I once devoted an entire episode of my first radio show to playing this record in its entirety, and I would do it again. Despite it’s prodigious length for a punk record, it still takes infinitely less time to listen to than Ulysses takes to read.
Not to be too hyperbolic, but this is the best album of the 1980s by the best band of the 1980s, and deserves to be considered one of the great works of Western Civilization. If you haven’t listened to Double Nickels on the Dime, just do so now and begin the next chapter of your life.
I’ve always been of two minds about the relentless retroactive consumption of analog data into digital, considering how we are more than 80 years past The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. On one hand, certain images and texts were conceived to be transmitted in particular manners through specific networks. On the other hand, I get to watch more streaming video than I could conceivably view in my lifetime of bands I love at specific moments in their formative years. On the other other hand, it’s more material than I could possibly view in my lifetime. It gives me anxiety to think about sometimes.
Around the time of my birthday this year, I decided to dig a little and see and if live video miners like Hate5Six had published anything from my favorite Syracuse venue from my undergrad days, Planet 505 on Westcott Street. Of course they have: a pair of sets filmed by Daniella Dombrowski in May 2002. One of which was Converge, the greatest band ever to come from Boston, touring on the steam of their epoch-defining album Jane Doe.
Given the date of that gig, I should have been in town, probably burying my head in the sand over finals or something. It physically hurts that I could have walked down the street and been at this show. But then again, I was only cursorily aware of Converge at the time, and I missed the boat on any opportunity to be a “hardcore kid.” There were certainly plentiful opportunities to find community, maybe even start my own band (despite having very little musical talent), but I found other creative/social outlets throughout my college years.
More ink has been spilled about Jane Doe, Converge’s masterpiece, than almost any album in its style, so I don’t know how much my insights would contribute to the conversation. I agree with the assessment that this record did more for “loud” music than almost any record by a large handful of highly unlistenable metalcore arena-fillers who would follow. It elevated them to high art within whatever style of punk/metal it is they play. To put it bluntly, the record absolutely smokes. It takes you for a ride, and sometimes, it’s hard to get up after listening intently.
Ever since that bizarre moment in the mid-80s when metal became shockingly marketable (or marketably shocking), nerds had been fighting to defend the style from meddling parents, dilettante meatheads, and critics who overlooked the good shit. The subgenre’s greatest musician, Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, died tragically in 1986, missing out on the spoils of that cultural crest. MTV put Headbanger’s Ball on the air in April 1987, splintering metal world into the hopelessly commercial (Poison, Ratt, etc.) and defiantly underground/evil (Mayhem, Repulsion, etc.) with some Slayers bouncing between those worlds.
Right after the turn of the millennium, Converge, who came from the hardcore scene more than metal, released a record in that tradition that was impossible NOT to defend. I’d be loathe to call Jane Doe metal, since their greatest proponents were punks or college radio nerds (guilty), but it has most of the tropes we associate with metal, particularly the distortion that Kurt Ballou shoves up your ass as both guitarist and producer. The biggest “upgrade” from previous efforts (most of which were still very good) came in the form of new drummer Ben Koller, who is now almost universally regarded as one of the best to ever play in the style. He also firmly shifted Converge into the camp of “mathcore” with bands like Botch – playing in non-traditional time signatures – though many of the songs on Jane Doe still follow certain rules of pop music structure. One example is “Bitter and Then Some.” I may not be an expert on metal or metalcore, but moments recorded in that style don’t get any better than that *BREAK* at 0:32, one of my favorite moments on the entire album:
Though the members of Converge could not predict the future of the world when writing and recording this opus, the album’s release date one week ahead of the September 11th attacks feels eerily appropriate. Any American with access to a television was inundated with images of rubble and fires for weeks, lending the companion tracks “Phoenix in Flight” and “Phoenix in Flames” an especially morbid din. To Ballou’s many, many credits here behind the analog mixing deck, the latter really does make Jacob Bannon sound like a gigantic bird burning to death.
