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Notes From the Underground
By Arwen Curry

The British Re-Invasion
A rare taste of English punk--right in SC's front yard

'OH MY GOD, I'M IN HEAVEN," yelled one kid on Sunday afternoon as the Stratford Mercenaries played on a local front porch. The statement was totally understandable in its drama, and the sentiment was broadly shared among the 50 or so punks decorating the couches and burned-out cars in the sun.

The Mercenaries are a new band, playing one of a handful of shows for the first time in the U.S., but comprised of some of the most venerable members of punk rock, including Steve Ignorant of Crass and Gary of Dirt on guitar. It's the sort of oddity that could only occur in a town like SC, that such a lineup of influential characters would find itself, albeit very last-minute, in the front yard of a generous local musician.

The few local "peace punks"--who eschew as completely as possible the macho aesthetics of latter-day punk and attempt to give some dignity to those big anarchy signs sported so frequently--generally make themselves scarce. Despite the degree of hype in that arena, I cannot recall another show in town in that category, but Sunday seemed to compensate for lost time and proved it was well worth the wait.

The Mercenaries played first, better to outrace the cops--who eventually did send four patrol cars and the chief, even. The sound had a strange ring, which I later identified as the live interpretation of a style that I usually only hear recorded. In the flesh, there was nothing to do with this crazy British punk but jump up and down maniacally, accepting the shit-eating grins on faces all around in the afternoon sun. The songs included, as may be predicted, Crass covers, but also new material that was both political and anthemic in a way American punk has never quite successfully imitated.

The Misanthropists, a young and terribly speedy band from the Peninsula, had the honorable but difficult job of playing second to a bunch of happy, exhausted punks, rounding out the short-lived show with the missing metal component.

After a few more shows in the Greater Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest, the Mercenaries will head back to the land of milk and tea to play some shows and hopefully record. While waiting to buy its first disc, the local underground music community can be gratified for having given a heartfelt, if small, welcome to our British cousins and to give thanks that it still has the resources to pull together such an event on a moment's notice.

Upcoming

On Thursday (7pm), see the Basement's last show, with Kerosene 454, Boy's Life, Sweet Nothings and Moralyson. On Friday, American Steel, Ashes & Crumbs and others play in town (look for fliers). On Saturday, the White Trash Debutantes play a matinee at UCSC. On Sunday, Screw 32 plays with Fury 66, H2O and Redemption 87 at Palookaville (8pm, all ages, $8/$7). On Tuesday , April 29, a gallery opening at San Jose State University features Soda Pop Fuck You, Tom Collins and The Sexiest Cover Band Alive (6pm, 2nd floor in the Herbert Sanders Gallery).

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From the April 24-30, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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