A Year End Wrap-Up.

I know I’m a few days late here, but here goes:

I spent New Year’s Eve alone, drinking a single hot toddy and reflecting while listening to Trojan Compilation LPs and Cure records like the lightweight middle-aged punk rocker I am. A year ago, I ended 2021 feeling worn down and heartbroken. Thankful for friends, for surviving the hardest year of my life. I ended 2022 in the opposite place.

It was a year of ups and downs, personal and professional growth while continuing local, national, and global crises unfolded around us. I went to work every day with the growing reality of anti queer violence gnawing at the back of my mind. During the coldest months of the year, I began to thaw. I made friends, even developed very occasional crushes while the world held its breath over a long winter, with so many of us wondering if we were in the opening stages of World War III. Everyone I love exists in a state of constant anxiety. However, I am inspired at not only their ability to thrive, but at the lives they live in defiance of those who would see the world this way forever.

This year I worked hard at a job I love. I lifted weights. I spent time alone and with friends. Despite the struggle to find a place for my work, I became more confident as a writer. I don’t take the struggle to carve out a space for my voice and for my stories personally or see it as a deficit or reflective of the quality of my work the way I used to. For this small step, I am thankful. I know my value and know my voice. I accept that the distaste I have for maneuvering and accumulating social and cultural capital comes with drawbacks and I live accordingly.

The tradeoff of being able to walk through the world authentically and without apology is worth it to me.

My biggest victory this year was taking new and scary steps to manage the depression and mood swings that accompany living with borderline personality disorder. So far, those steps have been positive. I have been able to experience life in a way I’ve never thought possible. I smile more. I feel lighter. I laugh. It’s nice. If you are reading this, and you are struggling, I want you to know there’s help out there for you. You and your beautiful, complicated life are worthy of that help, even if it feels like you don’t deserve it.

I want to close this out by offering gratitude to the care exhibited by my friends Grier and Maria. The two of you were such solid and consistent voices of encouragement and reflection while I made important and hard choices. Thank you, Xy for being the best globetrotting adventure companion. Thanks to Molly and Teal, who I didn’t get to take pictures with this year for the decades of best friendship.

Thanks to Sweetpea the pup for being a continual lesson in patience.

Keep your head up. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other. Onward.

Now, for the cheesiest part of this post, physical media! Some of these records are from late 2021 and 2022. I wasn’t in good shape last year, so I didn’t write about music much at all in general, or at the end of the year.


