Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thrashwagon on the Road: Boston Update

Last weekend was everything it needed to be, crucial hangouts with old friends, moshing and vegan doughnuts. And in the process I was able to score 10 interviews for the Thrashwagon project.  A free Amtrak ticket, a solid show, and reasonable proximity to where I normally sleep in NJ meant a weekend like this could actually happen.

It kicked off perfectly when Craig Arms got to South Station the moment that my train arrived. I didn't even have to break stride. Immediately launching into talking about old days, we eventually landed at Darwin's in Harvard Square for coffee. My good friend Joe DeSilva told me once, everything is better when you have a cup a coffee to go with it. This weekend proved that point, as Caarms and I got juiced up and bullshitted for a couple of hours. The current singer of Waste Management cut his teeth as the bassist for Say Goodbye, an old school hardcore band that continually blended more thrash elements into their sound with time. They were a band that bridged gaps amongst the swirling of mass of sub-genres that congregated in the dusty air of Dudely Square's Berwick Institute. Besides his duties with Say G'Bye, Craig was also a charter member of the Bridgewater/New Bedford Mosh Crew - a group of scenesters that brought the underground of underground punk to Boston hardcore. 

I made my way over to the Watertown diner next, drunk on coffee and armed with a box of Craig's old flyers. There I met up with my old bandmates and some of my favorite people in the world, Eric Yu and Chris Strunk. After quickly inhaling dinner, we adjourned to some nearby benches to talk shit for the balance of the night. I first met Eric at a Fast Times show in Western Mass not long after I arrived in Boston in Y2K. He quickly became a willing car ride to all the good shows in the area, later the incredible songwriter for Glory Fades, as well as one of my best friends. Strunk had arrived from Pittsburg at more or less the same time I had arrived from Atlanta. He was referred to us as a good drummer who also drinks 40s. Throw Terry Fades into the mix and we had a band. As the scene developed, Eric became the go-to-guy for booking shows at the aforementioned Berwick - a dirty ass basement in a rough around the edges part of town that hosted so many HC shows that most of the weekend's subjects couldn't recall which shows they had been to and which they hadn't. 

Chris Strunk drummed for grind thrashers Crucial Unit before making the move to Boston and pounding away in a number of great bands. Check out the discography CD of his time with C.U., Everything Went Strunk. Possibly the best hand-drawn cover out there. What Strunk should be most recognized (nay, revered) for, is the person who swept and mopped the Berwick for the very first time. If you attended a show down there, he is the reason you don't have a lung infection presently. 

Crashed on a familiar couch in Eric Yu's living room. Stick a fork in it, Friday's done. 

At 7:00 am, a hungry Eric nudged me awake and we sleepily ventured out for vegan doughnuts. A pink lemonade and chocolate-covered along with a large coffee set me up for a day of jittery interviews. I eventually made it down to Central Square for a Middle East power matinee featuring reunions by likes of Think I Care, Invasion, and In My Eyes. Also topping the bill were current ragers Boston Strangler and Rival Mob. After discussing SxE for old dudes with Sweet Pete, it was time to see some bands and score some interviews.  Setting up interviews at a show is a perfect blessing/curse. You get a bunch of people you need to talk to all standing around at the same place, but that place is full of endless distraction and other commitments. Needless to say, my endeavoring to knock a few interviews out before the show proved futile.

Still, I was able to pin down the Shumksky bros for a great interview on TIC and RNR. If Winchendon, Mass was not already on the map, it is now as Think I Care emerged from basements and living rooms with Infest-inspired blasts and dark fucking rants, and developed into a moshing powerhouse releasing LPs on Dead Alive and Bridge 9.

Since I met up with the bros directly after In My Eyes, I figured I had missed out on Boston Strangler, but I popped back inside to catch Rival Mob. Vocalist Brendan Radigan was next up on the interview chopping block. As I stood inside the sweaty venue I couldn't help but notice the room clearing out and DFJ breaking down his drums. Oh fuck, I missed both sets! Suddenly I'm getting texts from Brendan telling me to meet up so we can talk. I run out of the venue immediately. Apparently the last two bands split their sets, playing a round robin of three songs at a time. Too efficient for me. 

