Thanks for playing a show the other night. I had a really fun time. I have so many things to say about it that I had to write you a letter.
I felt like I was 15 and going to punk shows for the first time. I didn’t know anyone and everyone was much older than me. I recognized a lot of people from the famous bands they were in, but like back in the day, I didn’t know what to say to them except gush about how much I loved their music. So I didn’t say anything. Everyone seemed so happy to come out of their hiding places and see each other again that I didn’t want to intrude. I know some people were more satisfied to glare at others, nursing their 20 year old grudges, but that’s just the way they have fun. I was happy to be invited but it wasn’t really my party.
Still, I wish that I’d had one of my older friends or punk historians with me to tell me who some people used to be. I don’t mean "used to be" in a negative way. One makes a choice not to go by the name Johnny Dogshit at some point and that persona only exists in a certain time and place.. I love how your generation came to the show wearing pretty much what they’d wear on the street. Putting on those old leather jackets and ripped clothes would have tarnished they past. I admit that while watching all the old punks thrash around and pogo in their nice clothes I yelled, "Don’t break a hip!" but it seemed like the appropriately punk thing to do. I’m sure you understand.
I went to see The Avengers reunion a few years ago and it left me cold. I wasn’t old enough to have seen them play, but I had listened to their records for years and wished I could have. Maybe it was because of the big venue they played at, but hearing them play "Teenage Rebel" un-ironically and without the simple change from "I’m a Teenage Rebel" to "I was a Teenage Rebel" just made me sad. When you sang about Elvis "He was getting so old they had to call him King," it could have felt that way but it didn’t. I think it’s because you didn’t come out there trying to look like young hipsters. And you were obviously playing for your friends and not as a career move.
It made me so happy to see you play again because I didn’t know if my memories had started lying to me over time. I still listen to the 7" with the eyeballs and your name misspelled on the cover. I think that might be the best punk singles ever. While I listen to "Fun Terminal" too, I hope it doesn’t upset you when I say that it didn’t capture you as well. The energy of all of you jumping and falling on the cramped little stages I saw you play on just isn’t there. Again, I still like the record, but listening to it, and not seeing you play for nearly 20 years, made me wonder if I had inflated your stage presence in my mind.
But seeing you again made me realize that I hadn’t. I honestly didn’t expect you to sound so together and play so well after all these years. I love that you came back out a half hour after finishing your hour long set and played all your best songs again. I really did want to hear them one more time before going home.
You should know that you were a very important band to me. Though I started going to shows when Hardcore* was the dominant punk force, I also had a soft spot for the artsy, weird punk. I remember being a little defensive on your behalf in high school. I think in those days I could only describe bands by how fast they played. I’m sure I described you, wholly inadequately, as "slow, but not like Flipper-slow". Forgive me, I had a more limited music vocabulary back then.
During the time I started going to shows, punk was becoming more and more male-dominated and it wasn’t until much later that I realized later how much I gained by being able to see a band like yours that was partially women-fronted. I never understood why you weren’t reclaimed during the riot grrrl era the way some other bands were.
But that brings me to the biggest point that I wanted to make. Since the show was a last minute thing I tried to tell a lot of people about it. To my surprise, many punks and ex-punks of my peer group didn’t know who you were. Most of the Bay Area natives did, and the artsy queer punks too, but even some of those who had heard of you had never heard your songs. I started to get that feeling that I hadn’t had since punk broke in the early ‘90s. The feeling of being onto something amazing that most people had no idea existed or simply couldn’t be bothered to care about. And knowing that that something was so smart and cool and fun and sustaining that you’d happily be outcast or made fun of to be a part of it.
I just wanted to tell you that you played music for many people that you didn’t know over the years and it probably meant a lot to some of them. I saw you play a show at a hippie café in Fairfax during the two months or so that punk bands were allowed to play there. I had the flyer for that show on my bedroom wall for years until I couldn’t stand to look at the apostrophe the promoter put between the t and the s in "Mutants". That show and your band meant a lot to me. For a 15 year old, it represented a whole lot of possibility and a whole world beyond what I knew. It was great to see you again last night. Thanks for everything,
P.S. I’m sorry that Sally couldn’t make it.
*For the kids, when I write this I don’t mean that sad, watery, emo stuff that is mysteriously called hardcore today.