“Drink deep, it’s just a taste, and it might not come this way again. I believe in moments, transparent moment, moments in grace when you’ve got to stake your faith.” Guy Picciotto singing “Drink Deep” by Rites of Spring
To me, Punk Rock is about being educated. Perhaps not on the surface to some, but when you dig in, challenging the status quo is about claiming difference and when you embrace the difference you’ve become, you have to think it through at some point. The music, the people, the protests were all initiations for examining life, for critical reflection, for asking difficult questions. Searching that ultimately lead me into the classroom.
Scott Cheshire, author of the forthcoming novel High as the Horses’ Bridles, recently shared with me a story about seeing Mike Watt perform once: “This was 1997, at The Point, for the Engine Room record (which is still a mind blow of a record), and before the show started he had Coltrane’s Sun Ship playing over the PA and I asked myself, ‘What is this? This is crazier and more punk rock than anything I’ve ever heard.’ Then the show starts and it’s amazing and I’m there with my brother and friends, and I actually remember telling myself that I was so happy to be in a room full of people, and some who I loved, and when it was over, Watt told the whole audience (as he often does): Go home and read as many books as you can, and listen to as many records as you can, and then start a band, or make a painting, or write a book.”
To me this is what Punk Rock is all about. Not just the bands, but about lighting a fire in the mind and a stirring in the soul, creating the conditions that spark creativity, authenticity, and expression. After many trials and journeys, I ended up in the classroom, to do just this, inspire and educate.
The beginning for me was here: Friday nights in Richmond, VA in the early 90s skating in the 7-11 parking lot, getting coffee at the Village, heading down Grace Street to see what was going on at the Avail house, or taking in a show at the Metro or Twisters. Many of us were idealistic, fired up, and passionate. Richmond is a college town, home of Virginia Commonwealth University, a confluence of ideas and people.
For me, that was a period of change, growth, and becoming. I was embraced by a community of caring passionate folks that instilled in me a sense of curiosity, compassion, and depth of feeling towards the world at large. From the kitchens of Blue Point Seafood, to the streets of the Fan, the campus of VCU and Shockoe Bottom, I learned to be open to new ideas, to be real, and to share what I know.
I believe this scene, this time of punk rock and Richmond hardcore, created the conditions that ultimately led me to becoming a teacher. I didn’t take the straight path; I wasn’t even sure then if I would go to college. All I knew at that point in my life was that I wanted to be in a band.
Fortunately, I met four other guys who shared a passion for music and knowledge. They taught me about Fugazi, Rites of Spring, Public Enemy, Parliament/Funkadelic, and so many other wonderful groups. Essentially the music we listened to and created (our band was called First 5 Thru) was a study in authentic creative self expression and the role of justice in our culture and society. Big ideas!
The blogs that I will write will explore this story, of how becoming a teacher was ultimately the most punk rock thing I could do. I hope to share not just my story, but the stories of those in the trenches with me, folks I have met along the way, and what I see as the challenges and possibilities of education in our country. I hope you all will keep reading and chime in. Lastly, but of much importance, I would like to dedicate this blog to the memory of India Mara Stanley, who will be my guide and mentor as I write.
Here are links (following flow of blog):
Folks Interested in the band Rites of Spring or Fugazi should check out Dischord Records http://www.dischord.com/
“Salad Days: The DC Punk Revolution” Documentary
Similarly, here in Atlanta, we have a record label which I am proudly associated with that has documented the underground rock and punk rock scene in Atlanta.
Scott Chesire, Author http://scottcheshire.tumblr.com/
Interestingly – the paragraph about Richmond is captured musically in a song by my current band the expats
The song is called Back In ’86 and can be heard here
The Richmond VA Punk Scene 70-90s Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/groups/43601051895/
My first band First 5 Thru has recordings on Soundcloud: