Punx Not Dead (It’s Live)

Today I turned 32. 32 is a weird age I guess. It’s that time now where I am “in” my Thirties. I guess. Truth be told, the only thing different about me now and me when I was 16 are I have a mortgage, shorter hair, more tattoo’s and got way fat. The only things I am still down with are music and reading. I’m a little bit smarter, I guess, but not by much. I still have a skeptical outlook on just about everything.

For my 32 birthday I did what I do best, used CD shopping. I was looking for copies of the first two Kills CD’s (no luck) and instead did something very unusual. I bought three live albums. The live album, that elusive offering of bands hoping to capture that magic of the ever popular live show. I love a good live bootleg, but to be honest the live album has never captured me. Except for All’s Trailblazers album, which happens to be the only All album I own anymore (for reasons I will get to shortly). So it was a rather odd revelation driving home to discover that in y haze to procure CD’s, three of them were live recordings offered up by three bands that are no longer.

At DC’s Smash I found a copy of Hot Water Music’s Live at the Hardback. This gem, recorded in Gainesville, Florida was the first album by Hot Water Music I ever heard. I still think to this day it is the best release they have ever done. It is that rare album that does in fact capture the band at it’s best the way a studio never could. I often think of the No Division album that followed this once the band decided to reunite and think the songs are great, but it’s a godawful listen in retrospect. Afterwords this band got slick and the songs seemed less urgent. But this album is Hot Water Music fighting for survival. The show was supposed to be there last and was one of the last at Hardback (if not the last) and the energy of the band shows. You can practically feel the sweat falling off of their heads and onto the instruments for a rest before sliding to the ground. It sounds like it was recorded by hot mics turned up in the closet, but somehow that just makes the intimacy of the moment reign through.

The Descendents were the pre-cursor to All, which for the uninitiated are mostly differentiated by singers. Early All albums sounded really weird to me growing up, especially after Two Things at Once and Trailblazers which discovered towards the end of my illustrious high school career. When All signed to Interscope Records they put out Pummel which had two very blatant homophobic songs written by ultra homophobe Bill Stevenson. I ditched that album soon after buying it and pretty much said I would never purchase a Descendents or All album that was brand new and line dudes pockets. I have not done so since. This all occured of course after I bought Two Things At Once which has “Loser”, a song which contains inflammatory homophobic lyrics. When I bought the album it was out of curiosity, not because I knew it contained such lyrics. I should have known better when I got into All. Such is life. So it’s a rare find, used Descendents CD’s, and Liveage is one I’ve wanted to check out. It is the older brother to Trailblazers with a less entertaining cover and the unfortunate inclusion of “Loser”. But it sounds really great and serves to show that despite being an asshole homophobic dick, Bill Stevenson wrote great, catchy songs and the Descendents were a great band.

What lavish praise can I give Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia band Scream that hasn’t already been said. They are local legends, even for and especially to aging punk kids like me that missed the golden years of 1977-1985. I mean that’s when I was born. But in 1996 the original line up, plus the adopted Harley Davidson reunited for one night at the Black Cat, which I attended at the tender age of 19. This CD has been kicking around the area since it’s release to much fanfare and it’s kinda weird to own music of shows you were at. I own a copy of the last Elliott Smith show at the Black Cat I saw and I can literally remember every moment of that show because of it. This Scream CD is a little odd. It is after all a reunion concert by a band that is sorely overlooked in the annals early punk rock. This is a band that defined and clarified a lot of the first wave bands and should be considered direct descendants of bands like The Clash and Bad Brains. In 1996 they played a show that proved they were a force to be reckoned with.

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