I’m not being hyperbolic. Listen for yourself. It’s the 21st century, and you can find any of these tracks pretty easily. This isn’t underground anymore. Not that there aren’t still plenty of jocks and/or meatheads in the scene, but thanks in large part to Converge, the thrashy, mathy punk they helped spearhead (and still run the table on) is unquestionable art and belongs to the nerds again. Only now, we stand in the back, but we’re still at the gig, all these years later.
For those interested in my full Top 10 list of 2001:
I recently found a couple of photos I snapped in 2015 at the Tirso de Molina anarchist market, which I mentioned in my prior post about Crass’ 1981 masterpiece Penis Envy. I actually updated that post with one of these pictures, but I figured this would be as good an excuse as any to share these here. I did find some 2004 photos from the nearby Rastro, but perhaps I was too occupied digging through bootleg CDs to take pictures of the punx by the Metro.
Generally speaking, I hate music festivals. On one level, they are often overwhelming, expensive, and somehow at least 4 of the 5 bands you came to see are scheduled concurrently. On another level, music festivals (particularly the big-money ones) have become cogent reminders of how inherently contradictory capitalism is toward all forms of art and meaning. A vast majority of festivals that attempt to remain pure in meaning and focus only survive for a couple of years. The Harvest of Hope Festival, which ran for a couple of years in St. Augustine, FL, was case in point.
As of this writing, the fest’s website still exists and provides a fascinating window into the internet of the early 2010’s. It originated as a benefit for the Harvest of Hope Foundation, a Gainesville-based 501(c)(3) devoted to raising awareness of the struggles faced by migrant workers. According to the Foundation’s standing Facebook page, the organization closed down in 2013. Thankfully, their work was not in vain, seeing how many activist groups online have picked up that mantle (one I recommend personally is @flowerinspanish on Instagram). Given how relatively short-lived the Festival was, you have to admire how they pulled off TWO three-day events given all the requisite red tape, booking costs, and finding a full lineup of artists willing to perform for free (or, for the headliners, significantly less than what they could pull in from a larger, for-profit festival). Then again, its important to keep in mind that in 2009-2010, festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo were still in transition from regional concerns to bloated international garbage plates.
I don’t remember how I heard about the Harvest of Hope Festival, but it was probably somewhere on Facebook. Looking back at the lineup (which I’ve scanned and pasted below), there were only a handful of bands I would have gone out of my way to see. Many of the bands on the lineup were from Florida or adjacent states, and with few exceptions, the organizers put them in opening or closing spots.
Some of the names that jump out on this list in 2021 were little more than cult icons in 2010, especially Portugal. the Man, who was several years prior his major crossover hit “Feel It Still.” Others, like Broken Social Scene, are hard for me to gauge in that respect; I do remember seeing “Cause = Time” at 12:30 AM on MTV when they broke out in 2004 and they did a big tour with Belle & Sebastian in 2006, as much as Leslie Feist left the group in her dust by the end of the decade. Even a couple of the punk bands, namely The Menzingers and The Wonder Years, were featured here before growing into two of the most successful bands in their genre. Of course I missed both of their sets.
One of the best performances I saw the entire weekend was also one of the biggest surprises: Chali 2Na. I had been a casual fan of his since I first heard his booming, 7-foot verses on Jurassic 5 songs, but his set on Friday night had a panache to it. He opened with “International” and just locked into a groove that didn’t lift until he left the stage. Another highlight (which I imagine would make some hirsute, 90’s-loving readers’ eyes pop) was Leatherface, architects of the gruff pop-punk that Floridians like How Water Music would build careers on, as well as the authors of one of my favorite songs ever recorded. Frankie Stubbs, a UK national, seemed to be dealing with perpetual visa issues at that time, resulting in the cancellation of stateside dates that summer. I’ll never forget how viscerally angry he was with the security, whom he stridently labeled “the fun police,” ending his set with a loud “fuck you!” and storming off. Legendary Stubbs.
