I’m in Miami. In South Beach specifically (long story) where the uncool come to pretend to be cool. Where tourist from NYC and middle America and all over the world flock to act like self absorbed a*&holes and pretend they are ballers. Where a cup of coffee cost $4 and even the local dry cleaner has a “tip me” cup out. The dry cleaner? For real? Traffic is a mess and it’s overrun with dumb asses, more than typical as it’s January and much of the U.S. of A is slogging through arctic cold and snow flurries.
So the idiots arrive and clog up the highways and byways and drive all manner of F’ed up (And I’ve lived and driven abroad and I know F’d up driving when I see it and when I do it). Get your car insurance policy updated before you come down. Load up the wallet before you come down and get out the lube before you come down because if you come to South Beach… your going to get screwed. And not the fun kind either.
I’m here for work but I had to escape the silly South Beach scene if just for a moment and hang out with some genuine people. Luckily for me and for the rest of Miami whom I can only imagine hate South Beach even more than I, there are plenty of genuine articles where you can escape the buffoonary and have legitimate experiences.
Little Havana if you are into Cuban culture. Little Haiti if you want to feel you’re in the 3rd world (and I say that with the utmost respect, Haitians struggle mightily at home and come here and it’s not much better, but at least they have a shot here).
And if you’re into the punk and underground music scene, there really is just one place you need to know (though I’m sure there are more), it’s Churchill’s Pub,THE spot to go for punk and alternative music and as far as I know, not a single bit of EDM (Electronic Dance Music I think it’s called, or is that Electronic Douchebag Music?… I’m not sure). It’s also a spot where some neighboring Haitian entrepreneurs will watch your car in the parking lot for you for a couple of bucks and make sure “nothing happens to it”.
On this night, my buddies from Los Bastardos Magnificosweren’t just running things, they were actually playing. What a treat to finally see these guys live and performing music near and dear to my heart, hillbilly music.
Let’s face it, by and large the Nashville Country music scene is garbage. Nashville’s polished, pre-fab sound makes Justine Bieber look like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. These days, California is more authentic country than Nashville with it’s historic Bakersfield sound of Marty Robbins, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam and let us not forget the original punkabilly kings.. you know I’m going to say it.. wait for it.. Mike Ness and Social Distortion.. whew.. got that out.. feel.. much.. better… now. Then there is Xand geez, the list goes on and I’m tired of name dropping.
Well Florida may be giving California, Tennessee and Texas a run for their money and for my money, I prefer the authentic punk-country crooning of bands like Los Bastardos Magnificos. I’ve written about the big scene just north of Miami in Lake Worth where bands like the “Darling Sweets” and “Everymen”come down to play at Churchills and inject a bit of their homegrown hillbilly punk into the metropolitan mecca of Miami. (Missed it? Read it HERE)
This is a scene worth taking notice. If you didn’t know where you were, you’d probably swear your in Austin, but this ain’t Texas it’s Miami and it’s a reminder that Florida is a big, diverse state and as much as I love the diversity of immigrant Latin cultures in Miami, the red-neckish musical stylings one would think more at home in North Florida or South Georgia is expressed right here in Miami is a refreshing change of pace. Country punk is alive and well at Churchill’s Pub (minus all that pesky ignorance and intolerance).
Next up was a one man performance from Joe Buck Yourself, he with the wild haircut and wild eyed stare as he furiously pounded on the footpedal drum and simultaneously strummed his rust colored guitar. I have one word for Joe Buck Yourself and it’s INTENSE.
I wish I’d been able to stick around for Holly Hunt, a 2 person sludge /noize? rock act I’ve enjoyed immensely before and can only say good things about. But as I said I am here working and it’s an “early to bed, early to rise” regimen for me.
I also would have liked to seen the Anti-Seen, but tonight, there were not to be seen, at least by me. But you can check out their scene at their site HERE.(OK, enough Seen jokes). From what I hear they kick it old school punk rock which means hitting the stage at midnight or later I assumed, so I hightailed home to bed (actually to work, yes I had to work some more.. feel sorry for me yet?).
I’m in Miami the rest of the week.. did I mention I was working? But it’s good to know Churchill’s is there. I may have to go back and get a “real people” fix if the whole South Beach silliness gets to me again. I’m pretty sure it will. So stay tuned.