  1. Collision – I love this band’s whole vibe. A mixture of Oi/Street punk and post punk. It just works. To add the quality of the music, they have a schtick that adds to an air of mystery about them. Always wearing masks and Adidas Sambas and seemingly lurking about industrial parts of Paris.
  2. Criminal Outfit – A Million Saturdays: It took me a while to warm up to this. The vocals are a little rough at first. But the riffs are simple and infectious. The lyrical content sweet and wholesome, songs about building a nation accepting of everyone, and getting dressed up to go out on the town with the boys. More of this please.
  3. High Vis – No Sense, No Feeling, and Blending: My good friend Josef put me on to this band. Imagine a mixture of New Order style post punk and moshy hardcore. It’s fucking dope. For a long time, the No Sense No Feeling LP was hard to find in the States. When Xy and I were in England, I managed to track down two copies. One for Josef, one for me. When Josef and I lived in Olympia, his friendship saved my life on at least one occasion. No shit. One night when I was at the end of my rope, hyperventilating, feeling like I couldn’t go on, Josef was there. That’s one way to repay a friend, right? You saved my life, I stuffed an LP in my backpack, carried it across the Atlantic without it getting damaged, and mailed it to you. Even Steven.
  4. The Damned: Singles Collection Volume 1 & 2. I grabbed these on a whim in England. I don’t listen to The Damned as much as I did when I was a kid, but they were one of the first punk bands I ever heard. I will always love them for that. These LPs contain all The Damned’s singles from their early period, both punk and when they were going in a more Gothy/Post-Punk direction. All killer, no filler.
  5. Wolves in The Throne Room: Primordial Arcana. I connect with WITTR less than I used to, but this LP is still good. If you are somehow unfamiliar with this band and you like your Black Metal unambiguous politically, centered around nature and maybe a little less threatening than the genre’s progenitors, this LP is for you.
  6. The Bois: Rise Again. Anti-Racist Oi! from Singapore. I like The Bois’ previous output, but I love this LP. There’s nothing new or sophisticated about the music, but the lyrics and the vibe are so earnest, that I can’t help but love this. Songs about staying true to your roots, bashing the fash, and a better world.
  7. Syndrome 81 – Prisons Imaginaires: This LP comes in second place for my favorite record of the year. A blend of Oi, post punk, and dark punk. Many of us who grew up listening to the classic Street punk band Blitz, wondered at what might have been had the band not gone full New Wave with the follow up to their classic first LP Voice of a Generation with the synth heavy Second Empire Justice. Syndrome 81 may just answer that question.
  8. The Cure – Wish 30th Anniversary Edition: This is not a new record. It needs no introduction. The Cure is my all-time favorite band. While this LP may not be my favorite of their output, I love it all the same. I can remember with almost crystalline clarity the time and place where I first heard this album. Listening now, transports me back to a dirty teenage bedroom with blankets stuffed over the windows so I could sleep late after sneaking out to stay out all night skating. Before there was punk for me, there was The Cure. My entry point into the underground.
  9. Claymore – Crime Pays LP: Most ridiculous cover art of 2022, a skinhead on a moped with a sword and a bag of cash, riding over a landscape of cop skeletons. The music is hard as nails. The vocals took a while to grow on me, but once they did, this record was on my turntable for months.
  10. Converge – Blood Moon: Converge playing heavier sludgier material with a host of collaborators like Chelsea Wolfe – a venerable Goth institution at this point in her career. I love this LP. Maybe sometime I will see Converge tour on it, and it will be the first time I will have seen them without worrying about getting knocked unconscious by stage diving bros or seeing blood spilled all over the bathroom sinks when I go to piss.
  11. Slugger – EP: Hands down, my favorite record of the year. There is so much attitude, so much power packed in these six songs. The music is simple, driving. The vocals gruff and vicious. The lyrical content, spot on no lofty proclamations, no pretension just anti-racist Oi mixed with street politics, the way it should be. No mess. No fuss, just pure impact.
  12. Bishops Green – Dark Skies/Waiting. I grabbed both LPs either in late 2021 or early 2022. I don’t remember. I love them. Bishops Green seem to be moving into a slower, darker take on Street Punk, and I’m here for it. To me, both of these records ooze the sense of dread that so many of us felt in the earliest days of the pandemic.
  13. Violent Way – Bow to None LP: Knucklehead Skinhead Oi in the best sense. Heavy emphasis on the skinhead part. Seriously. These dudes are skinheads and won’t let you forget it for longer than a song. I like this LP just fine. I liked the debut EP better. There was a lot of hype around this record when it dropped. I mean, I bought the LP and the shirt, but still somehow felt underwhelmed in a way that I couldn’t put my finger on. Maybe it was the unnecessary Combat 84 cover.
  14. The Chisel – Retaliation LP: A classic. This LP dropped in late 2021, but I didn’t get my copy until 2022, and hardly stopped listening to it all year. The best blend of Oi and hardcore. The opening track, Unlawful Execution is up there with anti-cop punk classics like Dicks Hate The Police as far as I’m concerned.
  15. Castillo – Self-Titled – Melodic Punk/Oi from the city of angels.
  16. Mess – Intercity EP: Street punk in the vein of Blitz and other UK 82 classics from Mexico. This EP manages to pay homage to the classics while still sounding fresh and vibrant.
  17. Plizzken – Their Paradise is Full of Snakes LP: Street punk from Germany. Catchy, upbeat. Infectious.
  18. Liberty & Justice – Pressure: This was my favorite LP of 2021. I listened to it a lot, heartbroken and driving a rumbling U-Haul filled with my worldly possessions from Pittsburgh to Philly. This album played while I ran every toll. Meanwhile one of the best friends I’ve ever had drove ahead with my dying dog in his car, ensuring the most precious cargo made it safely to Philly. The opening riff of Halfway Home helped give me the strength to go on during the hardest summer of my life.
  19. Front Line Assembly – The Initial Command: This record is over 30 years old too. Front Line Assembly was my introduction to more hard wired, less accessible Industrial when I was 14 years old listening to The Industrial Revolution compilation in my bedroom. I still love this band, and grabbed this LP on a whim at Angry Young, and Poor. If you grew up listening to just one genre of underground music, you didn’t grow up a lonely weirdo in a small town, banding together with all the other lonely freaks. Sorry, while you maybe missed out on a particular brand of rural misery, you probably missed out on some good tunes, too.
  20. Lost Legion – Building Electricity: Oi mixed with darker Post-Punk influences. I love this EP and want to hear more from this band.
  21. The Partisans – Self Titled: I think this record is as old as I am. I have been listening to The Partisans since I was fifteen, yet somehow never owned a physical copy of this LP. Bouncy, full of youthful energy. It feels weird to listen to 17 Years of Hell at almost 42 years old. I listen anyway. I remember waiting eagerly for my 17th birthday so I could sing along with that song in earnest.


