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Notes From the Underground
By Arwen Curry

Breaking Down the Halls:
Vets Hall veterans and new recruits take downtown by storm

LAST FRIDAY AT THE VETS HALL was a flashback to the halcyon days of last summer when--thanks to Grey Zone Production's Daniel Duerr, Paul Netto of Riff Raff and other promoters--the spot swarmed weekly with kids clamoring to see local groups open for surviving '80s punk bands (Youth Brigade, Battalion of Saints, etc.) who rolled through town. With the demise of medium-sized private venues, like the Redroom and Emi's, a strange dichotomy began to form. Shows happened either at the public hall--with well-established touring bands and their popular local counterparts--or in cramped private spaces like the Basement and the 320A house--with more obscure touring bands and their local counterparts. Even bands like A Minor Forest, who in any other town would warrant a large space, managed to blow away only a small subterranean room of people.

The more frequent the shows, the more complex the divisions proved to be. Mostly teenagers decorated the steps of the Vets Hall, while college-aged kids filed into the house shows. All bands reeking of Olympia air were immediately referred to the Basement, as well as snotty punk bands like the Coathanger Kids, almost all bands with girls in them and bands with loudly professed leftist political beliefs. Straight-edge bands with synchronized stage jumps--Vets Hall. Straight-edge bands that scream unintelligibly--320A house. Soon the entire thing became maddeningly predictable. And then--far worse--it all fell apart.

So it was a welcome surprise when the underground music-support group IUMA set about organizing last weekend's show, and even more startling when it announced the lineup. Varying styles of hardcore from Fury 66 to Ashes and Crumbs, the lovely melodic pop of the What Nots and the hook-laden pop-punk of Reliance peacefully co-existed. Riff Raff's directness contrasted with Spaceboy's strange heavy mayhem. The Great Divide, new on the scene, opened with a rock & roll sampler of instrumental styles that seemed to find identity in its last song. Downstairs, Staircase Tattoo, Bad Monkey and New Disorder Records, Food Not Bombs, and the Needle Exchange, among others, set up tables and distributed goodies. IUMA created free Web pages for the bands. The impression was touching and hopeful as many forces of an underground scene, confronted with the near-extinction of local opportunities, came together to do something positive in a public space that, for once, seemed like neutral territory.

Upcoming

On Saturday, the Make Up, Dub Narcotic Sound System and the Rally play at the Louden Nelson Center (7pm, all ages). Girls: Check out Sista Snatch on Free Radio for punk, hip-hop, spoken word, queer, girl and political stuff (96.3 FM, local bands send tapes to PO Box 7507, SC, 95061). Also check out the Bay Area Girl Convention Aug. 1-3 with events at the Berkeley YWCA, Gilman St. and Epicenter (call 510/653-1489 for details).

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From the July 31-Aug. 6, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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