On Saturday afternoon, I skipped out on the festival to head down to Ocala to see a friend and meet her new baby daughter. It was a nice visit, as much as I missed Good Luck (whom I had interviewed for an issue of Razorcake the previous year) and a few other bands I would later learn of, including Dan Padilla and Too Many Daves, whose singer Dave (DeDominici) Disorder I wouldn’t meet until a decade later in a Tampa grocery store*.
Looking back at this unique moment in punk history has been fun, especially since it happened so early in the iPhone (2007) and Android (2008) timelines, so relatively little video evidence of this festival exists online. To my surprise, I found that YouTube user “stdruler” uploaded most of Paul Baribeau‘s set shortly after the festival. I don’t know what they used to film it; it could have been a cheap flip cam or some early smart-phone with a low-res video function built in. It’s great to be able to re-live, even at a dodgy frame rate, the first time that his song “Ten Things” made my heart leap into my brain. I hope it does the same for you. Thanks for reading!
*If you want to hear that mundane story, I will share it with you. Also, I found this while trying to see if TMD still had any web presence, and I can’t not share it.
I’m convinced there’s a “Rule 35” for Instagram; if someone imagines an Instagram account, that means there is (or will be, soon) an Instagram account devoted to whatever they imagined. One thought I had, when I rediscovered this flyer from my senior year of High School, was that there should be an Instagram account devoted to archiving obviously-made-in-Microsoft Word gig flyers.
Speaking of rules, one of the first rules of designing a gig poster or flyer is don’t do it in Microsoft Word.
I remember thinking that when my friends in a high school organization called MOW (Men of the World…more on that in a second) organized a benefit show and this flyer started going up around our hometown. What made it even more confusing was how many people in positions of leadership in MOW were in bands, or had at least gone to enough shows to recognize that it’s always worth throwing some money at a graphic designer, especially considering how many talented artists we knew from our High School.
Let’s talk about the show itself. As stated, it was a benefit for the Madison ABC (A Better Chance) house, which allowed students from low-income backgrounds to spend a year or two living and attending our high school. It brought a lot of great people together, and, to speak to the elephant in the room, practically tripled my high school’s BIPOC population.
From what I remember at the Arts Barn that night 20 years ago, there were multiple video and still cameras around, but as of this writing, I haven’t found any publicly shared documentation of it. During the 2020 lockdown, I got especially obsessive about archiving, organizing, and making accessible so many documents of cultural performances, largely inspired by hate5six, copyscams, and, you know, the internet at large. In 2001, I was still formulating a lot of these ideas, but in 2021, I am an adamant proponent of the idea that no gig is too small or too insular to be culturally or historically significant. Tony Wilson (channeled through Steve Coogan) said it, and I’ll refrain that here.
As far as MOW itself, here’s a bit of background. A large confluence of guys in my graduating class (and a few underclassmen), many of whom were friends of mine, started an organization called Men of the World as a counterpart to the longer-established Women of the World (WOW), a charity and leadership organization for women in our high school. Twenty years later, a bunch of mouth-breathers who don’t understand why the patriarchy sucks have ruined anything that includes the term “Men’s” for the rest of us. However, MOW formed in a world before 4chan; the guys who formed MOW were all close friends with the leadership of WOW, and starting an organization for men to do similar work was simply a fun way to double our class’ charitable output. The fact that I felt the need to type out this paragraph to retroactively distance MOW from the contemporary umbrella of “Men’s Rights Activism” is a sad reality, but here we are.
One thing I do remember about this show was what a socially diverse crowd it brought out to the Arts Barn. Over the prior three years, the Saturday night gigs at the Arts Barn had gone through a weird transformation where the town (aka THE GROWN-UPS) wrested control from the kids. In the mid-90’s, before the town built a new police station on the opposite side of the parking lot, the place was a shithole. It was also completely packed the hell out every Saturday night, seemingly no matter who was playing. It was, ostensibly, the only all-ages venue where the “supervision” was whatever older siblings signed off on the rental. In 1997-1998, Kit, an elder statesman (21 or so was “elder” at that time) from a local hippie family booked hardcore, metal, and crossover shows. I wasn’t cool enough at 15 to know where all of the tastemakers started hanging out instead, but show attendance did start thinning out. As the millennium approached, the town took control of bookings. There were still plenty of good/loud bands who played, but the shows felt safer and more supervised, which is poison as far as rebellious kids in an upper-middle-class town were concerned. Every once in a while, the Flaming Tsunamis (in their early incarnation as a ska-core collective) would bring hordes of kids over from the town next door, but overall, a lot of Arts Barn Saturdays were smaller affairs.
