Snub 4: Trop fort pour le système
Thin, pale, and twenty two, my slightly flared jeans longer than my
worn down Earth shoes, I helped my friend Scotty struggle into 364 St.
Paul street with my Fender Bandmaster atop his Pevey bass stack. Our first
show in front of people. The first time we’d ventured out of Scotty’s older
brother’s woodworking shop. Ventured away from the little game we’d found
in imported British magazines and 7 inch singles with picture sleeves.
Scotty had dramatically stenciled “1978″ onto one of his father’s ties.
Somehow just stating the year like that had subversive flavour. Our
drummer leader, Tracey, had a more complete look that actually cost money.
Doc Martins, Ramones style BLJ (Black Leather Jacket) splatter decorated
with tastefully small band badges. He was older than us. Though the number
was never really defined, Scotty had alluded to something near the figure
thirty, a distant abstraction that we couldn’t really grasp. I don’t know
if it was my own comparative youth, the fact I still lived at home, or some
sort of inbred conservatism, but the best I could come up with on the
fashion front was a hand painted “Normals” our band’s name in red across a
blue t shirt. Tracey seemed relieved if not excited by it, and encouraged
me to wear my new accessory on stage. At least it would force me to lose my
plaid seventies work shirt.
The room was an empty store front rented by a mild mannered
studenty type who looked more sloppy than punk. But even this, at the time,
meant something. Anything that wasn’t overtly granola was vaguely exciting.
We played after the Punkatariat Poets. I was surprised at the aggression of
the audience towards this spoken word stuff. It was totally new to me and
I was willing to just watch it, even if I didn’t like it. But the people
that had crowded in to the place were suddenly ignited into a screaming and
spitting frenzy. It came so out of nowhere, it seemed scripted. “Fuck you,”
they shouted good naturedly. Someone threw a beer. It then dawned on me
what these kids were doing. They were acting out what they’d heard punk
was, what the TV reports were. As soon as they left this place they’d be
back to what they were (something similar to what I was), but here they
could be those nasty, swearing, spitting, bottle throwing kids shown in
clips on the news. It was something like a very contained sports riot,
except from what I could tell, they weren’t at that point even drunk. It
was a sober riot.
Just before it was our turn to go on, I was so nervous I had to run
to the filthy can to divulge myself of butterflies. Somehow, though, I
thought we’d fare better. Didn’t we have the punk rock these kids were
craving? We’d be the first anybody’d seen of it in Montreal at least
homegrown. I hit the first chords of “Security Measures” and I think I
broke two strings. We did the song anyway, cause that’s what you had to do
(so we’d heard). Then, when our sad little noise ended, Scotty asked some
guy in one of the other bands a real rock band called Danger to lend us his
“Nobody plays my axe,” he said.
That was the first time I’d heard that expression, and although I
understood what it was, as I stood there looking out at the small, greasy
crowd that was shouting obscenities at me, I pictured this sharp weapon in
my hands. The random obscenities turned into a chant: “Go back to the
garage!” We continued bravely with a couple more of our “originals”,
sounding more original than ever with my remaining strings out of tune, and
Scotty opting for a steady throb on the E string instead of following the
tune. We looked at each other on the little stage, our eyes like saucers,
opened up from fear and bewilderment good targets for flying glass. Tracey,
meanwhile, seemed pissed off the appropriate reaction his greater maturity
coming through. Finally he threw down his sticks and the show was over.
Leaving the stage meant walking straight into the crowd from under the
gel free lights to join our tormentors. The crowd kind of opened up for us
for a moment, then swallowed us up, and just as quickly, ignored us.
One kid did come up to me, telling me we were great. “I was
screaming fuck off right at the top of my lungs.” He had T.E.V. stenciled
onto a heavy leather coat (his father’s, as I would later find out). “The
Electric Vomit,” he said. I smiled and shook my head as if this were good
news, but inside I felt as if I’d just unwillingly joined some criminal
sect. As if I’d given the wrong impression and now had bound myself to a
life that would include rolling around in broken glass, and peeing in
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