Local Punk Scene Supports Acceptance, Self-Expression, Reaching Youth, Helping Others, and Unity
by Greg Foisie
Alf Presented Resist and Exist, Nausea and Six More Local Punk/Grind Bands – October 13,
at Café Nela in Highland Park, NE LA.
In reality punk people are usually the gentlest, kindest folks you’ll ever know. They’re like hippies,
only they wear way more black. — Kate Rockland, Falling Is Like This
When I came across the flyer at Headline Records for a punk show on Friday the 13th in northeast Los Angeles, the first band listed immediately caught my eye – Resist and Exist. They have built a reputation as a band that advocates for the mistreated and takes a stand against injustice. This band has played many gigs and then have gone into hibernation only to revive on more than one occasion.
Punk is a counter culture comprised of those who stand opposed to the status quo, but calling punk protest music is an over simplification. Most punk/crust/grind music could be characterized as being very loud and usually fast, aggressive or angry, and antiauthoritarian in sentiment. The color black predominates wardrobes and band sets. Lyrics are often dark and foreboding, denouncing corruption, insensitivity, violence and greed. Images of death and destruction are commonplace.
Despite often sharing these characteristics, punks are not cut from one mold. Those drawn to such a movement are compelled to do so for different reasons. They operate under different understandings. In doing so, these individuals have different needs they seek to address, and they seek different issues to come to terms with in the process.
A central premise of punk is the concept of “Do It Yourself” (DIY). In opposition to the elitism and self-indulgence of corporate rock, the punk rock idea is that anyone can pick up an instrument or mic and play or sing punk rock. The culture encourages women and men to get together, form bands, record and distribute their own material, book their own shows, play live gigs, be their own audiences and music press through fanzines, and support each other. This musical environment – going to shows, travelling by vans long distances to gigs, and socializing late into the night in clubs and parties – can become all-encompassing and a way of life for both band members and fans alike.
I am an avid fan of musicians that record and perform music for the purpose of helping to change the world in a positive way, so I was eager to hear Resist and Exist. Then I found out other bands listed on the flyer including Nausea, Reality Lost, and Lost For Concern had also given evidence of their support for issues that comprise justice and peace agendas. That sealed my decision to see them all perform.
Not all punk bands make a major commitment like Resist and Exist to bearing witness against injustice. There are punk musicians that use their music to take opposite stands, including supporting white supremacy, or speaking strictly to personal experience such as teenage angst without delving into political and social concerns. There are also many different forms of punk rock (Wikipedia lists 39), such as garage or proto-punk and old school – the early punk rock forms – such as anarcho punk, street punk & Oi!. They evolved into hardcore, straight edge, riot grrrl, grind and crust, as well as fusion genres such as folk punk, cow punk, ska punk, psychobilly, and even pop punk – all easily distinguishable to the punk rock connoisseur.
One band felt they couldn’t be interviewed. I did catch part of their set, and was amazed by how tight they were and how well they played. In casual conversation with a couple of their members, I found we had much in common despite coming from different backgrounds. We were first introduced to punk by the same band (TSOL), held deep appreciation for our distinct punk scenes, benefited from the therapeutic effect of performing, and experienced an immediate & dramatic influence from hardcore (via Black Flag) on our musical tastes and political awakening. There is a commonality between unique punk circles despite our differences in favorite punk musical styles or vantage points to life.
The personal is political.
anonymous – popularized by feminist Carol Hanisch in an essay published in 1969
So despite these potential disparities between the bands on the bill, I decided to interview them by asking all of them all similar questions. I wanted to record and consider their band histories: how they feel about punk music and the punk scene, what subjects form the main portion of their song topics and why that’s the case, along with their general comments and contact information. So this article doesn’t report on their performances, but on their states of minds.
The promoter, Alf Norris, was kind enough to assist me in connecting with the bands, and almost all of them agreed to be interviewed. Dave, the manager of Café Nela (a beer bar / entry to those 21 years old and over) and Josh running the door were kind to me, allowing me to set up for typing and then making coffee for me to drink all night.
As usual, this multiple band evening followed its own agenda, and at the end of the day I was only able to interview six of the eight bands. I’d like to thank all of the band members/friends for taking the time to be interviewed. I hope I accurately relay your sentiments. I’d also like to thank Change-Links editors for working hard to make this long article fit into our October edition, and for the sources of the pictures (most from band Facebook pages) for allowing their reprint in our non-profit, free publication. Many thanks to you all for keeping the revolutionary spirit alive and well in the greater LA region!