2012 saw some kick ass new releases by some of my favorite bands like Pennywise. Their new CD “All or Nothing” is a 20 song strong CD that simply inspires and gives strength. I’ve had several months of listening now and can honestly say I’ve never heard such a solid string of encouraging, “we have the power and we will change things”kick ass songs. This might be my favorite CD of all time for this band. Favorite tunes include “Waste Another Day”, “Let Us Hear Your Voice” and “X-Generation” but to be honest, you’d be hard pressed to find a bad song in the bunch. The whole CD is worth a listen.
If you’re a big Green Day fan and even if like me, you are not, then I’m sure you know they released their three release set, “Uno”, “Dos” & “Tres” in late 2012. I haven’t heard all 3 completely but my favorite single off the sets are so far “Let Yourself Go” from Uno . In my opinion, Uno at least is a better effort than Green Day’s had in a while, (I think the songs are better than “Know Your Enemy”). Looking forward to Dos & Tres in 2013 to see if they can keep it going.
Speaking of punk legends, Bad Religion’s “True North” is coming out later this month on January 22nd and available now by pre-order. Like Pennywise, I’ve seen these guys a few times in concert and I’ll definitely be listening to that and reporting back to you.
THE NEW GUYS:
Now we don’t have a specialty, but if we did, it would be punk music from around the world from bands that may or may not be well known outside of their home country.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – Samati
Here is a female fronted rock band that reached out to us from Moscow, Russia called Samati. Samati fuses punk with some old fashioned rock n roll and I really dig a couple of their tracks, especially tracks #1 “Louder” (below) and #2 “Who You Are” which have a little more aggressive punk sound to them.
Give Samati’s new CD a free listen HERE and let me know your favorite track.
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA – PaniKo, SataniKo
Now if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I know there is a massive punk and hardcore scene down in South America and in particular in Colombia. In all my travels to Colombia, I can’t recall having met the girls and guys from PaniKo, SataniKo but I gave their tunes a listen on Sound Cloud and I have to say I’m indeed impressed. They have a nice little cover from the Misfits’ “Hollywood Babylon” but their originals are really what impressed me with a little psychobilly influence in there somewhere.
Check them out and see what you think about these guys from Bogota.
PITTSBURGH, CALIFORNIA - Malicious Dismemberment
Now for all you hardcore fans, we’re bringing back to the state wherefore I type this little entry from tonight, California, where punk is still alive and well and bands like “Social Distortion” can sell out the House of Blues for weeks at a time. I don’t know much more than you about Malicious Dismemberment, but you gotta love the sound of the name and if you’re into hardcore punk, the sound of the music. They have about as aggressive a sound as I’ve heard in a while in the normally mellow, melodious West Coast. Give a listen and let me know what you think.
Don’t forget to check out our sister site for punk music from around the world. We’re doing a little update to the site but by the end of the month, everything should be up to date and rolling. In 2013, we’ll have new music out from Russia as well as a psychobilly compilation if things go as planned, plus whatever other surprises may come our way.
Well there you have it.. new music to get your 2013 kicked off just right. Thanks for tuning in to us during 2012 as we traveled the globe in search of some fresh punk sounds for you and reporting that from South America to Southeast Asia (getting there soon, I promise) to Eastern Europe to NYC, California, Florida and all points in between, punk is very much alive.
We’ll leave you with a video of Malicous Dismemberment that they have featured on their band page. Pretty cool. Wishing you a very punked out 2013.
Paris, France.. “City of Love”, the Eiffel Tower, great food and bla, bla, bla so many other things there is no use in listing them. Needless to say it’s one of the world’s most famous cities and for many good reasons.
Fresh from my time in Cannes where (no I was not lounging by the beach or out in my yacht in the French Riviera), I spent what little sleeping time I had in an overpriced but adequate studio apartment that was clean, had wi-fi and most importantly was within walking distance of my primary reason to be there in the first place, the MIPCOM TV convention where I was chasing down networks to meet with.
Meetings went well by the way. One way or another, no matter where you live, I think you can expect Raw Travelon a TV near you by 2013 or 2014 tops. When it does you can say “wow, that only took 3.5 years”. Tough being independent in a sea of media giants folks.
