All Things to All People Vol. 2 November 08, 2015 13:35

I just found out that I will be teaching at 8AM again next semester. I'm pretty upset about it. In my last post I talked a little bit about Sorry State's monetary philosophy. Since I have never taken money from Sorry State, that means that I have to work a full job in addition to running the store, distro, etc. Lately it has become extremely difficult to balance these things. This fall my teaching schedule puts me on campus about 30 hours per week. I could probably deal with that, but I also teach at 8AM, which means that I have to wake up around 6AM, which means that I need to go to bed at like 10PM if I want to get a full night's rest (which, I assure you, becomes more and more important the older you get). Needless to say, that bedtime is not really conducive to the rock and roll lifestyle that I would like to lead, and I've had to miss a ton of great shows this fall because of it. Thankfully my on-campus time will be reduced next semester, but I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to keep waking up before dawn several days per week.

One day I would really love to quit my job and focus full-time on Sorry State, but I have no idea if that will ever be in the cards. I think the main reason I'd like to quit my job is not so much so that I could be a full-time punk (even though that would rule) or certainly not because I think punk owes me a living, but rather because there's so much more that I know that I could do if I had the time and/or the money. Lately I feel like I've really been pushing against the physical limits of how much one person can work, and not only does it suck being exhausted all the time, but more importantly I feel like I'm not doing as well as I could be doing. The store could have more cool records, there could be more cool shows in Raleigh... there's so much more that could be happening if I weren't chained to a desk for such a large portion of my waking hours. But that's life under capitalism, right?

Wriggle photo by Will Butler / Fastcore Photos

So, this week I managed to make it out to two shows, which is a lot for me lately (I also missed shows with Video and Government Issue, so that's kind of a bummer). On Tuesday I went out to Greensboro to see the Glue / Strutter tour along with Skemäta and Greensboro bands Wriggle and Menthol, and then on Thursday there was an all-NC show with Menthol, Bad Eric, and Exhaust from Greensboro and Blackball from Raleigh. Both of these shows were really good and both of these shows were 100% hardcore punk, which is not something I would expect myself to be saying lately. However, Greensboro is just killing it lately. People outside of North Carolina may never have heard of Greensboro; It's a small city of only about 250,000 people and probably like the 3rd or 4th biggest city in North Carolina. It does have some punk history, through. Through the 90s and 00s Crimethinc. was headquartered there and within the punk scene the city became known as a hot spot for activist, anarchist punks, which contributed positively or negatively to their reputation according to whomever you might be talking to. It's the recent scene that I want to talk about, though.

The first really good recent band I recall seeing from Greensboro was Holder's Scar. I mentioned this when I talked about their debut EP on To Live a Lie, but I actually avoided checking them out for a while thanks to their kind of tough-sounding name and the fact that they were from Greensboro. When I finally did listen I was pretty blown away by their complex, heavy, and dissonant hardcore. Holder's Scar are great and well worth checking out, but to me they seem almost like a transitional band, with the key members working through their influences and perhaps not quite having found the exact scene that they truly connected with.

Things really started popping off with the next two Greensboro bands I saw, Wriggle and Bad Eric. Whereas Holder's Scar is heavy hardcore with some metal still in the mix (think Neurosis, Rorschach, and that kind of thing but with extra d-beat influences), Wriggle and Bad Eric are pure hardcore bands. Wriggle are nasty and chaotic, with something of the unhinged quality of early Black Flag and prime-era Void, and when you combine that with a distinctly North Carolinian sensibility you get something that reminds me quite a bit of Eye for an Eye-era Corrosion of Conformity. I liked Wriggle's demo tape so much that I did a short run of them on Sorry State, though they're now sold out. I can't wait to hear what's next for them as well, as they played a bunch of new songs on Tuesday that were a touch more melodic and had more interesting guitar/bass interplay inspired by anarcho-punk like Zounds. As for Bad Eric, they're the brainchild of Eric Chubb (who is in all four of the Greensboro bands I'm writing about), and you might have run across them already as they've toured the most out of this group. Like Wriggle, Bad Eric is pure hardcore, but a bit tighter and more straightforward. While the vocals are much tougher, musically they remind me a lot of Direct Control as their riffs tend to be built around similar chord patterns and their songs around similar dynamics and tempo changes.

The latest band to emerge from this group is Menthol, and they're my favorite of the bunch. While Menthol consists of pretty much the same personnel as the aforementioned bands, from what I hear this is guitarist Tyler's brainchild. It makes sense that Menthol would be my favorite because they're definitely the weirdest band of the crew. While they're still hardcore/punk, I think that Menthol reflects the members' increasing connections with the national / global punk scene, in particular midwest bands like Coneheads, Ooze, Bug, and Lumpy & the Dumpers. If Holder's Scar feels like a band still finding their place, Menthol sounds like a band who knows where they fit in the global punk community and realizes precisely what they have to offer to that conversation and culture. They made a few copies of the above recording on cassette for this week's dates, but the plan is to repress some copies on Sorry State so that more people can own this ripper on a physical format.

So, that's a quick little primer on the Greensboro, North Carolina hardcore scene. I'm sure there are probably some errors in there, but I don't know these folks super well... I'm just a particularly interested outside observer. However, it's scenes like this that make me excited about punk, and if you like being excited about punk you should check these bands out.

Speaking of being excited, that's not a feeling that I've had much of lately. In particular, I've been feeling really awkward and isolated when I try to talk to people at shows. I am overworked, exhausted, over-committed, and stressed nearly to the breaking point. All I can seem to think about is work, whether it's my teaching job or trying to run Sorry State, and when I talk to people lately I feel like I'm either complaining/whining or punishing them about the minutiae of all of my various commitments. I feel like I'm just not a fun or interesting person to be around because I don't have the time to do interesting things or even think interesting thoughts... I'm just a task-completing machine. Mostly I have just been trying to avoid actually talking to people, because all I can think about is how jealous I am of their lives. I see people like the Greensboro crew and the Austin crew at the Glue / Strutter show and they're all making killer music, traveling around, and having fun. As for me, it's probably been about a year since I've written a song. I can't remember the last time I picked up my guitar outside of shows and band practice. Sometimes I feel like I can't even remember what fun is. I do have some hope that the spring will be better, but it's been a very difficult fall for me, and it looks like I have at least another month in the weeds before things quiet down at all.

Here's a review of the recent book All Ages: The Rise and Fall of Portland Punk 1977-1981 that I wrote on goodreads:

I loved all of the minutiae in this book. Basically, the author started a kind of anarchist-style collective in Portland during the titular years, and the book contains all kinds of interesting info like meeting minutes, budgets, etc., that provide the kind of granular detail that most punk history books don't. Those parts are great, but basically whenever the author starts talking in generalities I start to hate this book. He has a habit of lapsing into casual sexism and homophobia (a product of his times, I guess) and ranting about incredibly abstract, mostly irrelevant topics for pages on end. The worst was his capsule history / critique of anarchist theory at the very end of the book. Fortunately the book is organized into small sections so if you smell something fishy you can just skip those parts, and even if the writing were completely abysmal (it's not) there's a wealth of primary source info here that's just fascinating. There are a lot of books about the history of punk I'd recommend before this one, but if you want to read everything about this topic (and I do) you'll certainly learn a lot.

I'm pretty into books and I like to see what other punks are reading, so if you're active on Goodreads friend me or whatever here.

That's all for this week! Who knows what I'll write about next week? Only one way to find out I guess!