  1. Empire Down – Split.
  2. 2 Empire Down – Gallows of Winter. From the frozen northern reaches of the Midwest, Empire Down go hard. A mixture of Oi and Hardcore.
  3. The Templars – They Use Hate/5446 EP: The Templars need no introduction. Classic, Lo-Fi Oi! The Toots & The Maytals cover is a must hear.
  4. Violent Way ­– EP. Full of punch and attitude. Each song is more knuckle hungry than the last.
  5. Warrior Kids EP – Tough Oi
  6. Beton Arme/Violent Way Split: See above, but in French as well as English.
  7. Wired Up – Gets Rich on Rock N’ Roll EP: I love this EP. Bouncy and full of attitude while somehow still being both tough and fun.
  8. Totalitar – Heydays Revisited: For the charged up, shoestring headband crowd! Totalitar were classic D-Beat. I still have a ratty as shit Totalitar shirt that I’ve been wearing for 20 years.
  9. The Prowlers – Serial Pouesser EP: Fine. I’m gonan be honest. I don’t remember what this sounds like at the moment. The Prowlers play a tough, yet straightforward style of anti-racist Oi. Nothing original, but you’ll like it anyway.
  10. Sous Escort – Somehow can’t remember what this sounds like easier. I’ll listen to it and get back to you.
  11. Dusters – Siege Warfare B/W Kalishnakov. Tough as nails, Oi/Punk from Dirty Jersey. Can’t wait for another LP.
  12. Brigata Vendetta – EP: I grabbed this right as 2022 came to a close. Features ex members of Harrington Saints and have a similar sound.
  13. Tchernobyl/ Force Majure – Split: Two tracks each. Both in French, on band from Canada, the other from France.
  14. Collision – Immortels EP: See above.
  15. The Chisel – Deconstructive Surgery EP
  16. The Chisel – Enough Said EP
  17. Chisel – Come See Me EP: Come See Me is one of the hardest tracks about defending your friends from racist violence ever laid to wax.
  18. Squellete – Tentative Homicide – Low down and dirty as fuck Oi from the City of Lights. Lyrics in French, title track is about the time one of the members got their face slashed in fight and nearly died.
  19. Faction S – EP – See above, minus the attempted murder story.
  20. Mess/The Chisel Split EP: Both bands manage to sound so reminiscent of Blitz on this one without sounding derivative. Powerful, somehow hopeful.
  21. Beton Arme – Au Bord Du Gofre EP: Tough and dirty Oi from Montreal.

Old Favorites:

  1. Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities
  2. This Is Northern Soul. I listen to these records when I have to get up before it’s light out to go to work. If they don’t get you moving, you might not have a pulse.
  3. The Specials – Self Titled.
  4. The Specials – More Specials
  5. The Specials – Ghost Town – I love 2 Tone Ska. I’m going to put one of my oldest friends on the spot here, by telling you an embarrassing story of lost youth. When we were 14 years old, my best friend Forrest introduced me to the world of 2 Tone Ska, and later the dreaded third wave. Before any of us were old enough to drive, or when there weren’t any shows happening in our tiny corner of the world, we would gather in someone’s room and put on Specials or Selecter LP and skank and dance until we collapsed in a sweaty, smiling heap. Embarrassing, sure. But if you try to tell me you didn’t do something similar as a kid, I’m going to call you a liar.
  6. Selecter – Too Much Pressure: When my teenage friends and I had 2 Tone dance nights, a copy of this album and a live split with The Specials was my contribution to the pile of records and CDs. Upbeat ska. I grabbed a copy of this at a record store after work one day. I lost my copy of this album on CD some time in the ancient past.. I’m happy to have a copy of this on vinyl now.
  7. Symarip – Skinhead Moonstomp – A classic. I listened to this LP twice as I typed this out. It’s that good.
  8. Trojan Records – Rude Boy Rumble
  9. Trojan Records – Soul Reggae
  10. Trojan Records – Reggae

