reason - it’s kinda like a family reunion where those of us who live all over and spread out can all come together for these manic weekends.  I think we should do it more often.  But sometimes it’s the spontaneousness of the right event and the right time that while you know it’s going to be good, ends up being better than you can plan for.  And the Prank Fest this year was fucking fantastic!  Got to see Signal Lost, Artimus Pyle and Sunday Morning Einsteins and several others.  It was so cool to be in a new part of the country and meet new people I’ve only written to in the past, and generally just get a whole new feeling for a place.  And it was awesome to see how stoked people were to see Drop Dead who have not played there for some time.  It was awesome!  The next night I got to see Born/Dead again and I just love the shit out of that band.  And then back to back World Burns to Death, Kylesa and Paintbox from Japan.  And that was a breathless line up if there ever was one.  WBTD are one of my absolute faves whom I could rave about for ages, whom we don’t get to see often enough.  And Kylesa fortunately I’ve seen a lot of lately and that just makes it all the better.  And Paintbox left everyone speechless.  I wish I could have stuck around for a few days and gotten to see the town and the hills surrounding, and eat more yummy food, but I had to catch an early morning plane and go straight back to work (big mistake) and had the kind of shitty day where the Christian Missionaries in the airport ended up being the best thing that happened, and that is a sign of a real crapper of a day.  But I made it home safely, and it seemed to take me several weeks to fully recuperate from all the manic punk rock fun as well as the inevitable crash that comes from doing so much and then readjusting to stationary life again.  But Richmond is rad, and I’m fighting dearly to keep my Hardcore Holocaust friends from moving away, and just wishing that our local punk scene could be better and that more people would come to the bunch of good shows that we’ve been having which for the most part have embarrassing turn outs (my apologies to you all who have been here for crapper shows!)  We’ve been having daily thunderstorms and so much rain that everything is growing out of control, but we’re almost getting waterlogged as we reach the hot and humid dog days of summer when it is so unbearably muggy it’s impossible to enjoy the overgrown hammock in the garden. 
    It would seem incomplete here to not mention politics even a bit, since by the next issue we will hopefully have a whole new administration here in the US and things will be looking better on that horizon as well.  But in the meantime, things are kind of horrifying and living under George is a nightmare, and an embarrassment.  Go to see Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 911.  Not only does it put the past several years in perspective, but it ties in all the corruption of the administration and the Bush family and how far it goes back, and reminds us of just how bad it is.  If I get going, I could write endlessly and passionately, even if not that articulately about how upsetting the Republicans are and how corrupt George is and what a terrible speaker he is, but so many have already done that and you’re been hearing plenty more on the topic in the coming months.  I hope we can look beyond to something better, cause I don’t think any of us will survive another four years like this. I would rather talk about punk rock and books and dogs and plants cause at least that stuff is fun and exciting and more positive than the disturbing realities of our war hungry government.  Speak out, and fight it, and yes, vote in the fall.  I think it’s important!
    There’s a lot more punk exuberance coming up at the Pointless fest, where I will get to see Hellshock!! and Tragedy and so many other favorites.  And while this doesn’t really fit in here, I have to mention this band Cruachan, from Ireland, who are a cross between traditional Celtic music and black metal, with male/female dual vocals, who are just amazing and have become the icing on the cake for me this year.  They have a brand new album out called Pagan, and for anyone who likes Celtic music and/or metal, this is my new dream come true band. A few other obsessions to mention - Muga from Japan are my new favorite band. With a big Tragedy influence, they’re what I’m listening to non stop. The Wolfbrigade D-Beat Odyssey album rules too.  And Grim Aria, a new band from Philly just played and rocked my world.  They play metal that reminds me of the UK punks when they went metal in the 90s.  And I have not tired one ounce in my obsession with Hellshock, who I listen to every day, and Aphasia, well you know...  I’m stoked to get to see both play real soon.
    So it’s hot, I’m practically out of work, we’re all broke, the finances of the zine world are struggling, film is almost obsolete, and not enough punks live in Richmond or come to the great shows that we have, but life is good. There are loads of amazing bands playing and touring this summer, and more gatherings of the tribes coming up soon.  In fact, I would say that life couldn’t be better!
—Chris(tine) • 8/04