Cannes.. charming but not very punk rock
Cannes was cool. I liked it much better than I expected, given it’s reputation as a luxurious retreat catering to the world’s elite wealthy and famous. Cannes also had a real side, a nice and friendly side that was charming as well and that is the part I fell in love with. In hopes we’ll be back with the show, I shot some video for Raw Travel and photos that you can check outHERE
But the closest thing to punk I witnessed was a lone tourist, by the looks of things a bloke from Britain, strolling the Croisette in a Descendants T-shirt. Normally I’d have hopscotched over to the guy and asked him a few questions to see if I could get the 411 but in this case, I was busy chomping down on a cheap but delicious Quiche Lorraine and to be honest, knew it was a moot point. Too many faux hawks in Cannes for there to be anything but Hip Hop and Electronica.
Terez with Jules from Carnage Punk Records
For the punk scene in France, may as well just skip to the chase and get straight to Paris, where there is not only a rich punk history, but also a healthy scene currently as well.
I mean France makes complete sense for a thriving punk scene. Protests, revolutions, an independent way of doing things…. it all just kind of fits and it’s a city I liked within 10 minutes of landing.
When I finally arrived in Paris, being the budget traveler and having my budget pummeled ever so slightly in Cannes, I took the train ($10 Euros about $12.50 U.S.) to another adequately clean and furnished studio apartment that I heard is in the “red light district”, however have seen no evidence to back that up (nor have I been looking for any by the way).
What I have seen in this neighborhood are a ton of Gyro shops (I’ve had 2 already!) in what appears to be a very immigrant and diverse community, in other words, the type of place I dig. Last night as I dozed I heard some guy singing what sounded to be a tune from Africa. Lots of color here, like NYC, which is maybe why I like it so much.
Unlike Cannes which was unusually warm, it’s chilly and damp here and I’m under dressed, so first thing I did after arriving to the apartment was went out and bought a 5 Euro (about $7 U.S.) flannel shirt that will be worn the entire time here (only 2.5 days).
Figuring out the Paris subway system was fairly easy. The ticket machines have an option in English and a ride is like $1.70 Euro (a little over $2 U.S.) Getting in the insanely overcrowded thing (on a Saturday night no less) was another. I thought NYC was bad? This felt like Moscow all over again.
Forget a taxi. Super expensive, I’m allergic to rip offs and as soon as I say “Parlez-Vous Anglais” (do you speak English, I have a feeling it would be all over). Besides, traffic was at a complete standstill (training back to the airport during Rush Hour Monday morning with luggage in tow should be interesting).
In the pit.
Finding the venue, Centro Muscial Barbarawas easier than I thought. I just asked a kind and local bartender near the metro stop. (It’s bizarre that opposite of what I’d always been told, most people are very, very accommodating and go out of their way to be kind to non French speakers. Perhaps it’s my puppy dog eyes that I flash that gets them?)
Happily I made it there in time to see the 2nd half of “The Decline” who were opening the show. I saw all three bands and was thoroughly impressed by each. The Decline reminded me of a bit of Irish influenced punk rock with an acoustic song or two punctuating their sets and their poetic lyrics. Maybe even a little Social Distortion?
“The Rebel Assholes” reminded me just a bit of the U.S. band The Queers or Pennywise, NOFX or even Anti-Flag with their melodic, fast paced songs and heavy, rockin’ bass solos.
Then the Burning Heads opened with a slow tempo reggae rhythm and I knew I wasn’t far from Clash territory (or at least 5,000 miles or so closer than I am in California). Burning Heads (and all the bands actually) sang in English while addressing the crowd in French. I think I even heard a “gracias” or two from Burning Heads.
When I asked Street Poison they said they too sing in English. So much for the “French Only” stereotype we North Americans have been told over and over since our youth. Either France has changed (multi-lingual announcements in the airport and subway), or we were told a big, fat lie. Probably a bit of both.
In between the sets, I was able to talk to a few of the Paris punk fans, which was a healthy mix of guys and gals of all ages and like Paris itself, ethnic groups. Jules from Street Poison was celebrating his birthday and in addition to band mate Samy, his mum and his younger brother were out, helping make the whole thing a nice family affair.
I met Terez, a young female lighting designer sporting an Adolescents patch (she did the lighting for tonight’s show as well as for the Adolescents when they were in town) and a sleeve full of tattoos. Her husband Benjo, a local tattoo artist at his store Benjo San Tattoo, chatted a bit about music and how tattoos are becoming more accepted in French society.
Benjo introduced me to one of his friends/clients who was heavily tatted up and shared my love for Social Distortion which Benjo and company had seen play when they visited Paris in 2010. If you visit Paris and you want to get a tat from a real, authentic punk then Benjo is your guy. Visit his shop’s websites HERE and HERE.
