Michael John Dunaway Lifestream

October 6, 2008

Eighties Atlanta Punk Lives Again (for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 2:52 am
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Unabridged version of an article I wrote for Paste…see the published version here.

Eighties Atlanta Punk Lives Again at the Masquerade Saturday Night
By Michael Dunaway

Full disclosure — I am not the city’s leading expert in the ways of punk. I had discovered punk as early as seventh grade (about the time the Eighties began), first through new wave bands like Blondie and Devo, then later through a local Macon band called Vex. From that point my friends and I, high schoolers now, moved on to shows by local Atlanta and Athens bands, and then to records by more established national bands — Black Flag, Social Distortion, The Ramones, Dead Kennedys. But punk was then, and remains now, only a tile in my mosaic of musical experience — though I’ve since discovered the joys of the Sex Pistols, Husker Du, and The Stooges, I’ve discovered many other genres as well, and in my iTunes you’ll find Social Distortion nestled comfortably between Snow Patrol and Sonny Rollins.

Still, I have the greatest of memories of coming up to Atlanta to play with the big punk boys. The Metroplex and 688 were, for my friends and me, the ports of entry to a half-mythical land much edgier and cooler than anything we could find in Macon. In Macon, even the local punk shows had their share of jocks and preps in the audience; it was more of a cool “Look Ma, I’m rebelling” scene than the truly revolutionary world we saw in films like Suburbia and Decline of Western Civilization. But the Atlanta punk scene was the real deal – true punk music and true punk attitude, complete with all the piercings, Mohawks, dyed hair, slam-dancing, and stage stunts that really did seem exciting and dangerous back in the early eighties.

Saturday night’s Atlanta Eighties Punk Reunion at the Masquerade brought it all back. It didn’t look quite like I remember the Metroplex circa 1983 – there were a lot more Dockers walking around, and I’m sure there were more credit card tabs at the bar than in the entire history of Metroplex and 688 combined. But I saw even that as encouraging, actually – even the kids that grew up to be bankers and lawyers still have a passion for the music. That’s a good thing. And the evening didn’t play out, anyway, as a re-creation of that great scene from the Eighties – how could it? It was more of a tribute to that time. And it worked.

The music? Well, the music held up surprisingly well. The bands, most notably the legendary Swimming Pool Q’s, still have much of the fire and energy that punk had up until the mid-Eighties or so, which is more than I can say about most of the punk music being made today. In fact, counter-intuitively, sometimes a little age can actually make a punk band more energetic and authentic. Try telling Henry Rollins or Mike Ness or Iggy that they don’t rock anymore. Perhaps the biggest difference between those singers and the “punk” singers of today is the muscularity of the music. Those three sound like grown men up on the boards funneling true rage, not whiny teens moaning about Daddy not paying them enough attention. The Masquerade reunion was a fantastic turn-back-the-calendar, and not only as a walk down Memory Lane to a formative time in all our musical development, but also as a reminder of why the music was awe-inspiring in the first place.

I should add, too, that in case you missed the gathering you shouldn’t despair. I would be shocked if Masquerade doesn’t repeat this event, because the place was absolutely packed. So keep an eye on this space for a heads-up the next time it happens.

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