The bands are listed in the order I interviewed them.
The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.
It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. –Che Guevara
LOSS FOR CONCERN (LFC)
Guitar: John Rodriguez
Vocals: Jonathan Morales / aka Peanut
Bass: Bobby Sims
Friends: Reanna and Rubin
This bands says that creativity and the creative space are important to punks. So is being a family and grouping up together. In testament to this belief, they included friends in their band interview. They said “Punk is whatever you feel. Punks are trying to break free from society. “ LFC defined punk as “a circle of talented people with love.”
As a counter culture, punk has messages. Elements of the punk scene such as feminist influences and the Anarcho-Peace Punk movement bring new awareness to their audiences, not only through their lyrics and music but also through art, fanzines, posters, banners, and books.
LFC lives the DIY creed. The band introduced me to Reanna who was a friend of bands to the Highland Park area. She has created a practice space and audio recording studio – Bator Haus Musick – that offers bands recording services for a fraction of what such services usually cost [https://www.facebook.com/batorhaus/]. Reanna and LFC band members talked a lot about community, helping one another, and giving back. They mentioned punk bands will often give their merchandise away rather than charge a lot of money for it hoping to reap a profit (I found this to be the case at the event later in the evening).
According to Loss For Concern, community and friendship is the way it used to be in the punk rock scene. Now bands are more divided and supporting each other less. Seven years ago was the last time the scene was really together, they said. Big bands played with small bands, and they helped each other so that groups could create without a big budget. Bands might have been divided by the areas/neighborhoods they live in, but before there was more unity. Now – and even for the past 20 years if you look at the scene historically – people in bands have become more competitive. There are also different types of divisions within the punk scene.
Members of LFC believe that this change may have come to pass in part by the technology supporting social media and its capacities such as the “likes” on Facebook. There might be pros and cons to this technology, but now the band suspects there is less unity. “The technology gave everyone power. This power, coupled with misused power felt through drug abuse of, gave people power to express themselves selfishly.”
LFC mentioned that before, musicians would do and say what they wanted. Now, when it comes to musicians pursuing a career, they will veer towards creating music that sounds popular. Citing Chris Cornell as an example (grunge architect & lead singer for bands Soundgarden & Audioslave), bands might initially start out as anti-corporate bands, but when they sign to a major label they become a “corporate” band. LFC gave the examples of other bands like Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine, who might sign to major labels, yet keep their punk sentiments and continue to share awareness.
Punks tend to create their own circles. Basically, the view was that LFC really doesn’t care about these divisions. They prefer not to categorize aspects of the scene, and for people to just be who they are. “Voice yourself, and sing on any subject,” they said.
This event was played in a beer bar (Café Nela) that only admitted those 21 years of age or older. LFC loves all-ages shows (where alcoholic beverages are not served) and they play benefits too. “Youth support the bands more and have great energy,” they said. “They mosh for the love of the music.”
The band writes songs about reality as they experience it. Their singer John (aka Peanut) creates lyrics that do not necessarily take issues straight on, but they refer to everyday issues metaphorically in their lyrics. They explained that this is what spoken word often does, and people relate to it. These are the voices around them.
Their songs reflect personal experience. The band tries not to be too pessimistic. For example, their song Equilibrium refers to the inner dilemma of always doubting yourself, the battle within yourself, and coming to terms with those opposing influences.
The band says in this current age of Trump, people are scared all the time. “We don’t know what’s coming.” This unfortunate situation is actually good for punk, the band says, because people are listening to punk music now.
“Punk is a music that speaks to all emotions. Punk is still opposed by the mainstream. It is dangerous music. Music is power.”
LFC – You are entitled to be your own person. Be whatever you want. We don’t care what anyone thinks. Weirdos are the coolest people. Care for music. Grasp and support it. Encourage people to do any art they want, and express themselves in the moment. Do electro? O.K. Do it in front of others so it spreads and stays alive. Be heard. Play music. Learn an instrument. Music is a positive thing. Voice yourself. Bring unity back. Help others.
formed in late 2012 – reach Reality Lost on their own Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RealityLost/) and Instagram pages.
Drums/ Vocals: Bob
Reality Lost defined their style of music on the web as crust punk/D-Beat, goddess forgotten, grindcore punk. In the interview however, being a punk band was totally adequate. It was mentioned, that like other bands I interviewed during the evening, they saw their involvement in punk as one part in the evolution of their lives helping them to deal with personal trauma, learning how the world was run, developing a means of resistance.
