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Postpunk Paradise: Notes on LAVA MiniFest at Toast

27 Apr 2017


What does that mean, anyways? Let’s be honest. Most modern music of any stripe can arguably be called Postpunk, n’est ce pas?

After all.. New Wave is Postpunk. Which means Aimee Mann is Postpunk. But so is Goth. As is Neo-Psych Rock. Ditto EDM and Synthpop. Ditto Hardcore, for that matter. Metal too, really – when you stop and think about it. Hell.. Most of what we call Punk Rock after 1977 isn’t Punk at all. It’s just signal degradation of the initial form. Which means all contemporary Punk is really Postpunk too. Perpetrated by fashionable ne’er-do-wells sporting fauxhawks and tattered jean jackets picked up on Half-Price Tuesday in suburban strip mall thrift stores.

Compare Bauhaus to Blondie to New Order to Green Day to Echo & the Bunnymen to whatever? You’ll be hard pressed to locate the sonic superstrings tying them all together. Vibrate in just the right manner and you might catch a glimpse of the underlying theory — Maybe it doesn’t matter to anyone but music nerds standing around at record swaps chewing the fat to pass the time, but damn it.. These terms should mean something. If for no other reason than to keep poor unsuspecting Flock of Seagulls’ aficionados from showing up unprepared for an Alien Sex Fiend concert.

I’m kidding. Let’s be real.

Flock of Seagulls doesn’t have any fans anymore. We’ve recycled everything else from the 80s — But thankfully we’re yet spared that particular pox. Global warming is enough of an issue these days that a revival of all that hairspray would likely send us full-on towards an ecological meltdown edging into Sharknado territory.

No one wants that.

. . .

Josh Coplon is seriously growing as an impresario. The man’s shows get better with each iteration. And while these mini-fests aren’t of the scope and scale of last year’s full-blown Spring event? The quality of the music here more than makes up for the lack of national acts. In many ways I prefer these smaller bills to the initial block parties he’s thrown previously. You have local bands getting greater attention, and the vibe is far more intimate. You get a sense that he’s carefully curating a playlist with each date.

I look forward to future shows under his helm. But there’s a peculiar depression that sets in every time I come to one of these.

These bands are so damn good. Philosopher king Zach Gehring’s Demons are explosive. These guys are like.. A hardcore commedia dell’arte. Drummer, Drew Orton is a gift to concert photographers. These guys leave absolutely nothing on stage. The passion and power of their music visibly distorts their forms as it flows out through frail mortal clay to rock you the fuck out. Why these guys aren’t touring nationally — opening for someone like Bad Religion — is unfathomable to me.

Wyteshaydes hit the stage like an atomic bomb. Veterans of the scene with sure hands and rock solid songcraft, their recent-ish addition of Rex Bonney as a second git brings a fresh new angle. James Wagner of Pain in the Yeahs fascinates as he somehow manages the high-wire act of fusing New Order with Ozzy Osbourne. The Bantustans are primordial spirits of wrath. Long Division intricately piles layer upon layer of instrumentation to form a chordal ascension.

I look at True Body and see a band so excellent that had they been in the right time and place? You’d be able to pick up their t-shirts at Hot Topic next to the Meat is Murder lunchboxes and fuzzy rayon Head on the Door blankets. Almost everything is 30% off. Or you can buy two and get one free.

Taking a front row seat to witness the deepening musicianship of Josiah Schecter’s Ladada? We have some amazing groups growing in what used to be some pretty damn infertile soil. Add the unfamiliar faces from the out-of-towner bands (Shy, Low / Eternal Summers / HAUNTER / Clair Morgan) and I’ve got plenty of new music to check out as a result of this show.

The camaraderie that takes place at one of these events is palpable. But it’s damn hard not to notice that none of our local superstars are making a living doing this. It seems that us older cats screwed everything up. Ran the ecosystem into the ground to the point that even though it’s never been so easy to get new music in front of potential fans?

It’s never been harder to make any money doing it.

Once upon a time bands could prosper. Hell — Not only was there an entire industry wherein a musician could aspire to fame and fortune? You could actually make money writing about this shit. Once upon a time music critics and concert photographers were paid professionals. Those days are long expired, now.

It’s like.. The 90s were a kind of musical zombie apocalypse where Punk Rock shuddered and gasped a last breath. And Postpunk is a motley collection of survivor tribes wandering a bleak, decaying landscape. They raid gofundmes with baseball bats and crossbows. Desperate to uncover the last remaining caches of canned foods and boxes of non-expiring Twinkies. Siphoning gasoline from wrecked K Cars littering the roads, that they might make it to the next show. Put out that next EP. Live to play another day, before eventually falling to the undead horror of getting a real job.

It’s fucking unfair. These kids deserve more. They deserve to grow up and become rock stars.

. . .

Why I look for any sort of meaning in whatever’s left of the sound and fury that was once Punk Rock is beyond me. I only know that I’m tired these days — more often than not. And the few hours I’ve spent tonight.. Watching bands that by any measure could stand with the best of the best of the form? It lifts my spirit.

I came here out of a desire to shrug off the inevitability of change. Not just any change — change for the worse, specifically. Alas, my aim was foolish. I’ve failed. Everything reeks of transformation for the poorer these days and I just don’t know how to ignore it. It’s rare that I can find my way past the front door to escape my crumbling home.

Shooting at this show, I realize that I will never be a world famous poet. I will never win an Oscar. I will never get paid to write about any of this shit. And the photographs I take exist in a great ocean of other work. They will most likely never be noticed beyond the small ripples I’ve managed to make in my hometown. A place where my name will be forgotten in a scant three or four decades before I return to the dust from whence I arose.

On the other hand? There’s beer here.

And the music is fine.

And in the churning, righteous flotsam of the now?

What more do any of us truly need?


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27 Apr 2017

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