How Punk Rock Solved My Problem With Mortality

Life feels shorter than ever; so I’m going to fill it with the noises I love.

Article by Sarah Williams.

N.B.: I’d intended for this to be a happy article about how and why I enjoy live music so much, but it’s turned out a bit on the dark side. Oops. Trigger warning: Depression, suicide, bereavement.

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I’ve been going to a lot of gigs lately. In the last month alone, I figured out I’ve travelled over 3,500 miles just to see bands. As I’ve started booking in festivals later in the year, more people are asking me why I’m doing it.

Typically it is a question I get from the ‘normal’ people I work with or my long-suffering family, however lately it’s a question I’ve received from people in the scene, usually accompanied by an incredulous look because I’ve just turned up in yet another city.

I’ve got an answer for you, but it might not be the one you’re expecting.

Why do I go to so many gigs? I go because I know I’m going to die. I’ve become hyper aware of my own mortality.

I can feel the time slipping through my fingers, and enjoying the music I love is my way of remedying and recognising that. Every show I go to, whether that’s a sweaty Propagandhi pit, a crusty post-hardcore melee or a gentle acoustic folk gig, I will have a massive grin plastered to my face. I’m enjoying the noise, the adventure and spending time in the punk community, because I feel like it could end at any second.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been berated with the following: “You’re going to burn out;” “You should drink less;” “You need to concentrate more on work;” “You shouldn’t waste your money on that;” “You need to calm down.”

They’re all right, of course, I probably ‘should’ do all of those things. I’m fucking tired. I’ve got tinnitus. I get stressed trying to keep track of all the gig-dates on my mental calendar. I struggle to motivate myself to do my day job because it’s so different to my ‘other life’. I’ve given myself alcohol poisoning more times than I can count. I’m running solely on caffeine and enthusiasm. Getting out of bed to be at the airport at 5am when I’ve still got the flu from last weekend’s festival is a hellish struggle.

It is worth it, because I am happy. Right now, I am happier than I have ever been. And I have been for a long time now. I haven’t felt the tug of depression and the cold sweat of anxiety has washed straight off me. I’ll say it again: I am really fucking happy. Continue reading “How Punk Rock Solved My Problem With Mortality”

The Road to Pouzza Fest

Read Joelle’s insightful journal about her trip to Montreal’s Pouzza Fest – a both heartwarming and heartbreaking account of travelling thousands of miles for the love of punk rock.

Article by Joelle Laes.

Monday – May 14th

5AM

I wake up as if I’ve just been given the biggest fright of the century. Turns out it’s only my alarm.

I feel confused. Anxious. Almost in a state of panic. I need to rush and get to the airport.

After spending the weekend at El Topo Goes Loco and being home for two hours to pack before heading off to another gig to catch The Affect Heuristic again on Sunday, I had a slight panic when my Airbnb host failed to reply in a timely manner (according to my standards). I had a bit of a meltdown once back home and turned to the only people I know to keep me sane no matter what: the Punk Rock Women’s group. Lots of love and reassurance later, I finally managed to fall asleep. This morning: still no reply. No time to call him, as I run for the train.

7.30 AM

“You could be stuck an office with a guy wearing a tie telling you what to do. You are living the fucking dream,” Richie Cooper (Eat Dirt.) comments on my obligatory Facebook airport-check in.

Am I? Living the dream? I can’t tell as I’m stood queueing at Brussels Airport, stressed out to fuck. I haven’t had a proper sleep in weeks (too many festivals and work); I still feel a bit fragile after the boozy blinding madness that was El Topo Goes Loco.

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Shout Louder vs. The Affect Heuristic antics at El Topo Goes Loco

I could use a cuddle to be fair. Or a straight jacket. That might feel like I’m being hugged too? I don’t know. I feel like I might cry.

I am tired, stressed out and alone. Why do I do this to myself? The pity party continues on and I contemplate sitting in a bathroom stall to have a cry. Could I still be hungover from the weekend? Or is this another case of post-trip-depression?

Whilst I make my way through border control, my phone buzzes. It’s my Airbnb host. He confirms the booking and tells me where to find the keys. The tight feeling in my chest loosens a little bit. At least I won’t be sleeping outside in a fort made of pizza boxes. I can breathe a little again.

Moments later I get a PM off a good friend: “Lovely to see you this weekend, don’t have too much fun in Canada x” I sense a stupid grin appearing on my face. I feel my muscles relax as I think of where I’m headed and why I’m heading there.

