Punk Retrospective

The Genius of Punch and Pie – Part 1

PunchNPieEl Dorko has asked me to start contributing to Punk Retrospective, and humbled by the offer, I agreed. But before I turn in my first piece of work, I thought it would be fair to give you, the readers, a little background as to how I ended up here. I, although not surprisingly to anyone that knows me well, ended up here through a series of interesting coincidences that snowballed out of my control.

See, I am not a show goer. Or at least until recently, never considered myself as such. That wouldn't be a big deal... Except I'm 29. My experience with the scene up until this point can be compared to a borderline blackout, with glimpses of memories coming back without explanation and an overwhelming feeling of shame about what I may or may not have been listening to. I'm dead serious. My friends still point out pop rock idols I had once as a teenage girl. My particular taste in music was deplorable, and it seemed to leave a dirty taste in others' minds. That's right folks, I have no real street cred, it's all a sham.

Which makes everything even stranger for me because I know the difference between good and bad music. My guilty pleasures as a teen included obscure b sides of Rancid, the Queers and bootleg Anti-Flag. I was exposed to Rage Against the Machine before the radio was, and my brother spun Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel when I came to visit. My father introduced me to Arlo Guthrie while I was still wetting the bed, for christ's sake. I don't know what happened to me, but at some point I strayed from the path and started listening to crap.

And this sad fact continued on for years. Even into early adulthood.

This harsh criticism is an echo of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Grayden Day, formally of Soul Kavity, I Hate Everything and The Walking Dead. He constantly reminds me of who I used to be and keeps me humble... Well, really he gets drunk and belittles me, but it's close to the same thing, right?

I followed his arch through Soul Kavity, which I believe is where we both first encountered Tony and Andy of The Walking Dead. These two would later be the catalyst of some of the things we do at Sucker Punk. Through Grayden's stay in Soul Kavity and The Walking Dead, I never really went to a punk show. The closest I think I can come to is the Offspring, but that was on their Americana tour, and that wasn't quite punk anymore. Following Grayden to his shows for support, I ran into hardcore and metal mostly, music that while I have a great amount of respect and admiration for, I don't enjoy. I don't get it and never really have. And I'm judged just as harshly for this as anything else.

I don't want to confuse anyone, but all this time, there was punk spinning somewhere in the background, but I didn't recognize anyone around me listening to it. I discovered it on my own, through compilations from early Warped Tours and the internet. And even then, it was always “don't listen to Alkaline Trio,” or “why are you listening to that NoFX album? This one is better.” So even what I thought could be tolerable by my peers... Wasn't. Pulling that 7 Seconds tape out of my pocket was completely out of the question. It would just be more ammo, and I'd had enough. I gave up on bringing up music or asking what was worth listening too. That was obviously a part of the world I was never going to understand.

Flash forward years. Many, many years. I had tried developing a role playing game, tried selling a script, tried playing bass in a hard rock band, tried starting a comic book. Nothing was taking so I took a sabbatical to Long Beach for a year. I became a fan of talk radio, specifically SmodCo and RadioLab. I finished Battle of the Drunks, a shitty documentary about an underground drinking competition. My liver almost didn't survive the editing process. Nothing was happening for me down there but the bar, and I wasn't sure what the hell I was going to do. But I knew I wasn't going to survive long if I stayed in Long Beach, so I raced home.

I pulled together Matt Farquhar and Brett Jordan and we began writing. But it wasn't enough. We planned on making movies in the future. It wasn't soon enough. I was getting frustrated. And then, of course, came the inevitable lunches and dinners when you arrive home. The long, tedious, drawn out conversations where you repeat yourself over and over and the person opposite of you doesn't impress you at all. That's when Julie Wuest, an old friend of mine, sparked an idea. She works for the Children's Receiving Home off Auburn Blvd. She had been trying to throw a benefit show for a music program she wanted to start at the home, but was continually stone walled by promoters and venues. I though, “Hey, I know plenty of musicians. Maybe I can get someone to help.” We were next door to Luigi's, so I just strolled over and asked the Walking Dead if they'd help.

Michael Boyd was new to the band, but it sounded exciting to him and everyone else. So we threw a benefit show a few months later, with Keeping Score, Kill Devil, STR and TWD. We thought filming the show would be cool, even though we didn't have a whole lot of equipment yet. Maybe if the footage was good, we could cut a dvd and sell it to the Children's Home. That never happened, because we didn't think of what the sound was going to be like. But this is where the ideas of documentaries began being thrown wildly around. We could make one of TWD's ten year anniversary. Or of Andre Love, because of how crazy his life was. We quickly switched from writers to documentarians. We raised $500 for the home, and we went to look at the footage we got from the show.