In the crowd I saw a pretty much average punk crowd that you’d see most anywhere. There were Black Flag, Bad Religion & Madball shirts, plenty of “Scally caps”but no real street punk mohawks or anything.
I did notice a chap (have you noticed my British style speak? Wait til you hear my new accent! Madonna’s gonna be pissed) sporting a scarf around his neck Hollywood Director style. That occasional sighting and the French most people were speaking was my only real reminder that I was in Paris and not NYC. The pit was not overly rowdy and I was able to sidle my way up front and take photos and videos pretty much without any worry of being creamed.
You ought to see all the photos form the Paris Punk Show so check them out HEREand be sure and tune back in later for video from all the bands from Saturday’s Paris Punk Show, our exclusive interview with Street Poison and our online interview with the Lipstick Vibrators who unfortunately were touring the north country and we were unable to hook up with in person.
In short, even though our stay in France is coming to an end, our coverage is just beginning (that’s the way it works), so be sure and check back often. Now, I’m off to get a Croissant, a Baguette or something French sounding to eat.
Try not to be jealous. It’s really not a good look on you.
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I live on the west coast and while I THOUGHT that meant sunshine and warm weather (it does not), at least I was right about one thing… it does mean some of the best punk rock in the United States.
On the west coast, punk is still a legitimate force in the music world and you can find pretty much whatever strikes your fancy… Non-commercial, underground bands (I know… redundant), to legends who have flirted with the mainstream (NOFX, Offspring, Social Distortion, Pennywise, Bad Religion, etc.) to those who have fully gone over to the other side (Green Day).
Part of the reason these guys have been so successful is that punk is, gasp… cover your ears you punk purist, part of the mainstream music scene here. Blasphemy! I know..but you will actually hear punk on the radio here.. and not JUST on the low end of the dial during off hours, it’s blasting on 98.7 and KROQ.
I love driving along and then hearing a Social Distortion ditty pop up out of the blue on the radio. It sounds so different from when I’m banging SD out on the ipod into my car speakers. It’s got a different sound coming on the radio and it’s a sound I’d probably never, ever experience in NYC (maybe in New Jersey.. maybe!).
Luckily for me I chose the west coast more for it’s punk and underground subculture musical offerings than the always sunny and warm weather (it’s been warmer in NYC than LA on more days than I can count in 2012 and it’s only April!).
Every weekend and indeed during the week there is some kind of punk music event or concert going on somewhere, from big to small weekly events like this Drunk Punk Thursdays event in Orange County at the Doheny Saloon.
Add in some rockabilly, psychobilly and a little pachuco music, well you got yourself a full agenda. Cool venues like Weber’s out in Receda, CA have cool stuff almost every weekend and in Paramount, the new Torino Loungeis becoming a force.. then there are major concert promoters like Goldenvoice which puts on a plethora of punk shows and some not so punk shows like the recently wrapped Coachella.
So much punk, so little time… one has to be selective or never sleep. Well, as much as I like sleep, I like punk better so this Saturday, we’re picking a not so small event called the Punk Rock Picnic presented by our good buddies at PunkRockers.comand 98.7.
If you live on the west coast and like good old fashioned punk music and picnics then you should hit it with us.
Hope to see you there but if you can’t make it, as always, we’ll do our best to give you pics, videos and coverage and make you feel like you should have been!
This Saturday April 28th it’s the 5th Annual PUNK ROCK PICNIC!
ALL AGES! Starts at 11:00AM and ends at 8:30PM – Get there early as some of the big named bands play early in the day! 7 Stages, BMX half pipes, Skateboarding and all sorts of fun stuff!
FEAR, Jello Biafra, Duane Peters and the Hunns, The Crowd, D.I., Angry Samoans, Deniz Tek and the Golden Breed, Fang, Monster X, RF7, Symbol Six, Ill Repute, The Co-Dependents, Decry, Shattered Faith, Battalion of Saints, Doggy Style, Yeastie Boys, Bonecrusher, Death on the Radio, The Rift, the Supplement, Radioactive Chicken Heads, Walk Proud, Dissension, Bananarchist, Splntr, Desperation Squad, Fiction Reform, Civil Disgust, Rodents of Unusual Size and more…..
Our relationship with Remzcla.com continues. We wrote an article for them in an attempt to explain the Latino influence in the international rockabilly and psychobilly scenes.You may note a few familiar names and some not so familiar.