I’m about to embark on an adventure some can only dream of, about to spend money I don’t have on things that most adults consider irresponsible. Sometimes I think, should I be spending this much money on punk rock? Is It worth all the stress and anxiety?

Does my Mom worry? Absolutely. After all, if you are somewhere on your own, the only person you can rely on is yourself. But it is worth every ounce of stress it gives me. Like me, my Mom’s come to accept that this is the only way I can make myself happy.

Never have I forged more genuine bonds with people as when I’m singing along to bands, surrounded by people who love them just as much as me. It doesn’t matter if we don’t live around the corner from each other, there is a connection there that some people will never understand. Looking into other people’s eyes, seeing that moment of pure joy when they hear their favourite song. Watching bands pour their heart out on stage; these moments mean everything to me. In these moments I am truly happy. Continue reading “The Road to Pouzza Fest”

Punk Rock Weddings: Kaz & Big Hands [Part 2 of 3]

Part 2: Kaz & Big Hands celebrate with two massive gigs and plenty of help from their friends.

Feature by Sarah Williams. Photos by Bev/Hold My Pint Photography.

Welcome to Part Two of our Punk Rock Weddings Weekender!

Earlier this year, Kaz and Big Hands hosted two of the biggest punk rock marriage celebrations I’ve ever heard of. Not only did they have a four-band line-up on their big day, they also managed to squeeze in an impressive ‘Hag Do’ gig at Gullivers in Manchester.

Chris Hinsley, better known as Big Hands, does data analysis by day but is the drummer in Revenge of the Psychotronic Man by night. Karen Hinsley (née Warburton, better known as Kaz) loves her job as an Animal Nursing Assistant, where (if her Facebook feed is anything to go by) she gets to care for incredibly cute puppies and kittens for a living. Together, Kaz and Big Hands are an integral part of the TNS Records family, spending their spare time packing merch and helping with new releases, as well as going to gigs and generally getting involved. They have also taken on the admirable task of running all the merch for Manchester Punk Festival.

I wanted to find out whether their experience of DIY gigs influenced their marriage choices, how two noisy punk gigs translate to a successful wedding, and whether Kaz managed to crowd-surf in a wedding dress.

Kaz and Big Hands Wedding 1

How did you both meet?

  • Big Hands: We kinda met years ago but didn’t really talk to each other – I was dressed as the Alan Partridge zombie along with Revenge. Bizarrely Andy from Revenge (and best man at the wedding) used to teach Kaz at college.
  • Kaz: I’ve known some of the guys from Faintest Idea for over 10 years now and I used to go down to Norfolk quite a lot for weekend trips. One of those times was for a Halloween gig that Revenge were playing. I was actually just getting into the punk scene at the time so I hadn’t actually heard Revenge before… and I hadn’t watched Partridge so I totally didn’t get their costume choice! I didn’t really say much to Chris at all that weekend but I remember we were at the same house party that night for a few hours.
  • Big Hands: We first properly spoke to each other at Strummer Camp 2011 as we both knew Faintest Idea, so we blame Dani for that one.
  • Kaz: We went out for a drink a week or so after that and I haven’t been able to shake him since!
  • Big Hands: It was six years the day before the wedding. I proposed on our anniversary, and we decided to get married the same weekend two years later, so with my shocking memory I only have to remember one date!

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Before we get onto the wedding in detail, tell me all about the hen / stag do.

  • Big Hands: We both have the same friends (male and female), so we decided to have a joint one: hence our ‘hag do’. It meant that A) we could all party together and B) it was really hard to choose bands to play the wedding, so it gave us a chance to put some others on. We ended up with Pizzatramp, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Casual Nausea, Rising Strike and The Lab Rats. We also managed to convince Sense of Urgency to reform for it, which was amazing. We roped in Col and Laura of MBBP fame to run it for us, so we have them to thank for that one.
  • Kaz: The hag do was also on the day of my 30th so it was a joint celebration. Col and Laura did a great job and it was such a cracking gig!
  • Big Hands: Also, to finish it off, we managed one last night in Retro Bar before that got closed down.
  • Kaz: Yeah, originally we we only going to do the hag do and not your typical hen and stag do’s, but my wonderful maid of honour, Kim, had other ideas. She planned a surprise get away to Ibiza for me and some of my close girl mates. Big Hands also had a weekend in Berlin. She called it a ‘not hen do’ and we didn’t have any of the typical hen party tat. We just went away for a long weekend and had a good time together. Also, my 63 year old mum came and got her first tattoo, in Ibiza… on her bum!

