by Ethan Clark
I recently had the rather odd experience of sitting down with a German grad student named Lasse who is getting the equivalent of his master's degree in, as best I could understand it, American pop culture. He said that the other students in his class were all writing their theses on things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer as new model for feminism and things like that. Lasse was writing on, of all things, American zine culture and was focussing specifically on New Orleans zine culture. He'd read my zines, and Stories Care Forgot, the anthology of New Orleans zines that I put together just after the storm. It was crazy meeting someone so well versed in, well, my life. As we talked,
one of the things that came up was the role of punk rock bands in New Orleans and how, compared to other American cities of the same size, there have never been that many straight up punk rock bands. Now, I know people are going to freak out about me saying this, and please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there aren't any punk bands. There's a hand full of hardcore bands, and there's punky rock n' roll bands like Die Rotzz and Kajun SS (are they still a band?), but there really just aren't that many. Hell, I spent the last couple of years living in Asheville, NC, which probably had four times as many punk bands as here, and a third (or a fifth, maybe, if you ask Nagin) the population of New Orleans. I've always chalked this up to the fact that in New Orleans the mainstream culture is such a weird, scrappy, DIY culture that people who come here tend to get wrapped up in what's already going on--brass music, hip-hop, funk, second lines, etc.--and shed any three-chord models of rebellion that they might've cultivated in former homes. A good example of this is Mr. Walt Mcleland. You might know Walt as the gravelly voiced frontman and accordionist for Why are We Building Such a Big Ship?, who are at the moment the quintessential punk tinged, brass-heavy weirdo band to watch out for. I recently was told by my old Asheville roommate, however, that when they were in high school together in Durham, he and alt were in another band, a thrash band called Massive Bong Hits. Who would've thunk it?So, all that said, one nice thing about New Orleans is that is, as my friend Abram says, "Close enough to America" that lots of good punk bands are always dipping down to see us while beating the endless tour path. There are tons of good bands existing in one big old incestuous jam session in the area loosely described as "The Region", the chunk of the country that sprawls from Gainesville, Florida, all the way up to Bloomington Indiana. Over the years the region has produced tons of scrappy, somewhat poppy, fun-loving punk bands--Queer Wulf, Add/Dc, The Overnight Lows (from my hometown of Jackson, MS, woot woot), One Reason, Fiya, Puppy Vs. Dyslexia and Ye Olde Butt**** to name (and almost name) a few. And one of the longest-running of these is Pensacola's This Bike is a Pipe Bomb. More famous for their name, perhaps, than their music (and for the fact that one of their stickers on a bike once spooked the bomb squad into shutting down part of Ohio State University), the band has been playing clubs, cafes, bookstores, DIY spaces and living rooms (including at least two at house I've lived in) for over ten years. And what does ye olde Pipe Bomb's music sound like? Kind of like a plugged in and electrified folk-punk jamboree with really excited gang-vocals and occasionally (if bass-player Terry has a broken arm again), xylophone. I don't know if they admit it, but fellow Floridians Against Me! were obviously pretty enamored with Pipe Bomb back in the day-o. They will be bridging the punk rock generation gap this Sunday at One Eyed Jack's when they play with a reunited version of seventies reggae-punk outfit the Slits. Also on board are (even more Floridians) Future Virgins and Japanese metal punk maniacs Peelander-Z.Shows like this are what keep NOLA punks satiated without a guitar-toting punk rock army of our own.