MOW Fest, however, gave the whole thing a shot in the arm. At the time, my snide arrogance probably led me to privately deride all of these poseurs who I’d never seen at an Arts Barn show, but in retrospect, I have a deep appreciation for a group of people putting a lineup together with no reverence for scene divisions or genre. The lineup provided something for everybody. If you didn’t like one band’s style, you went outside. I remember a few of my friends (who were more in the Dave Matthews/Phish crowd than the Blink-182/Ataris crowd) commenting on Mad Mardigan’s set that “they didn’t really like that style of music, but [Bryan] was really good at playing it.”
I don’t remember the order the bands played (notice there was no real hierarchy to the bands billed, other than order on the flyer), but here are some of my other scattershot memories.
Revelaria were a hard-charging, acoustic-centered band led by a Shawn Mullins-looking dude named Josh Pomerenke, his brother Matt on guitar, and a drummer named DJ Gibson who resembled, as my friend Andrew pointed out to me, a height-of-fame Brad Roberts. I remember enjoying their set, and many of us wound up with copies of their self-produced 4-track CD. I still have it, so I’ll scan the cover in.
The biggest crowd filed in for Hey Driver, a jammy band led by Dan Zaccagnino, who would later go on to found Indaba Music in 2007, appearing on the Colbert Report shortly thereafter. Dan and his colleagues sold Indaba to Splice Media in 2018, so I imagine they’re doing pretty well.
Klatu (I think the proper spelling was Klaatu) was a progressive metal band that included a gigantic, dreadlocked singer (who I believe was named Charles) and bassist who was, I believe, the older brother of a classmate (and talented sax player) named Steve. They prided themselves on never performing the exact same song twice, and I did see them play the Arts Barn a good handful of times, but that’s really all I remember.
Though I was closest friends with the members of Mad Mardigan and I did enjoy their set, I thought Call Me Donnie had the set of the night. Both bands formed after Proteus/Inprofect broke up; drummer Pete (who we called Phony Tony due to his resemblance to Tony Hawk) went on to Mad Mardigan, and guitarist Tim started Call Me Donnie. Looking back, this transition was reflective of the greater cultural shift away from Rage Against the Machine-bred Rap-Metal into the New Found Glory/Blink-182 bred pop-punk wave of the early 2000’s (as much as Nu-Metal and its white-collar cousin Butt Rock held on).
CMD was a collaboration between Tim and a Swedish exchange student named Parry (Pär or Per; I lost touch with him and don’t remember), along with a talented younger drummer named Mark. That was the only time I ever saw them. Honestly, I don’t remember if they played any other gigs, since Perry was on his way back to Sweden, but they brought the house down with their New Found Glory / Riddlin’ Kids love. I remember yelling, “Play Refused!” at Parry, which made him laugh, and we had a spirited conversation about Dennis Lyxzén after their set.
Regarding Shoe and the Melgibons, I don’t remember either of their sets. It’s possible that one of the bands didn’t show up, or they played at the beginning before I even got there. If anyone remembers (or was in) one of those bands, please comment below or reach out to me.
That’s all I have. If you were at this show and we haven’t spoken in years, know that I hope you’re doing well and would love to hear what you’ve been up to. If you have any photos, videos, or other materials that verify that this show happened, get in touch!
If you wanna scream, SCREAM WITH ME. In honor of Glenn, Jerry, Doyle, Bobby, and the various other players who composed New Jersey’s greatest horror-punk export (Michale Graves excepted), this month’s challenge issues 30 days of pure, uncut horror business with a side of brains (which can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or brunch).
