Photo by Bob Gruen
Robert Lund - Man About Town
Quest for Herb and
New York Waste, Apr. 2002
<CLICK ON SMALL PICS FOR PHOTOS>
I was living downtown in the 80s when Hardcore stormed the land. I must admit, I wasn't moshing with the skins, though. I was a single dad, living on E. 10th St. with my hardcore punk spike-haired teenaged son, and my role as a father put me on the other side of that revolutionary movement. I didn't fully appreciate the music being blasted on my stereo, but "Murphy's Law," "Agnostic Front," and "Cro-Mags" were household words, the names emblazoned on the kid's clothing and other belongings. By all accounts, I was a "cool dad", but how cool can you be when a crowd of punks wanna party in your living room? The whole phenomenon has been put in historical perspective by Steve Blush in his book "American Hardcore - A Tribal History" (see interview in March 2002 NY Waste, and complete info on this site).
I got a pretty good idea of what the fuss was all about at the Continental on March 17th, where Murphy's Law kicked off their tour with a show. It was a great way to celebrate St. Patty's Day, made complete by the two bottles of Guinness I smuggled in in my pockets.
Eggplant Queens opened the show at 6 PM (Murphy's Law had to play another show out at Connections in New Jersey that night before flying off in the morning for a one week tour of Japan). As strange as it felt at first to this nocturnal creature to be getting into that scene so soon after waking up, this band made it easy. Three distinctly different lead singers deliver the manic vocals one, two, three at a time, backed by a fierce band hammering out syncopated hard rock rhythms.
The wild times of the drug-crazed 80s are past, and when I visited the dressing room between sets, I found Jimmy Gestapo sitting quietly, petting his dog, a long way from the hardcore kid known for slugging people with a cue ball in a sock. There's a lot more love coming out of him now, and it radiated towards everyone when he got up on stage. The rage born of his working-class background is still alive and well, and he delivered astute political commentary between songs, as intent on spreading some sense about this fucked up society as he was on having a good time. Sustained by plentiful Jaegermeister and ganja, the band thrilled the [truly] all-ages crowd with their timeless music, peaking at the sing-along anthem "Quest For Herb". At his first gig with the band, bass legend Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks, Mad Juana, to name but two) held up the bottom perfectly.
Jimmy's good buddy Vinnie Stigma (Agnostic Front) joined him on vocals on a couple of numbers, both happy to have survived the chaotic years of their youth. The rapport between the band and the crowd was greater than I've ever seen. Besides the old punks moshing up a storm, there were two really young kids amidst the action, seemingly transported in time from one of the CBs matinees that were common back when these kids were infants. It was great to see the hardcore traditions being passed on to a younger generation. At one point, Jimmy and Vinnie each took a kid on their shoulders while they were singing, and the boys stage-dived onto the crowd from their perch - something they'll certainly never forget!
Steve Blush talks about the Hardcore phenomenon as having been born and died in the 1980s, and that's true in an overall sense. What remains today, sustained by guys like Jimmy and Vinnie and their bands, is like an extract of Hardcore, eliminating some of the more destructive aspects of that tribal history. And it's not just constructive, it's FUN! Nothing gives you a joie de vivre like flirting with death and surviving the experience. The intensity, hatred, and rage are more focused on the true enemies of this society, not wasted on beating up every new kid on the block. I hope I still see as-yet-unborn punks moshing in 30 years. Anthems like "Hate and War" and "Quest for Herb" are eternal! Check out Grandpa Vinnie Stigma's thoughts on this at Grandpa Vinnie Speaks (2015).