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Notes From the Underground

Old-School Dilemma:
Those who can't escape the past are condemned to sell it

Ninety-six may go down in music history as the Year of the Reunion, with the Pistols, the Descendants, the Specials and the Misfits, to name just a few, re-banding to headline huge gigs. As boomers flock to see the Stones, and still-grieving ex-Deadheads cough up ridiculous sums to hear anyone who once sat next to Jerry on the bus, have aging punks also become so desperate to relive their prime?

Yes, but not entirely. In large part, the retro-craze targets an audience willing to pay dearly to recreate a history they never lived through but feel some distant connection with by virtue of bands like Bad Religion. It's a sign of the times how eager and willing we are to create a distorted imitation of a culture that has mutated so drastically. The music industry is attempting to stretch our collective memory to unhealthy lengths.

Reunion shows around here reflect both phenomena. Few teens attended the recent Buzzcocks show. This chapter of punk history has been less dog-eared by the younger kids for obvious reasons--out of context, the Buzzcocks and their ilk sound like new-wave Brit-pop and lack the in-your-face rebellious energy of, say, the Pistols, or something faster. The Buzzcocks' d.i.y. activities from the inception of the punk movement gives meaning to their songs, but that's impossible to understand from afar, and is, many would argue, irrelevant.

Then there are those older bands who continue to put out records, gaining new fans, and sometimes disappoint the old die-hards with new material that is inevitably compared to their most influential work.

The young audience at Youth Brigade's Vet's Hall show on Saturday clamored noisily for the "old-school" and was only temporarily pacified by hits from a few years ago like "Punk Rock Mom." Frontman Shawn accommodated the crowd with sing-along versions of classics like "Sink With California," which, he confides, they always play last for impact. "It does get tiring playing songs we wrote in '82 or '83," says Shawn. "But we'll do it."

I recall Jack Grisham of The Joykiller expressing a similar sentiment--that throwing in a few T.S.O.L. songs is the least he can do for those who have supported him over the years. Here, though, it's more likely to be a 15-year-old than a veteran yelling for the old stuff. Sunday's Youth Brigade/Tilt show at SF's Trocadero was much more of an even blend of nostalgia and initial discovery. The audience was refreshingly diverse, but the bouncing energy of the SC show seemed fresh and uninhibited in contrast with the stone-faced San Franciscans.

"There's nothing like an impromptu show at the Vet's Hall," says Tilt frontwoman Cinder Block. Maybe when they roll back through town on their reunion tour ten years down the road, those same kids will be standing in the back, while a new generation screams for the old school.
Arwen Curry

Mo' Betta' Radio

Forgot to mention that Gene "Bean" Bae, who has been pretty heavily involved with SC Music Collective, also DJs a cool indie show on KZSC-88.1FM every Thursday starting at 10:30pm. Send stuff to his attention at KZSC, Music Bldg. East, UCSC 95064.


On Friday, Welt plays the Vet's Hall Basement with Goodfellas, Three Years Down, Stub and the Octanes (all ages, $6, 8pm). On Saturday, L.A.B. plays at Capitola Community Center with It., Caustic Notions, Lost Cause, Locus and the Insults (all ages, $6, 7pm).
Michael Mechanic

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From the August 8-14, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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