Saturday, November 8, 2008

Back in the Day, part 1

I don't live in Austin, Texas, anymore, but I was at the Fluc, my favorite cool-kids bar the other night, and it made me think of the golden era of punk rock in my hometown: of Raul's club, and the Hickoids, and Terry Marks. It may be standard for bohemians the world over to believe that their local bands, and their club, and their scene is utterly unique and awesome. But it isn't always so.

So as I leaned against the DJ booth at the Fluc, too tired to blink, I watched a dumb-ass student film, shot in black and white and projected on the wall. It seemed intended as a film-noir remix of Mother Goose. Five feet away from me, a lithe, foxy lesbian was canoodling with her girlfriend. Then she crossed the room, started flirting with a man, and left with him! Finally, a conceptual artist, wearing one of those clean suits the Centers for Disease Control folks use when there is an outbreak of bat pox, swept through the club telling everyone that the next act of her S & M puppet show was about to begin on the sidewalk outside the place.

Actually, now that I think about it, the Austin punk and hardcore scene, ca. 1984, was usually not quite this silly.

But there are parallels. Back in the day, on any given night in the clubs--Raul's, the Ritz, Club Foot, Uncle SuSu's, Studio 29, Voltaire's Basement--you might have seen a singer with a toy airplane glued to her head, fronting an unlistenable new wave band. Or you might have gawped helplessly as David Yow, the singer for Scratch Acid, attacked Gibby Haynes, the singer for the Butthole Surfers, smashing him over the head with a beer bottle, and then grabbing the microphone to take over the song the Buttholes had been playing!

For every renegade who didn't get the attention from the scene that he deserved, like the filmmaker and experimental musician Bryan Hansen, who died very young, there was a band who probably got more juice than they deserved, like the Hickoids, who turned corn-pone and country punk into low art. Sort of.

And even though Austin bands like Scratch Acid, the Big Boys and the Dicks later became legends, especially for people who never saw them play, we tend to forget that this was a bar scene, and all this amazing music was spilling off the stage even as everyone else in the place was trying to get laid, look cool and/or drink themselves blind. Even as I craned my neck to get a better view of bands like Poison 13 or Sharon Tate's Baby, I was really hoping for a brief glimpse of Terry Marks, the foxiest motorcycle-riding, moshpit-conquering, asymmetrical haircut-having chick on the scene.

(To Be Continued)

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