Like other bands, for Reality Lost music really meant something. It helped them see what’s real in life and that, without music, a punk would be “another person on Facebook.”
Band members mentioned how family taught them stuff such as how to become a better person, to be more accepting, and live a more sustainable life. Reality Lost suggests that punk music offers an alternative analysis to what is going on today. “It (punk) affects us personally.” The band mentioned they write songs about a wide range of topics – mostly along the lines of social/political/environmental views – what’s wrong with the world. For them punk was characterized by lots of anger as well as poetry and stories that helped people relate to the world. They said,
… we’ve been friends for five years. Songs are written by Becky, surrounded by guys. The material is negative stuff, but not bleak. It is a window into personal experience, but not to the point of hopelessness. The material is meant to help people realize this, think about it, and change it.
Punk is more than aggressive music, but a positive force with a positive vibe. Reality Lost cited the recent performance of Omega Tribe in Los Angeles, an original, early 80s anarcho-punk band from England, as an example of diversity and positive influence in the punk scene. Such bands serve as alternatives. Reality Lost suggested that because there are alternatives within the punk scene itself, these differences should be present in “mixed shows,” and there should be more all ages shows too.
When asked about the under-aged shows, the band said there are too many bars, and more open spaces for youth are needed. Music should be seen by kids as a good influence. Literature and books should be out – gigs should be more of a social affair – out of the clubs and into community centers. Band members mentioned hoping to start a venue where punks could come together, perform and collaborate. When undertaken, this would be done for at least a year or a couple of years regardless of generated income, in an effort to help invigorate and strengthen the scene.
“Society will tell us it can’t be done, but it is done nevertheless. Great times are created in living rooms. Punk is organic. It can be more communal, and punks can be part of the whole.”
If you love it, do it. That’s the beauty of it. There is a DIY aspect to it. Find out what you love.
“[N]o achievement of the revolution is more important than the awakening of the human
personality in every oppressed and humiliated individual.” Leon Trotsky
Short Temper (LA)
formed in 2011 – reach them on their own Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ShortxTemper/ ) and Instagram pages.
I spoke with Chantz, the lead vocalist. He was a great guy, very personable and well-spoken. He described Short Temper’s music as hardcore with D-beat blasts. Chantz emphasized freedom of expression as a central component of their genre and the scene. “It is how you feel – not to be limited in any way – give a voice to the people suffering.”
Many of the band’s songs titles reflected themes around personal dysfunction. I mentioned the political and social direction of the lyrics of Resist and Exist and asked Chantz how he felt about the writing and playing of songs that decry wrongdoing and advocate for change? He said “Promoting an agenda, going in a positive direction, making the world better – I’m all for it. I’m not for left, or for right. We’re fucked by the cops. Our parents were poor. We’ve experienced conflict and discord. We’re anti-establishment.”
Chantz suggested that topics for the music ran the gamut from family through marriage and life. We have all been through that shit, and bands have a similar upbringing. I asked him what issues were of most importance to him, and he replied
Past traumas. In our vocabulary, we’re all fucked up. (then as if to the audience:) There is a place for us. You are not alone. We’re trying to help you out.
There are few happy-go-lucky punks. We’re damaged. Punk rock is for outcasts – not “you’re doing well in school.” It (punk) is a different world – an escape and a release. It is open to all, regardless of age, race, gender. Everyone is welcome.
In describing the punk rock scene, Chantz described punk rockers: “We’re not criminals or bad people. We enjoy a different culture. We need a better understanding from (mainstream culture) people. We don’t conform and are considered different, but we’re all people.”
Like other performers this evening, Chantz echoed the support for under—aged shows, saying he wished all-aged shows were held more often. He said those under 21 years old try to sneak into shows – “they need it, they want it.” He described the punk scene as tight knit, with those involved sensing ownership. “These are your friends, and in smaller scenes people take care of each other hopefully.
A number of bands played benefits for families or individuals experiencing hard times. In similar fashion Short Temper is playing a benefit on November 19, 2017 with Ill Repute for a cancer patient in El Monte. Other bands have done similar benefits.
Short Temper has recordings that people can buy when they sell merch at shows. All of their songs are also on Facebook, Bandcamp and Youtube web sites. “Get it anyway you can.”