Check out the article HERE and if you like it, for God’s sake hit “like”, tweet it or facebook it, forward it to your 2 best friends or something.. and if you don’t like it, well, hell.. go ahead and write me a nasty, flaming, annonymous comment, I can take it.
PICS FROM ADOLESCENTS, X & SOCIAL DISTORTION IN SANTA MONICA
Goldenvoice is one of the most prolific punk concert promoters of all time. Founded by Gary Tovar, you guessed it, 30 years ago, the legendary promoter was able to bring the different factions of Southern California’s burgeoning punk rock scene together, give it just enough structure and kick in the pants to take off and become something truly special in the world of music.
Gary Tovar - Founder of Goldenvoice
Now 30 years later, it’s hard to believe what a force West coast punk (my personal favorite and I’m not from here btw) has become in the rest of the world. I mean if I listed all the influential west coast punk bands here, I’d still be listing the bands by the time you’d be reading it.
There are simply too many to count and whether you consider Offspring and Green Day to be true punk rockers any more, the reality is that bands like them along with NOFX, Pennywise, Rancid and….geez, there I go again listing the damn bands.. well let’s just say there are not only a bunch of Cali punk bands still playing to this day, but they are as influential as ever.
Well on this magical night, the 1st of the 3 day Goldenvoice 30th Anniversary shows, I was honored to be able to photograph the legendary promoter himself, Gary Tovar, as he introduced 3 legendary punk bands.
The night began with the Adolescents, who I assure you are no longer Adolescents at all, but that didn’t keep em from rocking the house. This Fullerton, CA band was formed in 1981 right around the hey day of West Coast punk. This was my first time seeing these guys live. I shot the first 3 songs in the photo pit and then headed dutifully back in the crowd to hear the rest of their set which was pretty tight.
Now I’ll admit, I only have a few tracks of Adolescents, “Kids of the Black Hole” and a couple more. But after seeing them live, well, they are one of those bands that will probably be top of mind when I get ready to refill the old ipod. The band members have played in other notable punk bands like “Agent Orange”, “Social Distortion” and more.
Next up was the legendary LA punk / folk band “X’, whom I’d seen in NYC about 2 years ago. Once again, I don’t have a ton of “X” material but what I do have I love. Lead singer, Exene Cervenka was once married to one of my all time favorite actors, Viggo Mortenson (see him in “Eastern Promises” if you haven’t already). Exene is also an accomplished artist, but she’s had some serious health issues of late. She announced a couple years ago that she is suffering from Muscular Sclerosis, a serious disorder with no known cure.
But on this night, Exene showed little signs of anything but energy and love for her craft as she and her talented band mates Billy Zoom and John Doe ripped through hits from their critically acclaimed albums they’ve been cranking out since they formed in 1977.
“X” is an LA band through and through but they’d look right at home in Austin, TX or Nasvhille, TN with their sometimes folksy look and sound which bounces between hard, fast paced punk and root tinged folk for a sound that can sound almost like Folk or hillbilly punk (at least to me, a guy from Tennessee).
Gary Tovar – Founder of Goldenvoice
The final act was what I and most of the crowd came to see, Social Distortion. Unlike the Adolescents and X, I’ve seen Social D. at least a dozen times and am more familiar with their music. Extremely familiar actually. I own every Social D. song ever released and have listened to a Social D. track at least once almost every single day of my life since I first discovered them in 1997.
But since I’d been traveling in Latin America for the past year or so, this was the first I’d seen SD in in a long time and the first getting a taste of their hometown crowd going nuts over Mike Ness and co. He is treated like a God in Southern California and I see now why they like to tour so much around home. They can sell out a venue several nights in a row no problem and no one seems to tire of seeing them.
As always, there were fans that looked like they were so young they were probably dropped off by mom or dad and fans who must be facing retirement soon. There were parents with their kids and there was an older guy wearing a Social D. jacket who could have easily been an accountant or a company CEO or gasp!!! a f”ing wall streeter or 1 per center.. rocking out on the front row.
Needless to say I was stoked (how is that for some so-cal vocabulary?) to be shooting my favorite band of all time up close and personal. My flash was malfunctioning but I still managed to get some decent pics as Ness and Co. came out and immediately kicked it old school with “Atom Bomb”.
