My "Review" of a "Relevant" Punk Band
We entered the train and almost immediately got in trouble. My roommate talked me into going to a concert at the Metro, where we would be seeing the Zero Boys, a punk rock band that was big and influential for about half a year in the early 80’s. With a deep devotion for one-hit wonders, she is a devotee of the early punk rock scene, an enthusiasm she refers to as “a curse.” Her excitement was contagious though, and we got on the El while gabbing about our respective summertime occupations. We sat down behind an old man who looked like he’s hit a few people with belts back in the day, and she loudly groaned that all of her coworkers were fucking up. This made the old man to turn around gruffly and give her a scorching look that said he knew exactly where we’re going when we die. This made me feel really really punk, and I was now ready for the show.
Walking up to the venue, I realized we were the only people there not wearing all black, and for the most part the youngest. A guy in front of us in line for 21+ bracelets was wearing a cool vest and had sweet tattoos (Krusty the Clown without skin and Cthulhu were on either elbow), but my roommate called him a “fashion punk” with disdain. These scenesters apparently got gussied up for punk shows, which my roommate could not abide, but he seemed alright to me in a sort of friendly rockabilly way.
Anyway, the opening band was the unfortunately named Crombies, who played ska absent a brass section. The keyboard player was a dead ringer for Tom Green, and acted like he refers to himself as “a primo ivory tickler.” He chugged his PBR dramatically in between playing the same chord on the upstroke for 10 minutes straight. Meanwhile the lead singer belted Clash lyrics while wearing a corduroy suit, which probably would have been more badass if he didn’t look so much like a vice principal trying to pump up a pep rally.
After the set we got beers, and my roommate and I toasted to our youth, with a hint of the toast’s underlying apprehension on our now thankfully unsober lips. I drank it pretty quickly because I hoped it would do something to make me feel less gawky. It didn’t. I put the empty cup on the ground, but my mind instantly went to a poor Orca Whale, probably just trying to find his son off the coast of Australia, choking and slowly dying on my plastic cup. I picked it back up. I recognized that this was probably the least punk thing I could do, and after my bout of self-inflicted peer pressure I put it back down. Anarchy in the USA; take that, Rahm.
The next band that came on were the Zero Boys, and they opened with saying how we were a much cooler audience then when they played at Chicago in 1974. Uhhhhhh… They were really good, even though the drummer looked sort of like an older Mugatu from Zoolander (oh, I’m sorry, did my punk get in the way of YOUR ASS?) The palpitating beat made me forget I was 5’5” and I ran into the pit, throwing all of my 135 lbs. at some rocker. I actually love to mosh, and as a high school ska fiend I would do it at almost every concert I went to, regardless of suitability. It was after an exhausting Toasters show when I realized that all men have an innate and primeval desire to occasionally be ferocious. This used to be taken care of through hunting, sword fighting, and going on crusades, but now all we have are drones, Grand Theft Auto, and getting offended. Lame. My university probably shouldn’t start a fight club (BRAD REPUTATION), but maybe if Black Flag came and performed, fewer people would need the psychological services as much. Just saying.
After being thrown around for the proper amount of time (when you don’t know if the liquid soaking your back is your sweat, someone else’s sweat, or beer spilled from the balcony), I stepped out for a breather. My roommate stayed in, conspicuously and ecstatically bouncing between huge guys in the pit, while I chatted up two fashion punks. They pointed to her and asked if she was my girlfriend, to which I responded that she was just my punk rock roommate (by the way, if I had a quarter for every time people asked if the girl next to me was my girlfriend when she wasn’t, I’d be so rich that I probably wouldn’t sign petitions either).
They chuckled, and after looking around I fully grasped the monochrome crowd. Now, I’ve been to my fair share of Phish shows and farmer’s markets, so I know what it’s like to be around a ton of white people. But in recent memory, the Chicago Yacht Club and the Zero Boys concert were the only two places where there was not a single non-white person in the entire crowd. My roommate said that this was actually a huge issue in the punk scene. The only “punk band of color” she knew of were the Bad Brains, who were in turn somewhat ostracized by the punk community for having written homophobic lyrics. She said they got in constant fights with a gay punk band from Texas called The Dicks, which I found hilarious.
A tired-eyed man overheard my raucous laughter, and came up to compliment my roommate on her Dead Milkmen shirt. She lit up, exclaiming that she saw them live a year ago, to which he one-upped her saying he saw one of their first shows when he was 16 years old. I was bored and wanted him to stop hitting on my not-girlfriend. In a comment that was half-inspired and half-wordvomit, I said that my roommate was basically 16 when she saw them too. While it was meant as sarcasm, I suppose this guy believed we could have been anything from 15 to 28 years of age, and he seemingly got unlucky. A look of pure dismay flashed across his face, and after a few stammers he quickly retreated. I took pride in my punk game Chris Hansen status.
We left at around 1 and returned to the land of the young, which took the form of the nearest Taco Bell. My Crunchwrap Supreme was a pretty apt digestif after the concert, in the sense that both were cathartic and I would hate myself because of them the next morning. But for all of the physical trauma, the show and the body blows which went with it were deeply therapeutic, one of the few things I have done which was truly fun for all ages. Punk’s not dead, but it’ll make you feel real old.