MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA - Last Friday I received a last minute invite by my good friends Andres (Los Suziox) and Faber (Rock in Medellin Festival) to a private concert by the incredible local punk band I.R.A.
For those of you who don’t know I.R.A., here is a little info. It is so hard to believe from looking at them but the band has been around for over 25 years, since the 1980s and the early days of Medellin’s punk scene.
They’ve toured the U.S., including the legendary CBGB’s in NYC. They’ve had books written about them, been featured in several documentaries and most importantly they have put out some incredible punk music over the years and continue to do so.
But the thing I think I like most about I.R.A is their attitude. I first met them all, David (vocals/guitar), Monica (vocals/drums) and Duvan (bass/vocals) at The Casualties show in December 2009 and they gave me a short interview for Punk Outlaw (which you can see HERE).
Later that day I saw them play a kick ass set as they opened for The Casualties. Since then, I’ve seen them a few times doing things that really embody the spirit and solidarity of punk rock; like supporting their friends Fertil Miseria to Rock Al Parque (Rock in the Park) in Bogota, creating a compilation CD to benefit a sick friend of theirs who had no place to live, etc.) and on and on.
Not to get all sappy or emotional here but I.R.A. represents everything I love about Punk Music. They play really good, raucous and socially conscious punk music and the fact that they care passionately about the world around them is obvious in their actions on and off stage.
But watching them play a small, private show for their punk friends (it was in a small but very cool video production studio), you could tell how the punk scene in Medellin really sticks together and I.R.A. provides much of the glue. There were people from many of the local bands like Los Suziox, Nacion Criminal, Dorados Rockabilly Trio, etc., and there were many familiar faces I’ve seen at shows here over the past couple of years covering the Colombian punk scene.
As I said, I.R.A. is the glue. They help hold the scene together and after over 25 years, I think their role as punk ambassadors for a city that has seen a lot during that period of time can’t be overstated.
Watching David being carried around on the shoulders of the crowd… watching the punks joking around with Monica’s “Boom Box”, but more than that.. feeling the positive energy from the crowd which was by and large sober (it was early), very mixed (plenty of punk females) and just overall putting out nothing but good vibes.
I had just come off a rough week. Feeling a little homesick for the U.S. for the 1st time really.
I was tired of living in small, cramped hotel rooms and dealing with my horrible Spanish which seems to have not improved one single bit in my 6 months in Latin America. Dealing with issues with my other project, Raw Travel, thinking maybe I’m doing nothing but wasting time and money and why am I here? I don’t belong here, etc.
Then I go to an I.R.A. show. I see my old friends. I feel the vibes. I hear the music. I see the show. Suddenly things get back into focus. This is why I’m here. To experience this and to try to communicate this to others. Maybe a little self important, probably very myopic and selfish and definitely over dramatic and emotional, but that is the way I felt at the time.
And if I had a rough week, I imagine how many others had it even rougher. Maybe no cramped hotel, in fact no place to stay and not enough money to get through the week? My problems were nothing. This is real, this is punk, this is I.R.A.
Unfortunately I had to leave early because I had a previous commitment on the other side of town.
Coincidence or not, my taxi driver that night was the coolest, funniest dude who felt obliged to play (and sing along to) some North American metal and rock music for me. I could barely hear the guy speak over the Metalica, U-2 (the old stuff, the good stuff, not the recent garbage) and eventually, The Ramones singing “Sheenah isssss a punk rocker…”, much less understand him but I didn’t ask him to turn it down. “Mas alto por favor” (more higher please, my Tarzan Spanish way of saying “turn it up”).
All in all the rest of the evening was one of the best nights I’ve had since coming to South America. I’m not sure why, can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I think it had something to do with seeing I.R.A., who are (I think I can safely say this without critique) a legendary punk band not just from Medellin but from Colombia..from South America.. actually, a legendary punk band period.
Below is a little video clip from their show and for more photos check out the album on our flikr page HERE.