I listened to these compilations and other Trojan Comps in digital format during the darkest days of my heartbreak summer in Philadelphia. The sounds filled my room on the days that somehow felt like weeks when I just couldn’t stop crying. I would wake up in the morning, gingerly check on Hope sleeping next to me to make sure she was still breathing, and put one of these records on. Lucky for me, (kinda) these songs are so good that I can still listen to them without being transported back to that time and place.


  1. Moonstomp – Tim Wells – Aggro and Werewolves on the streets of London, 1979.
  2. Shine on Me – Tim Wells.
  3. Imperium – Ryszard Kapuściński
  4. Poverty Safari – Darren McGarvey
  5. The Aesthetic of Our Anger.
  6. In The Dream House – Carmen Maria Machado. A memoir of an abusive relationship told through the lens of a haunted house. This book destroyed me.
  7. Ragtime – E.L. Doctrow.
  8. The Original Rudeboy – Neville Staple.
  9. The Making of a Story – Alice LaPlante
  10. No Parasan – Edited by Shane Burley.
  11. A Crafty Cigarette – Tales of a Teenage Mod – Matteo Seddzari. This was my favorite book of the year. Well-dressed aggro and absurdity. Some of the stories in this book, like the brawl with rockers that spills out of the street, into a church yard and crashing into a wedding, dragging the attendees into the brawl, are so ridiculous, they must be based on the author’s experience.
  12. Broken Summers – Henry Rollins.
  13. Thriving with Adult ADHD – Boisserre – if you know me, you know how much I need this book. I haven’t finished it yet, no surprise there.
  14. The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron.
  15. High Desert – James Spooner – I sobbed at the end of this. Essential if you grew up punk in a small town in the 90s.
  16. The Way of the Vegan Meathead – Daniel Austin – Oh hey, I’m apparently vegan again. Thanks, middle age and high cholesterol. This time around, I’m going to get enough protein to keep up my strength training!
  17. Skinhead – Nick Knight
  18. Skins – Gavin Watson


  1. Hotwire – Nikki Allen – Beautiful and wrenching. Inspired me to keep writing when I felt like I couldn’t.
  2. Boots N’ Booze Volumes 1-3 – Autobiographical tales of an anti-racist traditional skinhead crew in Santa Cruz. Funny, ridiculous, musical, and so relatable if you spent your youth doing dumb shit and somehow made it to middle age.
  3. 1987 – James Reitano – Tales of the same skinhead crew mentioned above, albeit from a different perspective.
  4. No Fuss #1


  1. A mixtape from one of my best friends – I fell off on following Goth and Darkwave this year. Grier filled that void.
  2. Castillo – Promo – Melodic Oi from Los Angeles
  3. Battery March – Demo – The opening track, No Good Cops is classic! Melodic and catchy and ACAB all the way.
  4. Conservative Military Image – Summertime Skinhead
  5. Conservative Military Image – Demo – Everyone freaked out about this band, and I didn’t totally get it. The music is fine. The lyrics are ambiguously tongue in cheek, but they aren’t as fun or funny as Hard Skin.

Catharsis – 12/18/2022

When people die, you just want to hug your friends and tell them you love them. That’s why I drove across the state the other night to stand awkwardly in a crowded room to celebrate the life of a person I never knew, surrounded by strangers who were part of a scene I never felt at home in. When Xy told me one of their old friends was gone, they didn’t have to ask twice.

I suppose the opportunity to see Catharsis, a band that was once one of my favorite bands, didn’t hurt either. I got to the venue early, hugged Xy tight. Then it was like Brian D fucking materialized out of nowhere. He did the intense eye contact, hand on the shoulder, “It’s so good to see you” thing that he’s famous for.

I texted Maria.

“Brian D just did the move!”

She replied in seconds.

“You mean the hand on the shoulder greeting thing?!”

Yep. That was the one.