Forget about the bitching and remember that you’re blessed, because punk is for the kids who never fit in with the rest. Frank Turner
Be yourself. People don’t have to like you, and you don‘t have to care. Unattributed quote
formed in 2008 – reach them on their own Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/greenterrorgring/) Reverb Nation and Bandcamp websites.
and joining us was Jeff from Nerve Grind, whose band I was unable to interview that evening (my apologies).
Green Terror is a grind band. In their commentary, they felt that the punk scene is a small community and they appreciated it for that fact. This sense of inclusivity comes with benefits. “Someone left his weed sack out for awhile and no one took it. (Punks) are socially conscious and know how to act with each other. People are genuine. We all agree it happens.” They mentioned that this consciousness includes understanding that you don’t hurt others by taking their stash, knowing that if you did it would ruin that person’s week. “It (punk social consciousness) brings clarity, and it is for change,” they said.
Green Terror consider their grindcore to be an art form with no censorship. They have a message and sing that message as a reflection of their response to what’s happening around them.
(Many are) hate-filled towards stuff we see. There is hate and aggression for the population as a whole due to the mistreatment of things – (we’re) being very angry about it. The grind is communal. It is passion to be blast-driven. It’s great. The form is open to you. Everyone is welcome.
Some of Green Terror’s internet imagery, their name, and some of their song titles give the impression they hold specific interest in their association with marijuana. I asked them about this perception. The band members told me that they go through periods of specific expression and then move on to others.
Group members suggested that the punk scene is growing overall. (Local punk) scenes are more wide spread. They are thin, but everywhere. They said, “Our band can go play all over. It doesn’t matter where (Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, … 30 – 50 people will show up at your gig.”
Green Terror also supported all-ages shows. They said there are not enough of them, and that they are awesome and moving. “People buy your merch!”
Currently Green Terror is concentrating on recording and they do not have any gigs planned for next month (November, 2017) at this time. Their songs are available at Reverb Nation, Bandcamp, and Agromosh Records. Anyone can connect with them via Facebook, Youtube, and Bloody Scythe Records (http://bloodyscytherecords.bigcartel.com/).
Play as fast as you can. Get it (your message) out there. Talk about what you’ve seen and heard. It’s peaceful but chaotic – a good vibe.
To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful,
freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom. –Patti Smith
Nausea (LA) – formed in 1987 – reach them on their own Facebook page
Vocals/ Guitar: Oscar Garcia
Drums: Eric Castro
Nausea are a band from Los Angeles that are considered LA grind/crust pioneers. Currently they play a mixture of elements from punk, crust and grindcore. As kids they were influenced by Discharge and played D-Beat full blast. They have addressed themes in their music as diverse as warfare, personal experiences such as oppression and depression, social constraint, alcohol and drugs, and anarchy.
Oscar says the band creates songs about life and problems – the oppressed, and what people are going through. Former song titles on Bandcamp include Displeasure, Conform, & World Struggle. Recent Itune titles include Freedom Of Religion, World Left In Confinement, Cries Of Pain, Hate & Deception, Corporation Pull-In, Fuck The World, Falsely Accused, Condemn Big Business, And We Suffer, and Absence Of War. He noted they do not offer fairy tales in their performances.
Oscar explained why they perform their music:
I love it. It is a form of release of tension and expression of what’s happening all around us: work, home, paying bills …
Nausea have been around the block, and then some. Websites document their worldwide performances. They were active in the live arena for years, “performing at the Maryland Death Fest, Power of the Riff Fest, shows alongside Repulsion, Nails, Nasum, and … a European Tour that included a headlining spot at Bloodshed Fest in Holland, Hell Inside Fest, and Dresden Metal Fest in Germany.” They have been scheduled to play Mexico and across Europe in past years.
Like the other bands, Nausea cares about people. They do not shy away from supporting others and demonstrating love. They recently performed a benefit in downtown Los Angeles at the 5 Star Bar for friends, a cancer patient named Jorge and his daughter Lovi, called Grind Against Cancer.
Being an older band in the scene, Nausea has the experience to reflect on how the scene has changed the past forty years. The band says that life is different now – completely different. They insist the internet is not all bad, as it offers more exposure for artists. However, people are into their I-phones and they do not interact with other people. Now backyard gigs are few and far between. Music is not selling a lot on the internet. These situations make it demanding for musicians.
Nausea believe that there are not a lot of opportunities for youth to attend punk rock shows. Punk is being taken away from them, and there are a lot of people under 21 years old drawn to the punk scene. The band wants kids to hear older bands:
We want kids to know what punk rock is – to express your feelings. Just pick up an instrument. Educate yourself, keep the music and the scene alive.
The band commented that their latest album (2014) called Condemned to the System is on I-tunes. It has gotten rave reviews. During past years the band has been with at least five record companies but currently they are not on a label. Nausea do not have a promoter and Eric is handling their booking arrangements. They sell merch at their shows, and will be playing a gig in early November, with no upcoming shows lined up after that one.
Nausea can be reached on Facebook – check them out!
If you think this is bad you should see what our government is up to. Don’t be a slave to the system – graffiti
Resist & Exist – formed in 1990/1991 – reach them on their own Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/Resist-and-Exist-100439903354726/about/?ref=page_internal, at their on-line fanzine http://diyzine.com/resistandexist and their Instagram page.
Vocals: Jang Lee
Resist and Exist headlined this event. More than most bands I know of, Resist and Exist musician ship is one of strong advocacy that champions justice. Their presence reminded me of the anarchist-peace bands from England like Crass, Poison Girls, Zounds, Flux of Pink Indians, and Rudimentary Peni. Like these bands, Resist and Exist has advocated an antiauthoritarian stance, direct action, feminism, self-determination, environmentalism and animal rights. The band backs up their forceful lyrics with a host of outreach efforts including their own DIY fanzine that has been in print and is on-line, banners on stage, audience giveaways, and informative handouts at gigs.
Like Nausea, they have been around a long time. It talked with Jang Lee, the vocalist and spokesperson for the band. Jang said that the band plays songs that can be composed on major topics (the finance industry, the undocumented, etc.), or based on inquiries from a person they met on the street (about the Palestinian struggle.)
Resist and Exist has had a long local history. As a young person Jang said he was highly influenced by the music and stage presence of the early Los Angeles punk band Iconoclast (still playing, with some members also in Aztlan Underground). It was the impact that anarcho bands from England and groups like Iconoclast made that moved him to develop Resist and Exist’s style and outreach.
Of over 400 performance the band has made over the years, Jang said over half of them have been for benefit causes. Prior to this event, their last show was a free show for Sri Abdulla and for the Black Panthers featuring original Panther speakers. The benefit was in support of their members held as political prisoners in the USA. Jang explained why the band does so much support work:
We do this because we love anarchist rock music. I was inspired a long time ago to be vegan and antiwar via the music. We do what we want. We’ve played southern California Anarchist gatherings and the Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair.
Their web zine diyzine.com/resist.html and it’s older version http//diyzine.com/intro archive years of the bands efforts working for social justice and change. Promoted have been vegan outreach efforts, Activist Defense Fund/Rock Against Fascism, showing films such as Anarchy in Guadalajara + Anarcho Punks, support for Palestinians and immigrants, opposition to Trump’s Mexican border wall, supporting Afghanistan and Iraq veterans against war, and making gigs more radical are a few examples. Activist resources including links to free music and contacts are available in these zines.
Prior to this October 2017 event in Highland Park, Resist and Exist performed in August with Infest at LUGAR: YOUREVOLUTION, Avenida Revolucion 1009, in Tijuana, Mexico. On Saturday, November 18th, 2017, Resist and Exist is performing with Iconoclast and Korrosive at Eli’s Mile High Club, 3629 M.L.K. Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94609 (more info https://www.facebook.com/events/127458957909614/ ). Commencing late January, 2018 they will be in the Los Angeles region for one month and playing with all of their friends, promoting the event themselves.
Jang shared that his personal life is taking him away from activist actions of late. He is working a lot as a certified lifeguard and CPR instructor, and finds himself less at rallies due to this commitment. He suggests that every good deed we do in life makes a lot of difference, such as his work holding free CPR clinics at the Salvation Army, or supporting women only swims once a week, or teaching swim classes when pools are closed closer to his home.
I find that for Jang, resist and Exist, and all of these great bands, their hearts are in the right place. In their music and in their communal and personal lives, they are trying to address social inequities, reduce the prevalence of violence in our society and communities, trying to right wrongs, and helping those in need. I hope the punk movement continues to grow and strengthen these universal resolutions to action.
I guess what’s most important is that we chose to live with our hearts open and to let our experiences show us the way towards our brightest days. – Brian Joyce, The B-Side Diaries