Sunday, January 27, 2013

Punk rock saved my life

Yeah, I'm into punk rock. It has literally saved my life more times than I wish to remember, or admit. Here we go anyhow.

Let's go back to around 2000 when I was still in college. Those were better times when it came to the economy. I was working on my associate's degree and while I was going to community college, I met a girl who introduced me to ska. Prior to that, the music I normally listened to was David Gray, Dave Matthews, etc. Nothing wrong with them but I wanted more. I've always been a rebel, someone who though that whatever the current situation, we could always do better.

I went and listened to The Pietasters, Fighting Gravity and some other local bands where I got a little taste of that scene, but I still wanted more. One night, we went to a Mighty Mighty Bosstones show at Trax in Charlottesville, VA. We stood in line for about an hour in the sleet but we finally got in. The first couple of bands were unimpressive but we were there for The Bosstones. After the second band exited the stage, a short redheaded man came out on the stage with a guitar. He was followed out by a woman with a violin, a guy with a mandolin, and a guy with an accordion. With the first few notes, I was confused. In fact, we were all very confused. "Here's to you, a song for my Daddy-o, as I lay him down to sleep...". I started to stifle a yawn, and then all hell broke loose.

You see, this was my first encounter with Flogging Molly. As I was shoved head-long into the pit, the notes of Celtic angst and punk rock rage grabbed my soul. It was love from there until today. Finally, this was something I could call home.

Since then, I've gone to see them play around the country. Seattle, Portland, Tampa, Atlanta, Jacksonville, DC, Orlando, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and other cities...I've been there. I've lost me a wife and flew all the way to California, and ended up where tomorrow comes a day too soon. Through it all, punk rock has been there when everyone else has walked away. I've spit blood through a split lip on the floor of an Agnostic Front set and steel-toe booted Neo Nazis out of a local show. I've drunkenly played a tin whistle in the trunk of car in Seattle, been mistaken for rock stars at various gigs and smoked the best pot with real musicians. It's been a run, what a fine run indeed.

I was pretty much run out of my church and community in my teens. I was considered a freak and a rebel by the church, an outsider by the community I grew up in, and even by my own family. Punk rock has literally saved my life. When you're hundreds of miles from home with no money and a blown head gasket on your 20 year old car, you want to give up. When you're working two jobs and still can't make the rent, you want to cry and break down. When you've been unemployed for 6 months and the debt collectors are harassing you, some people want to swallow a bullet and be done with it. When you're down to 5 bucks to your name and jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge seems to be solution like it was for me, punk rock was the voice of reason.

Through working multiple jobs to get through college with no help from my family, punk rock was there. At 3 AM, when the club was closing and I was dragging trash cans to the dumpster amongst frat boys puking their guts out, punk rock was there. When I had nothing else but the shirt on my back and the Doc Marten's on my feet while riding a bus to an destination unknown, punk rock was there.

Everyone's got a sad story, everyone's got something to say...but that's my story and I'm still here today.


  1. For me it started in 1983. It was just after I turned a very precocious 12 years old and I was at my best friend's house. He put one of his older brothers' cassettes in the boombox and pressed play. He played that tape just for the titillation of the "dirty words" in the introductory piece, but for me it was a revelation. The second I heard "Why are you such a stupid asshole? Would you really like to know?" I knew my brand new, confusing cynicism wasn't alone in the world.

    Thanks to punk rock my cliched teen angst had comforting camaraderie and an outlet even before it was fully formed, and because of that I was fortunate in a way that most of my rural neighbors never were.

  2. This is great. You write with heart, soul, and precision.

  3. L hit the nail on the head. You write from the heart, and not from the heart, but more than the heart this piece especially has a rather cathartic feel to it.
    Like saving the past, putting words to feelings and times, which is really never easy.
    Very good article, inspiring story.
    Glad you made it through, and glad you put it to words.