Natalia showed up. We said our hellos and Xy went to take pictures while Natalia and I settled into our comfortable chairs on the balcony with our drinks. Some just short of fancy cocktail for Natalia, and a can of overpriced, over-hyped “LIQUID DEATH” water for me. We watched the bands far above the roiling crowd, grateful to be out of the reach of the flailing arms of windmilling and spin kicking kids. The first few bands were a blur. Catharsis hit the stage, and the kids lost it. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those kids had even been born the last time I saw Catharsis play.

It was 22 years ago, almost 23 years ago. I did the math. I was still a teenager, and it was before 9/11. The show was in a St. Paul basement, just as the temperatures began to plummet in Minnesota. I knew Catharsis were on tour, but being new to the Twin Cities, I didn’t know where they were playing. Luckily, I listened to the weekly punk and hardcore radio show on the community radio station every week. Even luckier, I recorded most shows on cassette to listen to while I worked late nights delivering sandwiches to college kids. The DJ gave directions to the gig on air. I rewound the tape over and over, scribbling the directions in my journal.

Of course, I got lost for hours in the St. Paul suburbs. I was just about to give up and drive back home when I found the house. Parked down the street from the house, I could have cried with relief. I paid my $5 at the door and stomped down the stairs into a packed basement.  

I stood around in the back of the room for a few hours, watching hardcore bands play to windmilling jocks. I can’t remember who else played now. Buried Alive? Maybe. Disembodied and Brother’s Keeper? Also, maybe. This was, after all, during the heyday of early 2000s mosh metal. Catharsis was late. I would hear later they also got lost in the St. Paul suburbs. I had just given up and was walking back to my car when I saw a beat-up van pull up in front of the house. Unlike the crew of kids rocking sportswear in the basement, a mix of punks and hardcore kids spilled out of Catharsis’ van.

For all the anticipation and buildup, I remember little about the set a quarter century later. I danced with abandon with the crew of crusties who were on tour with Catharsis. Brian opened their set with a speech about how if we were living out our last free days, then this room must be our liberated space. I remember being into it, but also kinda thinking, “Chill, dude. You are last on the bill on a hardcore show with way too many bands in a suburban basement, not Vichy France.”

As the story went, Christian hardcore kids comprised most of the residents of the house. They found out too late about the anti-Christian sentiment that made up so much of Catharsis’ lyrical content. Rather than kick Catharsis off the bill, the Christian hardcore kids just boycotted the set by going upstairs to read their bibles when Catharsis played. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a good story. After the set, someone from the band helped me screen the Catharsis logo on my hoodie and I went home, electrified.

Not knowing that it would be 22 years and so many changes before I saw Catharsis again.

Natalia and I joked about how love him or hate him, or just think he’s kinda goofy, Brian D is still spry, diving into the crowd at almost 50 years old. Even from the balcony, I could see the annoyance written across the bouncer’s faces with every stage dive, having to hold the mic cord off the ground to keep it from getting pulled loose under so many stomping feet. Then they had to help Brian back over the barrier every time he went to climb back onstage. I couldn’t help but think it looked like a punk rock elevator service.

While time may have taken its toll on Brian’s voice, he gave it his all, regardless. The music sounded as sharp and desperate and ugly as it did a quarter of a century ago. The impassioned calls to action, the rousing pleas to come together and build a better world they haven’t changed or lost their urgency. If anything, they sound even more desperate now. It all still comes across as painfully sincere, as if Brian and the band are true believers rather than cynics and charlatans. There’s something to be admired there, I guess, considering how much darker a place the world has become since the heyday of 90’s hardcore.

I was 18 years old, stepping into something almost resembling adulthood, when I heard Catharsis for the first time. I grabbed a copy of the Samsara LP at Double Entendre records after reading a review of one of their shows in the much missed Slug & Lettucezine[1]. The music was ugly, beautiful. Listening to it, I felt the same way I felt hearing Black Flag or His Hero Is Gone for the first time. In the tradition of all the best hardcore punk records, the music not only held up a mirror to reflect the ugliness of the world but provided a dark reflection to some deep, wounded ugliness inside of me as a product of that world.