I should probably explain where I’ve been.
Living, mainly. As I mentioned last month, I got somewhat burned out and decided to let some other maniacs take the wheel. In my stead, my internet-friend Matt (who I met through a Facebook group of DC-diaspora friends who really took to these song-a-day challenges) stepped in and filled the gap for February with his excellent Not-by-ABBA challenge. Like a man after my own heart, Matt turned right around from one of the glitziest, poppiest pop groups in history and suggested “Misfits March.” The result is what you see up there.
I’m excited to have a new song-a-day challenge up here of my own co-creation. Per usual, download it, share it, tell a friend (or foe), and remember there’s only one rule. Don’t forget to hashtag it #NotByTheMisfits!
BONUS CHALLENGE My friend Marissa, who has been running similar photo challenges on her pandemic Facebook group, has once again collaborated with the Not-By theme for this month. It is the Misfits-based photo challenge! No photos of any of the Misfits necessary.
I’m sorry for (actually/no excuses) missing Sonic Sunday this past Sunday. There has been a lot to digest, and lot of information (and counters to misinformation) to spread, and the existential crisis of TWA (Thinking While American) had me a bit overwhelmed.
I’ll have a full-on series of “amplify melanated voices” links for this coming Sunday, and I will also have a special post on some updates for the Ben Irving Postcard Project this week.
In the meantime, here’s a video of a bunch of kids in the Wirtz Elementary School after- school program in Paramount, CA singing “Minor Threat.”
The caption by Rich Jacobs:
Wirtz Elementary School 5th graders go off with their version of MINOR THREAT Tim Kerr, Mike Watt, Mark Waters, Ray Barbee, Alexis Fleisig, Randy Randall, Hagop and a host of other musical champions musically backed up the 5th graders at Wirtz Elementary school in Paramount, California. Last year they did a Sly and the Family Stone song and the year before they did 2 Big Boys songs. They also do a ten minute FREEDOM improv jam where the kids play an instrument they bring to the experience. It is really rad. Here they sing the song: Minor Threat, originally written by the band of the same name. The power and vitality of the youth was palpable, inspiring and intoxicating. Eric Caruso is their teacher. He brought an idea to his principle to have an after-school art project since they did not have an art program. He gives them art assignments based on living artists work and at the end of each year, there is an awards ceremony. The artists give the students a prize. It is a really positive experience, as many of the students are underserved and have never been given the chance to do stuff like that.
Happy Sunday! I have a few music documentaries to recommend (which are streaming, for free, on YouTube as of this posting), but first a couple of announcements about things near and dear to me.
First, per Dr. Matt Grimes, the Punk Scholars Network website is up and updated! For those keeping track, I published an article in the connected journal Punk & Post-Punk a couple years ago ahead of Capitals of Punk, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with this consortium more in the future. For now, take a gander at what they’ve been up to lately, and who makes up their team.
Second, while working on the Sonic Geography Song Challenge, I’ve inadvertently discovered that Mark Mulcahy put the entire Miracle Legion discography up on Bandcamp (the second-best website on the internet, behind Cinema Treasures). For my fellow 90’s kids who remember the beautiful show The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Polaris were, ostensibly, a massaged iteration of Miracle Legion. Chris Viscardi and Will McRobb have said that Miracle Legion’s 1985 EP The Backyard directly informed the aesthetic of the show, and it makes perfect sense.
Under the “Hey! Free Viewings!” category: Lance Bangs made this appropriately slow-burn documentary about Slint’s 1991 masterpiece Spiderland, and it’s available to watch here. He does a good job pulling from his own super-fandom of the mystery that surrounded albums like this before the internet, as well as the fascinating little world of Louisville, Kentucky.
