Thirty years ago this summer, I was a lost, scared 15-year-old living with my parents and younger sister in a home that crackled with tense electricity in a suburb south of Boston. That same summer something else was exploding in Boston. It was the birth of the hardcore scene. The loud, aggressive music offered me an outlet for all the pent-up aggression I felt. The “scene” became the accepting family I never had, the music and thrash-dancing the outlet I needed to keep myself from turning all that aggression inward and killing myself. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it saved my life.
If you look close, in the clip of a young Dave Smalley, of DYS fame, being interviewed by the television host I am sitting on the panel on the end, with the short, brown hair, white tee-shirt and leopard-print pants.
What I remember most about that time in my life was how lost and scared and out of place in the world I felt back then. The hardcore scene made me feel just a little less so.
The show was “Yesterday with Ted O’Brien” or “Tomorrow” or some shit like that (Katie tells me it was “Midday.”) The show was about punk rockers and why we dressed the way we did (Katie tells me now). I have no idea how ended up on the show, who the other panelists were, or what I was interviewed about.
What I remember was this:
I was on probation for running away, under the CHINS (Children In Need of Services) law in Massachusetts, which had nothing to do with being punk rock and everything to do with what was going on in my house. My parents refused to go on the show with me – which is what the producers wanted. But my folks would have died or killed me first before allowing me go on television and “shame” them like that. I went on anyway. I felt the need to be heard.
I suggested to the producers that I could bring my probation officer, a fleshy, forty-something dude who I rather liked despite the fact that he smoked too much and did nothing whatsoever to help me or consider what I might be running from. But the show wasn’t about juvenile delinquents – (the sum total of my crimes: running away from my violent household) – so I went on alone, and said what, I have no idea.
The other thing I remember most about that time in my life was how badly I wanted something to belong to. The hardcore scene gave me that.
The punk rock and hardcore scenes in Boston, D.C. and N.Y.C. changed me. They gave me a place to go, when I couldn’t bear to be at home. I was never afraid in them, and the friends I made became more like family to me than anyone I have ever been related to. That time in my life was important to me. It remains important to me still. And it appears it was important to a lot of other people as well. And now some of them are making a movie of it.
On Aug. 29, 2010, some of those bands from the early hardcore years in Boston will reunite and play a reunion gig at the Wonderland Ballroom (now called Club Lido) in Revere. The event will be filmed for an upcoming movie about the scene. I bought my plane ticket yesterday. On Saturday, Aug. 28, I’ll be flying to what will essentially be my 30-year punk rock reunion.
The Boston Hardcore scene helped me define myself in a time when no other definition fit. It shaped my beliefs in a way that carries over to this day, and its impact on me continues to this day.
I guess that’s why I’ve dedicated the past several years of my life to writing a manuscript chronicling that time in my life.
But like my life, it’s not finished yet, some things remain unresolved, but maybe this summer, it’s time to put a bow on it and call it good.
In the picture above, a young Ian McKaye, then of Minor Threat, leaps in the air during a gig. That’s Lyle Preslar on guitar, and I’m pretty sure that’s me in the white T-shirt, arms crossed, just to the right of Ian’s knee. Probably sometime in 1982.