Continue reading “Punk Rock Weddings: Kaz & Big Hands [Part 2 of 3]”

Punk Rock Weddings: Will & Felicia [Part 1 of 3]

Part 1 of our Wedding Special: Felicia tells us what it’s like to perform at your own wedding and how a DIY approach can make a difference.

Feature by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Lisa Robjant.

Marriage is something that has never, ever appealed to me. In my view, weddings are an expensive social construct and the idea of religious nuptials is antiquated and reductive. You have to wear uncomfortable clothes, wait to pose for awkward photos and narrowly avoid drunkenly embarrassing yourself in front of someone’s new in-laws. The only upside is the occasional utterance of the magic words: open bar.

Or so I thought. In the last year I’ve heard of some brilliant wedding celebrations that have made me jealous, to say the least. Seeing some of my punk friends tie the knot is enough to make me re-evaluate the whole institution of marriage. Maybe it isn’t a complete farce after all?

I suppose organising a wedding is a lot like booking a gig: you’ve still got bands, beers and a heap of drunk mates to consider. Far from the notoriously shite cover bands and mobile discos that infest traditional weddings, we spoke to three very different couples who introduced their love of punk into their special days in an inspiring way.

Over these three articles, you’ll hear what it’s like to play a gig at your own reception, to have your first dance to Wonk Unit live, and to say “I do” just before watching Bad Religion headline.

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Photo by Smiles Photography.

First up are Will Spicer and Felicia Dahmen. Spicer’s known for having previously played in Luvdump, although he’s recently joined a new band, Cheap Heat. Felicia plays violin with Danny & The Moonlighters and the pair are on their way to forming their own hardcore band with some mates in Bury St Edmunds. Spicer’s a born and bred East Anglian, but Felicia’s all the way from Melbourne, Australia.

What made their wedding different was their DIY approach, and the fact that Felicia’s own band played at the reception. Spicer even had to leave his own wedding for half an hour to go and seek out an amplifier. I spoke to Felicia to find out a bit more. Continue reading “Punk Rock Weddings: Will & Felicia [Part 1 of 3]”

Feature: The Lost Art of The Mix CD

In the world of Spotify and MP3s, the humble mix CD has taken a backstep. Take my advice and don’t forget them: they can be a gift, an education or a window into your own past.

There are few ways to reach my heart or mind like a mix CD. They can be the ultimate romantic gesture, a thoughtful gift for a friend, or way to share new bands you’ve discovered. A mix CD can also be a time-capsule, reminding you of your former-self; what better way to wrap up your memories?

Like many people in their late 20s/early 30s, I grew up with a very romanticised view of mixtapes and mix CDs. I am too young for mixtapes, really. My parents had a stereo with a tape deck in the kitchen, and I remember my Dad showing me how to record songs off the radio but CDs were already in vogue. The concept of the A and B sides and the meticulous effort that went into their recording wasn’t lost on me, though.

For me, what cemented the idea of the mixtape as the ultimate thoughtful gesture was High Fidelity. The opening scene of the film features protagonist Rob Gordon – flawed romantic and record-store owner – explaining the rules for compiling songs:

This stuck with me, and I abided by those arbitrary rules when making mixes throughout my teenage years.

Growing up, I made mix CDs for my friends. I wanted them to love music as much as I did, and to share all the exciting new bands I kept stumbling upon. I was over the moon when a friend would return the favour. My friend Jessie has the most beautiful handwriting, her words used to melt delicately across the CD covers. I still cherish a CD that a school pal, Jennie, made for me: without even looking, I remember the autumn leaves on the cover. Sleater Kinney was the first track. I listened to that on repeat for weeks because I was so chuffed that someone had gone to that amount of effort for me.

Nowadays I still exchange mix CDs with friends, but it’s a more practical affair. My friend Mark loves music but enjoys different genres to me, so we exchanged our favourite songs as an introduction. I’m listening to it right now; it’s different but I love it.

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I’ve made mix CDs for most of my past romantic conquests.  Just after we got together, an ex made me a mix that featured I’m The One by Descendents – a move which won my affections for years to come. I used to listen to that mix over and over again; it was like being wrapped in a giant warm blanket. Continue reading “Feature: The Lost Art of The Mix CD”