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Notes From the Underground

Latest revival of '50s Jamaican-born music hits home

I SPENT A GOOD 15 MINUTES on Wednesday reassuring a concerned father that his 12-year-old wasn't going to be mangled morally or physically at the ska extravaganza that night, even though one of the bands had a nasty four-letter word in its name. As said parent had never heard of ska, the conversation led into an abbreviated history lesson about its Jamaican roots, two-tone and the ties between ska and punk. He was satisfied as to his son's well-being and I felt pretty pleased with myself.

After witnessing the dramatic variety of musical styles that night, however, I realized my ska chapter may need some revision. In yet another example of the fashionably anachronistic ways of today's youth, kids wandered around the Vet's Hall in bomber jackets and skinny little ties. I missed Soda Pop Fuck You's opening set, but got there in time to watch Slow Gherkin's many enthusiastic local fans take their places in preparation for the dance craze. Fortunately I haven't forgotten how to skank, but I can't touch some of the fancy moves the kids were pulling off.

The Blue Meanies, a seven-piece band from Chicago, confused the hell out of everyone with a sound that fluctuated between traditional rock-steady timing and heavy, unexpected breakdowns. Their songs seemed to stretch to impossible lengths, with requisite horns and vocals that slowed almost to a halt, only to erupt into punk-rock frenzy led by a mad little frontman named Billy Spunke. Their set was exhilarating, but the many exhausted skankers were relieved to slow down for the more traditional sound of Mephiskapheles. It was refreshing to see such a young group of fans slamming around, grinning like idiots the whole time, without the posturing that contaminates so many punk shows.
Arwen Curry

Shakeup at the Epicenter

Epicenter Zone has been the d.i.y resource in San Francisco--a punk collective business where you could find a broad selection of truly independent and underground music and practically any 'zine known to humankind. Epicenter also had shows and served as a community meeting place. At a recent show, however, some idiot decided it would be cool to swing from an overhead water pipe. He broke it, flooding the place badly. The water drained to the floor below and put a clothing store out of business. The store is said to be suing Epicenter. A valuable community resource thus faces ruin because of individual stupidity. We need to learn from this lesson. Respect the places where you go to see shows, especially local halls and d.i.y. venues. Because when you break a window, or tag a bathroom, or kick a hole in the drywall, or start a fight, you are screwing the people who work hard to keep the scene alive. And that's not right.
Michael Mechanic


JFA (Jodi Foster's Army) plays a skate-park benefit at the Vet's Hall on Saturday with Stench, the Idiots, and Fat, Drunk & Stupid (all ages, 8pm, $7/$6). Auto plays at Emi's on Sunday (21 plus, 10pm). Also on Sunday, Unsafe plays at Three Spirits Gallery in Sand City, 361 Orange St. (all-ages, more info: 393-2787). Fury 66 plays at the Vet's Hall on Wednesday (Oct. 16) with Lagwagon and Swedish power-pop combo Millencollin (all ages, 8pm).
Michael Mechanic

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From the October 10-16, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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