Drew Stone has been breaking his back for a long time to not only keep the spirit of New York Hardcore (or as it’s properly pronounce “N’Yuk Hahdcowa”) alive through shows he organizes in Brooklyn, but hosting numerous live-streams with NYHC figures. I caught this one with Lou Koller, the singer of one of my favorite bands Sick of It All, and as I may have said on twitter, it felt like a warm embrace. Stone’s “The NYHC Chronicles” documentary (stream-able here) digs deep into that universe, and I recommend it. Also, somehow, Walter Schriefels does. not. age.
Speaking of hardcore (just a bit further North), every time I have the privilege of introducing someone to Converge’s 2001 masterpiece Jane Doe, I get excited about the record all over again. While traversing the algorithm for those previously mentioned videos, I found this video of Kurt Ballou talking about the album to a class at the Berklee College of Music in the band’s native Boston. As an academic who thinks Jane Doe deserves every bit as much respect as any other piece of critically-coveted “art music” of the past two decades, it’s always gratifying to see Converge getting that kind of institutional validation (not that they need it). Over the past couple of years, I’ve had an epiphany: Converge may be the greatest band in Boston history. Sit on that one, and tell whether you agree that there may be weight to that argument.
Happy Wednesday, everyone, or as they say to the Brits and Americans who consistently flood Paris, Happy Wednesday! This week, we’ll be grabbing our cans of spray paint, hopping on nos vélos, and setting off on a journey of découverte.
This week’s mix is a curious bunch of vinyl I’ve acquired on a few trips overseas, with a few key exceptions of rare finds in the US. I tried to include a multitude of songs sung in French, though it was a challenge since so many punk and hardcore songs are recorded in English. French is a language best suited for hip-hop flow and chansons, where English tends to fit with punchier, more aggressive music. As a linguistics nerd, I enjoy this weird binary.
One of the threads that ran through a bunch of my interviews with French collaborators for Capitals of Punk was how France has always felt “late to the party” within pop music (especially rock and punk) among Western countries. This dynamic is what makes French pop music so interesting to me, especially that which is produced with no consideration of the all-powerful English-language tunes, or even that which is produced in direct resistance to the Anglo-American cultural dominance.
I hope you enjoy the variety of material you’re about to hear! I’m also excited to make an announcement on Your Sonic Sunday this coming weekend that is intimately related to this week’s Sonic Geography Mix. Sorry I missed this last Sunday. Sixteen straight Sundays to kick off 2020 wasn’t a bad run.
Funeral Service (Riems) – “Pills”
Schlitz (Paris) – “Destroy Babylon” (from Wondawful World 7″)
Too Much (I have no clue) – “Silex Pistols” (from the Born Bad French Punxploitation LP)
Kromozom 4 (Paris) – “La Tuture” (from 7″ split with Heimat-Los, which I found in Knoxville, of all places)
Baton Rouge (Lyon) – “D’Année en Année”
Sport (Lyon) – “Eric Tabarly” (LP bought at FEST 14)
Maladroit (Paris) – “She Spent Valentine’s Day on her iPhone” (from 7″ split with Teenage Bubblegums)
Kimmo (Paris) – “Clac Son”
Frustration (Paris) – “Artists Suck!”
Buried Option (Orléans) – “Mandrake Falls”
Sunsick (Marseille) – “Holidays”
Telephone (Paris) – “Regarde Moi”
Berurier Noir (Paris) – “Hèlene et le Sang” (from Concerto Pour Détraques reissue LP)
Computerstaat (Paris) – “Crypt” (some cold wave for your souls)
Starshooter (Lyon) – “Betsy Party”
Thrashington D.C. (Brest) – “Banned in B.M.O.”
Metal Urbain (Paris) – “Panik” (Punk française starts here)
Sherwood (Paris) – “Le Bourgeois”
Watermane (Montpellier) – “Greetings from the Basements”
Ferry “Rock” Berendse (Weird story/Indonesian born) – “Rock and Roll Mops” (off the Born Bad Record early French R&R comp)
Amanda Woodward (Caen) – “Pleine de Grâce”
Edith Piaf (Omnipresent) – “Mon Manège À Moi (Tu Me Fais Tourner La Tête)”