Finally getting around to posting part II here with Jason Farrell (Swiz, Bluetip, Sweetbelly Freakdown, Retisonic, Red Hare, etc.) and it’s a good one. Much more to come from Jason, but in the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and pick up the Red Hare – “Nites Of Midnite” album, out now on Dischord. Total cool, total power. -Tim DCXX
What was going on in your area as a kid and how did the impact you finding your way into punk music? Can you recall your first encounter with punk and what that was like at the time? Early records, first shows, etc?
In 9th grade this skater from California moved to my school. We had an art class together and both wore Vans so we struck up a quick friendship. His name was Richard. I invited him to the (also-horrible) halfpipe we had just finished in my friend Marcus’ back yard. As if to christen our shitty little ramp, he spray painted a bunch more band names we didn’t know. But rather than leaving, he stuck around and joined our modest B-town skate crew, schooling us on skate rock and punk in general: Black Flag, JFA, Adolescents, Agent Orange, DK’s, Circle Jerks. He gave us cassette tapes and even sniffed out a killer record store (Yesterday & Today). On one Y&T outing, crew member Dave Stern happened across Out Of Step and bought it on a whim. Later, he called me up, floored; not just by the music, but by the seemingly unending stream of profanity… “This HAS to be illegal” he said. Poring over the cover art, he realized the band was from our area, and that’s when we realized our town had quite the booming music scene.
When Marcus’ grades slipped, his dad got out the splitting axe and threatened to reduce our ramp to splinters. It had to go: immediately. We cut it in half and walked it across 4 lanes of traffic, deep into a wooded lot nearby. This desperate, random choice turned out to be an amazing spot where we could pretty much do whatever we wanted…burn shit, build tree forts, camp out, smoke, have bottle wars, and skate everyday. Armed with a boombox, a ziploc freezer bag full of D-cell batteries, and a Minor Threat cassette on terminal repeat, our musical taste got honed and refined down from “Hardcore” to pretty much just harDCore.
In the spring of ’84 our Cali-friend Richard found out Black Flag was playing downtown. He was really relishing his H.C. curator status, and thought it would be the ideal first show for us. I imagine ours wasn’t the only mom-driven station wagon to pull up in front of Pierce hall and dump eight obviously green 13-to-15-year-olds out on the sidewalk, but I still felt over-dressed. Inside we started to blend a bit into the crowd, taking it all in while huffing the heady mix of rit dye, cloves, and B.O. Scanning the crowd, we recognized Ian Mackaye from his album mugshot and were genuinely surprised to see him right there amongst everyone. Whatever star separation thing that may have lingered from rock/Rush/Eddie Money started to die in that instant. Black Flag was my favorite band at the time… I had never heard of the other bands they were touring with (Meat Puppets and Nig-Heist). Local champs Government Issue opened, and the middle of this old church space immediately erupted into a fucking frenzy. Richard quickly coached us on pit etiquette and the finer points of skanking before sending us in like a rookie JV-squad.
That night it seems like we did everything en-masse; a blob of skaters entering the pit for the first time, a blob of skaters smoking cloves on the steps between bands, a blob of skaters going to the bathroom, a blob of skaters buying snickers and Cokes at the nearby 7-11. About the only time we weren’t a blob was when stagediving (…for that we were a synchronized line). I didn’t know this then, but me and my friends were among the deluge of suburban kids flooding the already swollen DC scene. To us it was chaotic and amazing; we felt like we found a special place where we truly belonged. To many of the older scene vets it was a disaster; they felt like the special place they had built was being overrun by unruly children, quickly becoming a place they no longer belonged.
I may not be remembering this correctly, (so forgive me if this never actually happened…) but I recall seeing some kid kinda spazzing around on stage, hopping in place as he tried to figure out the softest place to land his stage dive. Ian MacKaye noticed him too, and began waving to him welcomingly, as if to say “jump here, it’s perfect! we’ll catch you!” Relieved his mind had been made up for him, this kid curled his lip in his best skank-face expression and dived with confidence. That expression instantly changed to pain and confusion as he hit the floor uninterrupted. Ian had put his hands down and stepped aside, then stepped back in with a wagging finger, I guess to tell him stagediving was dumb. I made sure not to jump near him that night. I know shit was kinda bad in comparison to 1982 or whatever, but not nearly as bad as it would get when the whole skinhead thing reared up a couple years later… in hindsight it was still a pretty fucking amazing time to be in/near DC.