It wasn't great. But we could fashion a few things with it here and there and hey... This actually looks really cool. What else do we have... Dude, we should film more shows...

And we did. A bunch of metal shows. The music thing became Brett and Jasen Koster's thing more so than anyone else. And good for them, because they were doing awesome things. But I didn't want to film more bands I didn't know and probably wouldn't like. And it had been a while since I had picked a show to go to, so when I saw Autumn Sky playing with the Secretions, I said “That one. I've heard of both of them and have never listened to either. That show, there.” It was a decent show, but not exactly what I thought it was going to be. (I later learned the Secretions didn't 'bring it' like they normally do because Autumn Sky is way too awesome to play fast.)

We continued branching out. My mind was blown away by Sans Sobriety at the Blue Lamp. I watched Bastards of Young and City of Vain at Concert in the Park. One of my favorite videos I've cut is of A Single Second at the Press Club. And it started making sense. I wanted more. I wanted to know the faces I recognized at shows by name. But I didn't know how to get there. I searched the internet and found Sacramento Punk Shows. And it was there and at all these shows that I started admiring the graphic design in flyers. I thought back to how Joe Maumee used to read local show listings on the air every night, and how insightful the idea was. It's something I wanted to do, but I wasn't a radio guy, I was a video guy. And the idea of the video magazine popped into my head. How hard could it be? It was worth taking a chance. I would send out a pilot episode and plan to start in a month, just to see if anyone responded.

They did. Overwhelmingly. I was immediately contacted by Sunny D at v103, El Dorko from Punk Retrospective,and Bob Tul from Maiden's Sorrow. I was so taken aback from the positive response, I knew I couldn't wait a whole month to get started. I immediately released the first issue, and it just took off. I was emailed by the legendary Sean Hills from Bastards of Young and Punch and Pie Productions. It was short but sweet. Just something saying he thought it was a great idea and to contact him if he could help in any way. I thanked him and asked him to send me flyers when he got them. I wasn't aware at the time that he actually made all the flyers for Punch and Pie. After a few issues, I knew it was something that I had to keep doing, for myself, and for everyone that seemed to appreciate it so much. And thought nothing else of it.

About two months went by, and there was quite a scuttle going around about Punch and Pie Fest. We made the choice to make it to as many of the shows as we could and film as much as possible. It would be business as usual, with the majority of the footage being archived for later, and possibly a music video or two, whatever worked out. Sean emailed me again. He wanted a commercial for Punch and Pie. Yes, Sean. I can do that. I can do that very well.

We met, talked about what he wanted, he showed me his amazing talent in photoshop. Nothing less than impressive. We cut the video together in a few short hours and sat down over pizza and talked about the scene. He offered to let us into the shows for free because he had no other way to repay me. I tried to refuse. It seemed like too much for such a simple thing I helped with. I literally did nothing but help him decide on the flow of the video and then put his work to music. He insisted, and that was that.

These offers and opportunities, they popped up everywhere. El Dorko asked if I'd like to write for Punk Retrospective. Of course I would, but about what? I wasn't making it to too many shows. I didn't know how to review a show. But El Dorko couldn't make it to any of the Punch and Pie shows, so someone had to do it. But how was I going to put together something interesting enough for people to watch? Was my writing still sharp enough for that? And worse, what if I didn't like it and had nothing to write about? How shitty would I look? I was already going to miss the first and last show at the fest, and it didn't look like I was going to make it to the Red City Radio show either. What a half ass journalist move, only getting to half the shows. Was it going to be worth it?

I posted online that I wanted to go, but didn't know if I was going to make it. Sean Stepp from Amp Magazine and Civil War Rust offered to put me on the guest list (little did he know, he he). I just wasn't sure I'd be comfortable going to a Thursday show with work on Friday. Jasen called me. Always the voice of reason, he basically told me to nut up and get down there. So I did, not sure what to expect, feeling like an awkward outsider, and fearful that at any moment someone would recognize me for the fraud I was, ruthlessly outing me and tossing me out of the Press Club. I was tense, unsure and nervous. Even more so than usual.

I walked in and got stamped quietly. I politely shook Sean Hills hand. I ordered a beer, flipped open my camera, and took place at the front of the stage. And then, Just as Urban Wolves slammed into the first chord of their set, something funny happened...

Posted by benjamin_abel

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