Friday, February 3, 2012

Demos, The Scene, The Total Package

I remember buying my first demo at a punk show. The Volcano Suns were in town, sometime in '86 or so, with two opening bands, the names of which are lost in the fumes of many bottles of Rush and rivers of sweat. One of the now anonymous bands was selling cassettes at the show (at the Complex, mayhaps?) and as I happened to have change leftover from Little Tavern, I bought one. It wasn't particularly good quality, neither by recording standards nor in content, but I bought it anyway (and played it, rarely) to support "the scene". It was an investment in something I cared about, a way to screw the record industry, and a poorly plastic-wrapped middle finger aimed at AUTHORITY, all for three dollars. The art was a mimeographed drawing of something unpleasant, a child being mauled by a circus bear or something, which had been painstakingly cut from a larger piece of cheap paper, conjuring images of heavily-mascaraed girls toiling away in the bass player's parents' garage surrounded by thick clouds of clove smoke, a suitably morose English New Wave song crackling out from cheap boom-box speakers, torn fishnets and combat boots, fashionably listless.

The scene. It was all of the bands that ever sloppily hacked at a guitar neck and screamed into a mic, sticky-floored dive bars festooned with a decoupage of thirty-thousand flyers, the several hundred (or dozen) teenagers in heavy boots, the thrift store, half a dozen record shops, the bondage boutique, an odd restaurant or two, and anywhere mayhem might coalesce. It was the seedy neighborhood across town from the record industry where talent scouts stared straight ahead when driving through to meet their immaculately quaffed clients, just there off of Russ Meyer Blvd., down the street from the Independent Publishers. It was not an exclusionary system, it was openly hostile, go ahead, see if you can survive the denizens of DIY St., you fat bastards, we are lean here, we smell your engineers' fear, you are too weak to make an honest record, we will use your fat rolls of money to clean the rat shit off the floors of our clubs, we don't even drive here, we have burned all the cars, you are not in L.A., you festering pustule on Rolling Stone's scrotum, you bubble-gum pop assclown.

And sometimes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Maybe it starts a business in a basement on 4th St., maybe it steals a copy machine and makes a free 'zine, maybe it just shares the nut with it's friends. Any way it goes, the music fan wins, has plenty for the cold winter months, and maybe has enough left over after Little Tavern for another nut.

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