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16 November, 2014

How I Lost My Hearing

That's me in the striped shirt, appropriated from grand-dad 30 years before McLemore made it cool to do that.

So yeah, I was a punk. Back in the early to mid-1980s. Then the migraines got too intense, or I fell in with some deadheads, or I got married to a non-punk, or I just didn't have the time and money to goto punk shows anymore.

Today, I went to the Olympia Film Festival to see "Salad Days," a documentary about the punk scene in DC, the harDCore scene of which I was a brief and inconspicuous part (1982-1985, more or less). The movie, which is apparently one of several returning to what are now days of yore, covered a lot of ground, but didn't seem to tell much of a story.

And neither did my experience. I was never in a band, and I ended up being a government archaeologist.

But I also got a sense of what it meant to be free, to just go do what you were interested in. I was not interested in releasing a record, but in the years since I've gone ahead and written academic papers, facilitated outlaw land actions, carved wood, written innumerable unedited essays, and preserved landscapes because I felt like it, and would not accept experts telling me I couldn't.

Being a punk made me deaf to the many "NO's" kids and young adults will hear, and I'm thankful for that.

Being a punk also made me deaf to sounds. Mom may not have been right about the value of joining the church youth group (dominated by drunkards and stoners at a time when I was straight edge), but she sure as hell had a point about loud music ruining my hearing. There's a video to prove it.

Look here, and you'll see me at age 18, right in front of the stage at a White Cross concert in Richmond, VA. White Cross was the local headliner punk band at the time, and were reknowned for being extremely fucking LOUD. The last band was already loud? No problem, just crank it up higher. Even if they'd never used a distortion pedal, their sound turned eardrums into tattered curtains whipped by hurricanes.

You can hear it in the video, which turns out to be better quality than some of the stuff in Salad Days. It sounds so rough because it was, because it was so loud that the microphone sould not cope. From about 2:35-3:40, you'll see me in front of the stage, shirtless and sweaty, singing along, commencing in a close-up of my mesomorphic self that makes me shudder to realize how much I looked like an actual--rather than mockingly ironic as intended--skinhead. By 7:50-8:24, I was on stage, crouched and resting, carrying on a conversation while the band raged a few feet away. At 9:00, and especially 9:33-9:37, you see me in front of the PA system, my left (now almost totally deaf) ear a few inches away from a 15 inch woofer.

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