There was a time when Catharsis gave voice to so much of what I felt, all the ugliness and pain and frustration and oppression. All the grinding despair, the yearning to break free from drudgery and lockstep monotony. The songs were my soundtrack to treading water in a sea of despair (see what I did there?). The music was so ugly, yet beneath all the distortion and shredded vocal cords, it spoke of a secret indomitable will. A refusal to break or give up hope as waves of despair threatened to drag you to the abyss.

At 41 years old, I sat there watching the band, remembering, reflecting on my shifting perspectives on both idealism and nihilism. When Catharsis was my favorite band, I fought a daily battle with cynicism building like bile in the back of my throat. I was a true believer, man. I clung to a fervent belief in a better world for each of us like a drowning man clinging to a waterlogged life preserver with no hope for the shore. On the days when the sunrise stung like a cracking whip, when my rage and despair at that better world being out of reach, Catharsis gave voice to those feelings, too.

And then we all got older. The world has only gotten darker, making the desperate rush and rapture of youth spent in the belly of a burning machine (see what I did there, again?) seem like halcyon days in comparison. Brian said something between songs. How if we knew then what we know now, if we knew what kind of ecological catastrophe we would watch unfold in our lifetimes, if we knew we would bear witness to an ascendent fascist state, how much racist violence we would witness, we would have fought even harder to stop it.

Everyone I love spends too many of their days pondering the grim possibilities of state sanctioned atrocities large and small. We stand together on the golden shores of the world we love, watching a rising tidal wave of authoritarianism, waiting for the wave to hit. I want to believe that if we knew then, what we knew now, we would have fought harder. But I’m not sure if I do. I don’t know if we’re fighting now. We’re all so busy surviving. It’s like we’re watching a fist close in on our collective face in slow motion. We move to raise our hands to block the blow, but our arms just won’t move fast enough.

The songs hold up regardless. Maybe some of those kids dancing and screaming and slamming into each other in the pit will get inspired and do their part. If so, I hope the struggle is easier for them than it was for so many of us. I hope when they make it to middle age; the march of time will have trod more gently over them than it has so many of my friends. I hope those kids avoid the pitfalls of cynicism and disillusionment. Most of all, I hope they never stare down a sense of betrayal when they find out that so much the dominant culture they sought to escape pervades every inch of their refugee. I hope they never find out how the hard way that some of the so-called revolutionaries they surround themselves with can be just as cannibalistic and lethal as anyone in the world outside.

Maybe I sound jaded, but I know what I know. I was a true believer once. I’m not now. There’s no denying it. Innocence, once lost can never be regained again.

After a dedication to the Atlanta Forest Defenders, Catharsis ended their set with Arsonist’s Prayer, a song I heard for the first time right after its release. I got the record in the mail a few weeks after September 11th, 2001. If you aren’t old enough to remember punk and hardcore and anti-capitalist struggles before that time, let me tell you; shit changed overnight. So many of us went from feeling like we were standing on the precipice of building a better world. World leaders and captains of industry couldn’t so much as gather in expensive hotels and boardrooms to plot to carve up every inch of the world and devour every resource without thousands of people showing up to oppose them. The Battle of Seattle[2], Quebec City[3], meetings of the IMF and World Bank [4]and the G-8 Summit [5] transformed from recent victories and a rising momentum against the merciless consumption of global capitalism to the dusty and fading war stories of yesterday’s youth overnight. We were now watching the crushing maws of a police state slam shut on all our communities. The eyes of the state were everywhere, and they were watching.

The day the record arrived in the mail, I sat on the dirty floor of a Denver punk house and put the record on the turntable. I dropped the needle on the wax. A few seconds of crackling and pops in the speakers, and the music hit. I listened, reading along with the lyrics. Before I knew it, hot stinging tears welled up in my eyes. With an almost supernatural accuracy, Arsonist’s Prayer reflected the violent birth of the age we were entering.

It was almost as if Catharsis had predicted the future, even though the band recorded the song months before the events of September 11th. It was all there in the music, in the words. Those feelings of cloying dread that none of us could shake. The sleepless nights, getting up from bed, peering out the windows to see if the cops were circling the house again. Walking home from the bus stop alone, wondering who might be following you. On the streets, holding the line, waiting for the cops to charge. All around the city, everyone felt it, a growing awareness of the all-seeing, panoptic eyes of the police state. Beneath it all, there was the abandon, the grim determination to do what it took to throw even the smallest wrench into the gears of the capitalist machine running the world into ruin.