I found Brendan on the roof of a nearby parking deck where we shot the shit for a couple of hours on one of his first bands - XfilesX. For Brendan, it was all about skateboarding. SxE was easy, because skating was the drug. Where he is confident and sarcastic on stage now, he was self-deprecating and often referred to himself and the other XfXers as "heels," during our talk. Still I remember my jaw hitting the floor the first time I saw them at Relfections in New Bedford. I couldn't believe how fucking loud and fast Edison beat the drums. Brendan, always funny between songs, was fucking terrifying during them. I remember seeing them in some hall with a bunch of other teenage (but not HC) bands somewhere in the 'burbs. At one point during their set, he threw himself sans abandon into rows of vacant folding chairs. It looked confusing and painful, but impressive nonetheless. XfilesX also had tongue-in-cheek militant SxE lyrics that were a foil to any reasonableness I was trying to apply to my own personal SxE as I watched the old youth crew kids break edge one by one. That demo was like the goddamn Judge 7".

"Hey that's Choke over there!" A giddy Jimmy Flynn grabbed my arm and pointed me towards the bar. Sure as shit, it was the guy who sang Chunks, So Ends Our Night, Step On It, and Punk's Dead, You're Next. I thanked him for all the tunes and he laughed at me. And so ends my day at the Middle East. 

That night, Eric Yu volunteered his kitchen for a midnight interview with Scot Oxholm. An ever-present fixture at Boston shows, he also experienced the burgeoning thrash revival in Cali with no less than Life's Halt and No Reply. As we sifted through a box of flyers he fluently told old stories about Boston's dustiest venue. My favorite memory of Scot was him dressed up as a gorilla at the last Glory Fades show in the Shumsky basement in '02.

Seven hours later, Eric dropped me off at Somerville's True Bistro where I met up with Andrew Jackmuah from greats Cut The Shit and Bones Brigade. I first saw Andrew fronting youth crew revivalists Days Ahead. Like it or not, for better or worse, the youth crew was a big influence on thrash. Anyway, yours truly got wired on coffee and attempted to interrupt my subject as little as possible. We talked about everything from singing for two fast HC bands at the same time (but not simultaneously) to the time he lacerated himself mid-set in Europe to get a goddamn reaction from a sedate crowd. This was the start of a trio of back to back interviews. First Andrew, then Cooch, then Al Quint. 

When the clock struck 12:00, I cruised down to Ana's Taqeruia in Davis Square for some lunch. I appreciate that most of my interviews are over food or coffee; shows I'm talking to some like-minded individuals. Chris "Cooch" Minicucci rolled in a few mins later and we launched into a quick interview. Not only did this guy play in a million bands (including the vastly underrated Close Call), he also has an expert memory from the 100s of shows he attended in the early 2000s. He may be most well-known now for running Painkiller records, but I'll always remember him hocking limited edition Western Mass HC box sets at the Last In Line Halloween show in 2001. 

To close out this awesome weekend, I was absolutely honored to interview Al Quint of the legendary Suburban Voice zine. Al seemed to be at every show I was at back then, taking photos and singing along. Then he would print the photos and write about all the fucking amazing bands playing out. Issues of Suburban Voice didn't come out too frequently, but they operated like a yearbook for an incredible time in HC, and some came with CD comps, so you got a sndtk to go with it too. Fucking rad. I consumed my last coffee of the day, while Al told stories. Solid end to a solid trip. 

But what punk rock road trip could be complete without a trip to a punk rock record shop? The answer is none, and since Armageddon lay between Davis Square and South Station (a chilling thought), a stopover was necessary. I had 20 mins to kill, so I had to be strategic. Only thrash records, only filling in the gaps in my collection. I won't tell you what I got, lest you think me a poseur for not already having them. Boston Stranlger Cliff Demedeiros eyed his watch, "you better get a move on." Oh damn, how did 20 mins become 35? 

I had plenty of time to reflect on the weekend, as my train was delayed arriving in NYC forcing me to kill an hour plus in Penn Station (while trying my best to avoid other human beings). I've said it before and I'll say it again, I wouldn't be doing most of what I'm doing with my life today if I hadn't taken a risk and moved up to Boston in 2000. It definitely set me on a path personally and professionally. I'm grateful to Craig, Eric, Chris, Aaron, Joe, Brendan, Scot, Andrew, Cooch, and Al. Thanks for your time, energy, and encouragement. 

1 comment:

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