To mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Texas hero Randy “Biscuit” Turner — the infamous punk-funker from the Big Boys (who stole the soul and placed it smack in the middle of hardcore punk), heavy rockers with an avant-garde edge Cargo Cult, and the whacked eccentricities of Swine King, not to mention his last feisty bouts with Texas Biscuit Bombs/Slurpees — David Ensminger will be presenting a huge portion of his works on paper in Houston, Sept. 3rd at Rudyards (free concert!), to inaugurate the holiday weekend, Sept 11th in San Antonio at Nightrocker, and Oct. 9th at Hole in the Wall in Austin. The shows will also feature a record release party for the Texas Biscuit Bombs, whose record with Biscuit (studio and live tracks) was released in May in Lyon, France. Some of the concerts will also highlight old Biscuit cohorts, including members of the Mydolls, Hates, Hickoids, and Really Red, who will appear on stage together, along with a smattering of fine Texas rockers like Zipperneck, Born Liars, and Kimonos. We hope you can join us for the live action, the museum-of-the-streets art, and memory sharing about the sly saboteur of colorful chaos — Biscuit!
In many ways, Touch and Go represents the uber-fanzine of an era in which punk’s zero hour “salad days,” when being incendiary, outré, and unconventional mattered most, melted into brooding, boiling angst and buzzed boy clone hardcore. In this scene, ferocity and fierceness were often more mired in alleged wounds than wit. By the mid-1980s, the scene indulged in self-referential sprees, like an endless circus of barking and biting against what is, or isn’t, overly new wavey, wimpy, poppy, punk, or hardcore. If music lacked a backbone forged in magma and proper virulence, it was doomed to the dust bin, often by people barely old enough to drink alcohol. Touch and Go mostly set a different tone, bridged styles, and sorted through the clutter, all the time finding a way to ignite the wary, disparate, and dispossessed that walked the nervous miles in-between big cities.
This compendium is a raw, earthy gem that follows the lead of Search and Destroy and Sniffin Glue by reproducing the entire set en masse, like a bible of Midwest (later venturing to Washington DC) self-made media that makes today’s Internet world seem feeble and malnourished. Anchored by the invectives and insight of Meatmen puppet master Tesco Vee and his partner in crime Dave Stimson, the reader can ride along the Xerox highway as the mag mutates from a small-time lover of Brit punk and blatant Michigan localism into a crucible of emerging international hardcore, when the mag became a true epicenter, forging links between regions, bands, and fans. To that end, welcome the horde: Minor Threat, Negative Approach, Misfits, Black Flag and many others. Yet, many purists may be surprised by their ska coverage, the positive coverage meted out to the Feelies, U2, and even Big Country, and equally shocked by the savage review penned about the early Big Boys and Dicks. This proves the magazine wasn’t unified or autocratic. It didn’t embody a one-way, cocooned, spout the ‘party-line’ and ‘group-think’ voice of the times. It was a truly grassroots, DIY, democratic venture; in doing so, the irreverent writers sometimes wrestle with each other’s perspectives, fetishes, and tastebuds. Another other important aspect is the magazine’s much-needed spotlight on bands that have sunk beneath the radar of contemporary punk history, like Sado-nation (Portland) and the overlooked Hates (“No Talk in the Eighties” from 1979) from Houston, whose label artwork and music reviews are captured here aplenty, which surprises Christian Arnheiter, the singer who has stoked the band for thirty years.
In addition, several keen introductions, interviews, and anecdotes are supplied by the likes of Henry Rollins, Corey Rusk (Necros, Touch and Go Records), Steve Miller (the singer of the Fix), who also edited the volume, and Ian MacKaye, whose interview with Tesco Vee provides reference points for a culture that rose up from the post-hippie scrap heap to forge a truly inter-connected community of misfits, enraged youth, adult miscreants, and budding art provocateurs. The aesthetic is all ragtag– cut and paste, stolen and hijacked art, fuzzy typing that has been touched up and cleaned, and handwritten hilarity that reminds us that punk meant stirring up culture from below, creating rippling networks, storing and amassing history in the making, and finding an authentic voice that ran counter to, alongside, and hopefully subverted corporate America’s deluge. More bonus features include an array of spot-on punk flyers torn from the times of the zine, which alone makes it worthy of this blog.
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In early June, after the events in France, Visual Vitriol/Left of the Dial curator David Ensminger and his wife headed to Germany, where local musician and graduate student Franny Frantic, singer and guitarist for the band Venusshells, was able to secure sites for a poster exhibition at the local, and infamous, punk bar Chemiefabrik, a graffiti’d bastion of rock’n’roll in Dresden. During the clang and clatter of the night, Ensminger and Frantic spun LPs, wallpapered the walls with hundreds of posters (with help from eager staff), and debuted Ensminger’s folklore documentary film, “Chronicles from the Zero Hour,” which examines the narratives of popular musicians, such as members of Dag Nasty, the Epoxies, and Strike Anywhere, recount their first encounters with punk culture. In addition, Ensminger was able to project over 100 digital slides of punk art as well, in a revolving carousel fashion. The room was full, conversation was lively, and the tunes carried both the weight of history and the urgency of the genre. At the end of the evening, Ensminger donated all copies of the flyers to the club owner, Andi, who generously supported the event. Likely, the flyers will be used in future club remodeling.
Next, invited by Prof. Dr. Brigitte Georgi-Findlay, Ensminger lectured on diversity in punk, with a special emphasis on women, people of color, and gays and lesbians, at TUD, a well-regarded international technical university Frantic attended on the outskirts of the city, where 50 students, professors, and members of the public engaged each other for an hour and a half. Local tattoo artists mingled with American Studies academics, visiting workers from Portland, Oregon discussed their concerns about local right-wing tendencies, and young teachers-to-be expressed their enthusiasm about integrating pop culture into classroom discussions. The event was warm-hearted, informative, and insightful, which offset the ongoing rain and heavy winds.
Lastly, Ensminger was invited to set-up a casual display of punk art and more digital presentations by Eleni at the art academy that rests alongside the River Elbe in classic gray downtown Dresden, where tourists flock and art students from Asia took up temporary residency in the gallery facing the river. Focusing on the work of Raymond Pettibon, including both his commercial art (45s, DVDs, booklets) and DIY punk flyers, along with the extensive work of Randy “Biscuit” Turner of the Big Boys, Ensminger demonstrated the ongoing motifs that have held firm within the flyer community for thirty years, such as raw and rough, expressionistic, b/w styles, or in the case of Pettibon, the combination of literary and lurid illustration, and with Biscuit, homegrown, homespun American surrealism (http://randybiscuitart.wordpress.com). The event was attended by local professors, visiting workshop leaders from Hannover, a few locals, and students as well. Relaxed and conversational, the event was low key but rich in spirit and rewarding as well.
This was the second visit that Visual Vitriol has made to Germany. In 2004, Ensminger hitched a ride with the band Retisonic throughout Western Europe, which included stops in Berlin, Hannover, Hamburg, and Passau. Currently, future exhibitions include Houston and San Antonio in Sept. 2010, and Austin in Oct. 2011. Stay tuned for details.