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Notes From the Underground
By Arwen Curry

Generation Perplexed:
Local rockers jump ship,
seek the indie promised land

A MONUMENTAL SILENCE filled town last weekend in contrast to the mayhem of the previous holiday week. Popular touring bands were missing from the larger venues, and even the parties and house shows that many rely on were nowhere to be found. With significant changes occurring for some prominent local bands, it seems our staple cache of good shows is dwindling, and the scarcity of this week will become more and more typical.

Members of The Muggs and Soda Pop Fuck You have already moved to the other side of the hill--closest land of opportunity--joining the ranks of The Champs, TNT, Bread and Thunder, Junk Sick Dawn and even the Swingin' Utters, who left long before them. As more promising locals catch the attention their ambition deserves--and gravitate toward it--they slowly shift their base of operations to more practical locations, cities where they will have a choice of venues and promoters and a larger and more subtle array of fans.

The desire to move onward seems paralleled by common developments in the young, unsteady population that makes the most sincere and energetic independent music. Often educated and bright but unable or unwilling to join the ranks of corporate life, punk and indie musicians have difficulty finding fulfilling ways to survive in such a high-cost and transitional town as SC. Many simply tire of supporting their addiction to music by pouring coffee, making copies or shelving vitamins for ex-hippies, and of apologizing to able-bodied folks of the same age on Pacific Avenue for their lack of spare change.

Santa Cruz has a history of lapses and revivals in the momentum of its underground. In the Utters' local heyday, a very different punk scene thrived, according to not-so-ancient legend. And while recent years have frowned on more orthodox punk, some of the greatest purveyors of experimental sounds regularly stopped at the Basement and still do, at 320A. The pop-punk scene, such as it is, has been steadily supported by bands like Soda Pop, the What Nots, The Muggs, Meat Pizza Sandwich and others--but this era seems to be losing steam.

But hope is certainly not lost. There is no question that, despite local bands' often short-lived local careers, SC is fertile ground for innovative and sometimes brilliant artists. While we await--or create--a thriving new movement, many local bands and other supporters continue to produce. We can soon expect Buddys Riot's first seven-inch, a full-length from Soda Pop and the KZSC compilation CD. Slow Gherkin, reaching far outside the city limits, has released a song on an Aztlan Records ska compilation with the Voodoo Glow Skulls and others. It is reassuring to see that whether or not they stick around, members of an uncertain generation will go on contributing to a haphazard, yet inspiring local legacy.

On Sunday, Buddys Riot, The Indolents and Puke play at the Farmhouse (4pm, free, email me at the address below for details).

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From the June 5-11, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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