And then we got older. The world kept changing. We found joy where we could, toiling beneath the gathering clouds of all the wars laid down before we were born. Worry wore lines into our faces like furrows. For so many of us, disillusion set in; comfortable, soft, fitting like a second skin.  

While the songs haven’t changed, I have. The world is burning down. Yet, I’m comfortable with myself in a way I never could be at 20 even as the flames grow. There is nothing else to do. I have long grown tired of the tendency in dogmatic leftist and anarchist circles to focus on some rigid right way of participating in liberatory struggles rather than doing the right thing. So, I said goodbye to all that and learned to live with my discontent. I’m thankful for an often reckless and perhaps misspent youth that led me to this point. While I have little optimism that any of us will see the brighter days we once fought for, I’m content, even as ashes rain from the sky. I’m content with winning my own tiny wars. Growing and changing, loving my friends as hard as I can, helping kids learn to express themselves through the written word.

I do more good in the classroom than I ever did being a foot soldier, proselytizing for a revolution that I no longer have any faith will ever arrive.

I do what it takes, as we all do, the best we can.

And I love my Friends.

It’s enough.

For Natalia and Xy.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slug_and_Lettuce_(fanzine)

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_Seattle_WTO_protests

[3] https://crimethinc.com/2021/04/19/the-revolutionary-anti-capitalist-offensive-anarchists-confront-the-summit-of-the-americas-april-2001

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_A16,_2000

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27th_G8_summit

Outside the venue.

Twenty Years of VENGEANCE.

My favorite hardcore punk record of all time is 20 years old. I got my grubby little hands on this LP 20 years ago this month. I picked up my copy when Tragedy played Denver on tour for this LP. It would have been November 30th or December 1st, 2002. I don’t remember the exact date, but more on that gig in a minute.

When this LP came out, the hype surrounding it was inescapable. A testament to its power, considering this LP came out in the days before social media ruled our lives, making hearing new records no more difficult than making a sandwich or brewing a cup of tea.

In any punk house in any city, an annoying fanboy might talk your ear off about how this record was the perfect blend of Crust Punk and D-Beat and melodic Death Metal. They might even argue Tragedy was our generation’s DISCHARGE, albeit with superior musicianship, more impassioned, less contrived lyrics, and without the humiliating foray into hair metal.

I know this because I was one of those fanboys! I would still argue that Tragedy adding an element of melody to hardcore and crust punk changed the genre. They spawned countless bands who either imitated the style or took it and made it their own. Fall of Efrafa and Ekkaia come to mind, but I am sure I am forgetting other important bands.

I have connected with Tragedy’s output less over the last two decades, but I still love each record. However, none of them define entire eras of my life like this LP. I think some music just hits you in that pivotal moment. You’re in the right time, the right place for a sound to settle into skin you can never quite feel comfortable in. The music hits, and it gives voice to all the pain and frustration weighing you down on a day-to-day basis.

My clearest memories of watching Tragedy play on tour for this LP are how they did not waste a moment onstage. All killer, no filler. Not a single misplaced beat or misplayed note. They were a machine, honed to perfection. The room exploded when they hit their first note. At one point, an unruly slamdancer smashed into the band, since the gig was at a warehouse and there was no stage. The guitar player, without missing a note, grabbed the dancer by the throat, pushed him back into the crowd, and then continued playing. I got my own taste of aggro that night when a wasted local crust punk, aptly named “Mikeaholic” ran recklessly through the crowd, clothes-lining random dancers. Without thinking my actions through, I grabbed Mike and punched him, dragging him through the crowd and to the back of the warehouse. I threw him down and kicked him in the stomach and left him there to dive back into the swirling morass of dancing punks. Lucky for me, Mike passed out, or just decided not to escalate the situation. I never knew.

Do yourself a favor and revisit this LP today. It holds up. If you’re not familiar with it, get acquainted! I wish I could say that the seething rage directed at corporations and governments bloated by human greed and malice running our world run into ruin contained in this LP is not as relevant now as it was when the songs were written, but that is sadly not the case.

And hey… If you know Mikeaholic, tell him sorry for that sucker punch, but I paid my five bucks for that gig too. I had as much of a right to enjoy it as he did. And at least it wasn’t as bad as the time as Melissa beat both him AND his friend’s ass outside Bar Bar a few years later.