High atop my summer reading list is "My First Time — A Collection of First Punk Show Stories."Edited by Chris Duncan, the book is essentially a clutch of essays from journalists, musicians and other punk faces in a crowd about their initial forays into the sometimes violent, but usually fun as hell, counter-culture world of punk rock. Included among the writers are Jawbreaker alum Blake Schwarzenbach, the Queers' Joe Queer (see our story on the Queers in the April 27 issue of Goldmine) and Big Takeover editor Jack Rabid (if you don't already, get a subscription to this magazine. Outside of Goldmine, of course, it's one of the best out there)
The book is due out this summer and a review is in the works.
Having read through half of it, the book got me thinking about popping my own punk cherry, as it were. Now, most everybody started out seeing some unknown band in a basement or a dirty, fetid club. For me, my first time was seeing the Clash at a hockey rink.
It wasn't just any hockey rink. It was the home of the NHL's Minnesota North Stars, who, sadly, transferred to Texas, a place that shouldn't even have hockey of any sort. Anyway, this was my second concert ... I think (I might have seen Rush first), and it was a pretty big deal for me. It wasn't that often that I got the family car to go the Twin Cities, and, being from a small, unincorporated town in western Wisconsin, this was a show that both excited and scared the hell out of me at the same time.
Up till then, I had never had any dealings with punks of any kind. There just weren't any in my school. Or so I thought. This girl I went with to the show was kind of a closet punk, like me. My friend, Dave, also went along. He was not a punk; he just dug the Clash.
So, we drove to the big city to see the mighty Clash. Now, this wasn't the real Clash. Yeah, Joe Strummer was still in the band, and so was Paul Simonon, but Mick Jones had been fired and replaced by Vince White and Nick Sheppard. This dubious move was supposed to return the Clash to its punk roots and while it did that, it also resulted in the worst album of the band's career, Cut The Crap. Strummer and company were touring to support it. Soon, Strummer and Simonon would bury the Clash, one album too late as it turned out.
But I didn't care, and the people I went with didn't care. This was the Clash, and it was going to be amazing. Live, they were still a fantastic band, tight as hell and furious. But for me, the crowd was the more interesting show. Mohawks, safety pins, leather jackets, colorful hair — it was eye-opening for a teen from the sticks. And I was terrified by the them. I could have sworn I saw two slam-dancers pull switchblades on each other, and because the show was in a hockey rink, there was no seating. The crowd was left to its own devices on the floor, and they were pretty violent. We found ourselves in the middle of it, being jostled about by something called a mosh pit.
I left feeling thrilled by the experience but also petrified at what I would find in the parking lot. I thought for sure I was going to come out to the car my dad had lent me and find it smashed up and sitting on cinder blocks. It was a station wagon, and when we left the building, we did see a station wagon on fire in the parking lot — no joke. But, it wasn't mine.
I saw punk shows after that, but none, except for a Social Distortion show that broke out in a skinhead riot, compared to that one.
Let me know: What was your first punk concert like? Or, if you prefer, let me know what your first concert experience was. I'd love to share more memories with you.