They played a wide range of songs including “Moral Threat” which was my first time to see them play that particular diddy live as well as a couple off their recent release “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” including my favorite “Machine Gun Blues” and “Gimme The Sweet and Lowdown” which Ness proclaimed his favorite to the partisan crowd.
After an intense set of rock n roll classics, the guys did one encore before the 11pm curfew hit (it’s LA yall!) which characteristically was the Johnny Cash cover and now Social D. classic “Ring of Fire” that you’ve heard all over NBC promoting the return of “Fear Factor”. Yep, Social D. should be rolling in the licensing $ this year, I’ve heard them all over TV lately.
Ah, but they are still firmly punk, doing it their way or the highway kind of stuff. The manager got all the photographers over for a little huddle pre-show and laid out the rules of the road (flash is ok, 3 songs only, after 3 songs put your camera away or you’ll be asked to leave, etc., etc,). I was cool with that. It’s their show, I’m just trying to get a pic.
Social D. did not disappoint and I was really honored to help GoldenVoice, a true legend in the promotion game and possibly the single most influential punk promoters of west coast punk of all time , celebrate their 30 years.
The next two nights featured even more bands like Bad Religion, Youth Brigade, Vandals, Dickies… oh man, there I go again, listing bands.
Well I’ll let Gary Tovar’s published statement sum it up:
“The artists and lineup for these special shows were chosen to reflect the bands that embraced and were instrumental in building Goldenvoice from day one. Like us, they had just the right screws loose. Because of their support past and present, Goldenvoice was able to flourish and become a part of the Southern California music scene. These bands took a chance on us 30 years ago and continue to be a big part of what we do today. We are excited for them to help us honor our first 30 years!”
You don’t know me, but thanks anyway Gary. It’s a cliche I know, but here is wishing you 30 more years. I might be in a walker or wheelchair but if I can, I’ll be there for that celebration too, just like some of the old cats that made it to this show.
IF YOU MISSED THE ARTICLE LAST WEEK FIRST PUBLISHED IN REMEZCLA, HERE IT IS IN IT’S ENTIRETY WITH A FEW MINOR TYPOS CORRECTED TO BOOT. THANKS TO ISABELA AND THE GANG AT REMEZCLA FOR SHOWING INTEREST IN THIS SUBJECT (IT RECEIVED OVER 300 “LIKES” AND STILL GROWING). AND OF COURSE THANKS TO PANCHO FROM LOS SAICOS FOR THE INTERVIEW.
Our Article on Los Saicos for Remezcla Magazine
The question of how and when punk music really began, or who really was the first punk band have fueled many documentaries, books, articles and more than their share of drunken conversations over the years. Hell, they may have even contributed to a bar room brawl or two. Despite being steeped in the scene the past few years both at home and abroad, I’ve never really felt qualified to have much of a discussion on these points.
There is so much written about the history of punk, yet it seems so easy to get the info twisted, such as getting the dates of punk’s emergence mixed up. And to be honest, I really hadn’t cared that much about punk history. I’m a fan of ’80s west coast punk and it seemed a bit pointless to worry so much about history when there is so much good stuff going on right now. While I respect it, I don’t want to live in the past. If old school bands like The Damned, Dead Kennedys or Social Distortion are touring, I want to hear all their songs, past and present.
Bands like Social Distortion still going strong...
All this changed when I visited Lima, Peru. Now, Peru is known for some serious history, mostly the indigenous kind with ancient ruins (If you didn’t know it, Peru is home to Machu Picchu and many other ancient ruins), but you’d be excused if “the home of punk rock” doesn’t exactly pop into your mind when I mention Lima. But what if I told you that Lima, Peru was in fact home of one of the very first punk bands in the world, years before the Sex Pistols and the Ramones popped onto the scene? Despite my previous statements, I do have a rough, sort of working class knowledge in a general sense of punk history. I’ve read the books, I’ve seen the films, I know about the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaran, “God Save the Queen” and all that good stuff. I’ve read extensively about Joe Strummer, The Clash and the influence of Jamaican immigrants in England on their music.
COULD IT BE, THAT DESPITE ALL WE HAD BEEN TOLD, ALL
THAT HAD BEEN WRITTEN ON THE SUBJECT….THAT SOME OF THE
FIRST INKLINGS OF PUNK MUSIC BEGAN IN SOUTH AMERICA?
