Calling all punks, hardcore kids, and jerks! Night Birds will hereby be capping off an impressive year feature the release of their sophomore LP, a new EP, a handful of tours, and a glut of regional shows at Brighton Bar this Friday. On the bill are New Jersey old schoolers Chronic Sick and really fucking old schoolers The Dickies. Go to this show. Lest the apocalypse-jump-starting super-shit-storm known as Sandy scrambled your memory, a nearly identical show occurred last year, almost to the day at the Brighton. Just substitute the Dickies with Angry Samoans. This show was a blast and a half and my last pleasant punk rock memory before the hurricane hit the Shore like Godzilla on bad day. That show had everything - great tunes, moshing, joke-telling, and a collective struggle against nazism.
One year ago…
The show at diehard punk venue Brighton Bar kicked off in usual fashion. Night Birds ripped through their set. Chronic Sick hit the stage. Punks were psyched. Now it’s time for the headliner. Angry Samoans don’t exactly hit the stage with bombast. This isn’t Kiss. More like off kilter stand-up comedy. Metal Mike clad in a WBNA Sting jersey and ill-fitting denim shorts that would make a randy sorority sister blush looks casually into the expectant audience. “Anybody know any jokes?”
The outright attempts at comedy don’t last long and before we knew it, we were all moshing. Right Side of My Mind, Gas Chamber, Lights Out. The temperature in the crowded venue turns tropical. A bald-headed punk glued to the stage drops his leather jacket. He’s standing in front of me. Now sporting the unfortunately named “wife-beater” tank top, I can vaguely detect two-pair of right angles tattooed on the subject’s back. The moshing continues and we are all jostled around. The tank top gets pulled askew briefly and I have a full view of this guy’s “sick ink.” Yup, it’s a swastika tattoo. Goddammit. Now why is this jackass at the show? Is this because Samoans have some admittedly un-PC lyrics? Is this cuz of the song about Hitler’s cock? Whattamoron!
Having grown up in the confederacy (read, northeast suburbs of Atlanta), it wasn’t uncommon to see some dickhead with a swazi tattoo or an embarrassing cover-up of a really bad mistake bumping around one of the bigger shows. At a reunited Misfits show in the late 90s we were shocked to see ol’ Adolf’s likeness illustrated on some jackass’s shoulder blade. “Look, it’s a fucking Hitler tattoo!” my buddy screamed in a comically high register illustrating his bewilderment and disgust as he took swings at the guy’s back when he rolled over our heads. When the Dead Milkmen came through town, a gaggle of neo-nutjobs turned out for Tiny Town. Unable to interpret sarcasm, their right arms held erect during the entire tune.
What do nazis do in 2013? How do they even exist? Maybe there are some enclaves where they can function reasonably. Maybe like a right-wing Crimethinc holed up in the woods. In fact, many of their efforts take place in some rural environment on some isolated tract of land. Sieg heiling the all-white crowd, trying not to step on cow shit. Punk fucking rock dude.
Outside of these scenarios, the concern remains – how does a jackass with swazis on the backs of his hands and “white power” across his neck go grocery shopping? How does he go out to eat without having his burger molested by bodily fluids? It must be a miserable existence! How the fuck does a nazi eat ice cream?! You can’t be seething with racism and xenophobia while enjoying some Ben and Jerrys!
But I digress…
This bonehead was psyched on the Samoans. He knew all the words. He was on the stage, off the stage, grabbing the mic, singing along. When his shirt was eventually ripped off, it didn’t take long before whispering and pointing at the back piece in question turned into shouting insults and (not-so) cheap shots. The tolerance level went from short-lived to non-existent. Everybody started moshing this dude. And it had to been fucking clear even to him. Like I said, this guy was psyched on the Samoans and nothing was gonna stand in his way from “5-4-baby-3-2-1.” I would have admired the commitment and fortitude if the ends were not so evident. It’s like jumping out of an airplane sans parachute with all the determination and confidence of Superman. You’re still gonna’ be a pancake.
Fuckin’ nazis. Elwood Blues was dead on. Like him, we all hate nazis. But nowhere is it quite as acute, even knee jerk, as Berlin. I’m not an expert on politics and punk rock in Deutchland, so this is just one punk’s perspective – a punk who’s donned a backpack and hit the old world more than a handful of times. My buddy Robert currently resides squarely in the Berlin hardcore scene. He puts out records under the moniker Refuse, promotes shows and is genuinely one dedicated dude. That night, before hitting the Pakrway down to Long Branch, Robert and I exchanged a batch of emails chiefly regarding the most controversial of the night’s snotty triumvirate, Chronic Sick. Yeah, the Cutest Band in Hardcore re-entered the punk rock lexicon again with the No Way Records re-issue of their two way-out-of-print-pay-exorbitant-sums-for-an-original EPs.
Now the cover art for their 12” EP features America’s and Berlin’s least favorite misappropriated Asian symbol on singer Grey Gory’s forehead. Given this, Robert said there’s no way Chronic Sick could play in Berlin regardless of keeping company with Angry Samoans or Night Birds or the Dickies or whomever. Somehow a swastika painted on one’s face might make the wrong impression in Germany.
So what’s the difference between the cover art and this jackass’s tattoo? I assert that donning a swazi ala Chuck Manson in 1982 in order to be as offensive and idiotic as possible is a far cry to committing permanent ink to your back like it’s the number on a football jersey. And like the identifying number on a jersey, having that tattoo proclaims loudly “this is me.” Is Chronic Sick’s record cover in bad taste? Yes. Is that the point? Duh! Is Greg Gory devoted to bone-headed causes like white power and national socialism? Fuck off. Still I can’t object to a German person’s sensitivity on the subject. I’m not even gonna’ go further than this sentence in an attempt to psychoanalyze a nation. It’s just too bad it prohibits digging some killer NJ hardcore.
As the Samoans set wore on, I faded to the back like the out-of-breath thirty-something that I am. From this distant view I could make out a struggle between the nazi and the punks. Fever pitch, reached. In what took seconds but appeared to unfold in slow-mo, two firm hands grabbed the guy by his shoulders and rushed him headfirst towards the front doors. Eighty-six time. It seems the owner of the Brighton Bar had reached the end of his patience and personally escorted the neo-nutjob to the sidewalk. And who should be the owner of the venue? Who liberated the show from the lone jackass? His name is – wait for it – Greg Gory. He sings for Chronic Sick.