Having lived many years in New York City just a few blocks from the famed CBGB’s, I know and certainly appreciate the Ramones and that now-deceased venue’s (and others like Max’s Kansas City, Coney Island High, etc.) incredible influence on the scene. I know about the Sonic, Iggy Pop, the MC5 and Detroit’s own influence on the scene. I’ve read and even vaguely remember that Blondie was punk, before they were funk, and how a young David Bowie was looking for talent at places like these former hot spots cum dive bars dotting the lower and then sketchy parts of Manhattan in New York City.
The reality is that the true beginnings of punk and even subsequent subgenre’s like psychobilly (The Cramps, Meteors, etc.) and fore bearers like rockabilly (Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, etc.) are up for debate and really hard to pin down. Relying on sometimes extremely foggy memories of an increasingly small base is not exactly scientific research. To further complicate matters you have that pesky and equally popular little question: What exactly is punk anyway?
But in all the debates and conversations, how many times have you heard of Peru even mentioned? If you live in South America maybe, but I’ll wager if you live anywhere else in the world, probably not. While traveling down in Latin America working on my documentary Punktology… The Worldwide Influence of Punk and blog for Punk Outlaw, I had heard for a couple of years about a band from Lima, that was playing some cool music in the mid ’60s, well before the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Ramones and right around the time bands like the MC5 were lighting the motor city and surf was making a splash on the west coast. Now remember, kiddies, no internet back in these days, so underground music was traveling quite differently (and much more slowly) back in those days.
At first I thought maybe my Spanish needed improving, during my travels in Latin America, and I was just misunderstanding the folks who kept mentioning this quirk of history I’d never heard of. Finally, I realized there must be something there, so I researched and it led to some interesting possibilities. Could it be, that despite all we had been told, all that had been written on the subject, all that had been documented, debated and deciphered about it, that some of the first inklings of punk music actually began in South America?
It seemed people in Latin America knew something that had hardly been acknowledged (at least to me) by the English speaking, dominant messengers and historians of punk which had always pointed to bands in the U.S. and Europe as the closest approximations to the Fathers of the punk music spawn. But for Lima, Peru, there’s no debate.
A band called Los Saicos (as in The Psychos) was such a band. The band’s story begins like many others. They were four childhood friends and amateur musicians who grew up together in the Lince neighborhood of Lima. They sprung up on Lima’s music scene in 1964 and while they only put out 6 singles before they broke up in 1966, they are arguably the most influential rock band ever to come out of Latin America. I realize this statement may ruffle some feathers in rock Meccas like Argentina and Brazil.
I wanted to learn more about Los Saicos so this past August while traveling in Latin America I made the pilgrimage to Lima, in the dead of the Peruvian winter (which means chilly, damp weather without a hint of sunshine), with a barely adequate grasp of the Spanish language and high hopes of meeting and interviewing Los Saicos which had recently reunited in 2006.
Initially it seemed my timing was bad. Soon after I landed in Lima, I heard that Los Saicos was holed up in a studio in Mexico City laying down some new music. Determined to make the most of my trip, I got busy interviewing a fore mentioned bands from the 2nd and current waves and that kept me plenty busy.
Interviewing George AKA "Pelo" From Lima's 2nd Wave Band "Narcosis"
It was about time to head home and I had pretty much given up on getting an interview with Los Saicos when my contact and local punk resident Victor called to tell me that Los Saicos’ drummer, Pancho Guevara, was back in town and would agree to meet with me. Pancho didn’t speak English so I had to rely on my Tarzan Spanish, which counter intuitively seemed to be getting worse each passing day!
Off the bat it was clear that this was not going to be like most of my punk interviews in a loud concert venue or at a drunken rehearsal. We met Pancho and a pal at a diner near Lince. Pancho was wearing a V neck sweater and sipping hot tea.
...with Pancho of "Los Saicos" in Lince
Pancho wanted to feel me out and see what my purpose of the interview was. I know they’ve given countless interviews but mostly to Latin press. I felt we hit it off immediately as I told them about my projects and Pancho filled me in about the band. From the diner, we headed over to the plaque on the street corner, which proclaims Lince the birthplace of Los Saicos and punk music.
Pancho pointed out to me the nearby street corner where the guys from Los Saicos would meet up and hang out. When I asked Pancho if he held any resentment to not being recognized for being a major player in the founding of punk music, he didn’t seem to really understand the relevance of the question and I think I understand why.
The plaque declaring Lima, Peru the home of punk rock!
Before, during, and after the interview, numerous people on the street recognized Pancho and came up to him, not for an autograph, but to chat. Like old neighbors from the neighborhood recognizing an old lost friend. Pancho is the only member to still live full time in Lima. Guitarist Rolando Carpio died in early 2005 and singer Erwin Flores and singer/bass player César “Papi” Castrillón live near Washington, DC.
The surviving members of Los Saicos have played gigs again in Peru and Spain. A documentary Saicomania was released this year and Pancho said he has conducted many, many interviews recently about the band. They have plans to tour the U.S including a stop in California next spring which I hope to catch. I think, at least as far as Pancho is concerned, there is plenty of recognition, albeit a bit late.
Pancho’s positive outlook notwithstanding the recognition of Los Saicos as punk is lacking. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy by North Americans or Europeans to not give Los Saicos their due. But I do think it points to a larger issue of punk music being viewed erroneously as a largely working class, white music, largely a stereotype perpetrated by mainstream media that has no idea what punk is.
That is one of the points of my documentary Punktology. We’ve interviewed punks the world including punks in Latin America (who are a rainbow of colors), as well as African punks, Asian punks and even Muslim punks. Punk is the most tolerant music subculture I know of. But history has a way of being written from slanted perspectives, and in punk music’s case, it was written from a largely North American and European perspective (sound familiar?). Ironically, this is exactly the type of ignorance, misinformation and subtle racism that punk music often rails against.
And I know I said that history doesn’t matter, but it does. We need to give credit where credit is due. Reunions notwithstanding, Los Saicos had a short life span but so did the Sex Pistols, MC5 and numerous other bands widely credited with contributing to punk’s earliest beginnings. We need to recognize Los Saicos for what they are; an influential, unique and original band that was one of the most influential ever in Latin America and possibly the world. Check ‘em out and next time you’re in a debate about the beginnings of punk music, you’re gonna come across as the smartest (or craziest) guy or girl in the room!
I knew there had to be a rockabilly scene in Colombia. I just figured it would be in Bogota, not in Medellin where the Paisas (people from Medellin), rock out to the sounds of punk and metal to such legendary bands as I.R.A. andLos Suziox along with other really talented cats like Los Sornos, Industrial punks Nues, the hardcore Fertil Miseria, Desadaptadoz and newer bands like Lokekeda, Alkoholema, Insurgentes, Grito and Nacion Criminal.
I mean there are so many good, solid punk bands in Medellin I’m discovering them by accident all the time.
Dolman - Bass & Vocals
I guess I should not have been surprised after discovering that yes; there is indeed a rockabilly scene in Medellin! Or should I qualify that as there is a rockabilly band in Medellin that is doing its best to establish a scene. They are the Dorados Rockabilly Trio.
Now I discovered them (or should I say they discovered me) through my good buddies Andres (Los Suziox) and Faber (Medellin Rock Festival) at the Medellin Moto Show a few weeks back.
I immediately hit it off with the guys. Felipe Ossa, the bands singer / lead guitar who spends some time with family in New Mexico had just been to the U.S. and witnessed his first Social Distortion in concert there so we had a lot to talk about. Felipe looks a little bit like a young, Latin Mike Ness himself (before the jail time) don’t you think?
Carlos - Drums & Vocals
At the time, I was headed out of the country to Ecuador to work on my side project “Raw Travel” but I promised you that when I returned I’d be featuring some music from these guys.
Good to his word Felipe stayed in touch with me and I made it out to their rehearsal on Friday night.
They played a good mix of covers of rock-n-roll classics (Richie Valens, Eddie Cochran, etc.) as well as a few of their originals which I really dug.
Felipe's tricked out guitar
We had some studio time left over so we ripped through a version of Cold Feelings (Social Distortion) & Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash/Social Distortion) with yours truly at the mic before I let the guys finish it out with “Don’t’ Think Twice” (Bob Dylan/Mike Ness) and “Reach for the Sky (Social Distortion).
Rehearsal was a roomfull of Social D. fans
Good rockabilly finished off with some punk and punkabilly… Now that my friends is a good couple of hours well spent.
Well, proving that I ALWAYS tell the truth MOST of the time, here ya go, a video clip of their original song “Bettie Page” from their rehearsal session is below.
STAY TUNED: And coming up, pics and genius insights from my recent Ecuadorian Punk Odyssey and, keep your fingers crossed, a complete interview and feature on the Dorados Rockabilly Trio.