2012 Year in Review!

First, I would like to thank the readers that viewed this page 22,000 times throughout this busy last year. I hope each of you finds the research, interviews, conjectures, neo-philosophy, ethnography, and other materials both engaging and useful. The past six months have been very eventful and fulfilling, so here is an overview that provides (I hope) meaningful glimpses into the center’s approaches, outreach, and programs.

First, the center has sponsored an ongoing video channel on youtube that includes a program titled Start the Art, a digital art space without walls that I curate on a regular basis. Ten volumes of material have been uploaded. Two have already been posted on this site. To access the others, including the vintage punk photography of Ben DeSoto and myself covering a range of bands — Really Red, Sister Double Happiness, Big Boys, Anarchitex, Doomsday Massacre, Mydolls, and the Hates — plus other areas of interest, like punk flyers, modern art, and photography, simply click on this link. This should take you to the content page.

In the meantime, here is a sample:

I now play drums full-time for The Hates, a classic Houston punk ranging back to 1978. During December, we headed into the studio to re-cut several iconic songs by the band, including gems like “No Talk in the Eighties,” “City of Ice,” “Bored with the Boys,” and many more.  We have also gigged continuously throughout the year, enjoying sites like the Jamail Skate Park, Rudyards Pub, Walters, and more in Houston as well as The Factory and Standpipe Coffee House in Lufkin, TX, where the band enjoys a loyal, fervent following (see my photos of the scene in Maximum Rocknroll‘s photo blog). I designed this poster for the skate park, where I had the pleasure of meeting the drummer of Spunk, a well-admired 1990s Houston hardcore band. I still drum and sing for No Love Less as well, who featured limber jazz-punk Bob Weber (of Really Red on fame) on drums, until his recent departure to South Korea for work initiatives. Briefly, I also served as temporary replacement drummer for Mydolls and Anarchitex too.


In November, I organized a “Island reunion party” at Walters. From 1978-1983, The Island featured a bevy of iconic 1970s-1980’s first wave Houston punk bands, so the reunion included sets by edgy, long-dormant (and often mixed-sex)  bands such as Bevatron, Degenerates, The Ruse, The Broadcasters, Doomsday Massacre (with a guest appearance by half of Legionaire’s Disease and Nikki Sicki of Verbal Abuse, who also played a record release party at Vinyl Edge Records the night before!) as well as The Hates, Mydolls, and Anarchitex.

Bevatron in action at The Island reunion party

Bevatron in action at The Island reunion party

The event, attended by 250 people, was a watershed — highly spirited, even sublime, mutually supportive, and electrifying, proving that vintage punk remains potent and poetic, restless and regenerative. Famed local photographer Ben DeSoto is producing and editing a documentary film about the former club’s legacy, which should reach completion sometime in 2013. I hope this flyer, the third version I created for the one-of-a-kind event, captures some of the aesthetic and vibe:


The Hates also played a reunion for The Axiom, an equally important club in the fabric of local Houston history, in late November, organized by longtime Visual Vitriol supporter JR Delgado (Party Owls, Doomsday Massacre).  See this shot below, snapped by my wife Julie Ensminger.

The Hates, Fitzgeralds, Houston, TX

The Hates, Fitzgeralds, Houston, TX

Last year also remained a  year of field work summary and presentation. I attended the American Folklore Society’s annual conference on October 24-27 at the historic Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I presented a paper (the abstract has been filed in this blog’s archive) on the inter-connectivity of punk and Deaf communities, titled Abandoning the City of the Ear: Punk and Deaf Convergences, which was heard by an appreciative roomful. I decided to publish that material in the popular press, rather than an academic journal, so a wider audience could enjoy the history, theory, and arguments. Visit Popmatters here, where you can read the first portion, and be sure to scroll down and see my other topics for last year’s Folk Nation column, including my examination of The Beats, Vic Bondi of Articles of Faith, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Henry James, and more literary, music, film, and other pop culture luminaries.

In other publication-related news, I edited a book on the transgenerational culture of Black Flag tattoos, titled Barred for Life, written by longtime scenester and photographer Dean Ebersole. Visit his project website here and look for it to be arriving in stores within the next few months from PM Press.


PM Press will also be releasing my own anthology of punk history culled from Left of the Dial (my own zine that ran from 2000-2005), subtitled Conversations with Punk Icons. It features a “who’s who” list — pioneers from bands like Dead Kennedys, the Dicks, Minor Threat, Beefeater, Black Flag, The Nerves, and many more. Although it was initially due to arrive in Dec. it has been delayed and will likely be available in April, 2013, but you can pre-order at PM Press and Amazon.


Also, interviews with me concerning my book Visual Vitriol (Univ of Mississippi Press, 2011) appeared in two major outlets this Fall as well, each by the noted punk writer Alex Ogg. First, Alex was keen enough to stop by my exhibition of punk flyers, co-curated by Paul Cooper, at Rough Trade East in London in Aug. 2011, where he was impressed by the selection. That material, donated to Ogg, now appears in the fine art book, The Art of Punk, an incredible hands-on collection of punk visual history. I am also indebted to Ogg for featuring a one-page interview with me in the volume, plus using my own archives throughout the book, including one of my favorite items, an old Flipside video cassette cover, and many 45 records as well. Be sure to at least check out Amazon’s featured page on the book here.


Next Ogg also interviewed me for the second volume of the new but esteemed academic journal Punk and Post-Punk, a really tremendous achievement in the often staid, bureaucratic, and dry world of academia. The interview runs for twenty pages and most importantly includes a wide array of punk flyer art as well, each chosen to reflect certain topics of interest, like horror punk tropes and visionary/outsider folk art tendencies. Please visit the publisher’s website to view information about purchasing the journal and contributing to it as well. I just finished reading a vivid, well-articulated, and savvy article on steampunk in volume one and highly recommend the whole body of work that the journal pursues. Thanks again to Alex for being so utterly supportive and exhaustive in his own research as well. Visit his author’s page on Amazon here.

Also, my co-written (with historian Tim O’brien) biography of Lightnin’ Hopkins will also be arriving in April 2013 (perhaps as early as March) , thanks to the Univ. of Texas Press. Tim passed away due to cancer in Spring 2011, we miss and love him much, and this book is a testament to his concerns with the history of the blues, social justice, and Southern culture. See our book page here.

Lastly, I did curate two Visual Vitriol punk flyer shows this Fall as well, including a focus on international gig posters at Lee College in Baytown, TX during Nov. Peter Case, seminal punk figure and folk troubadour, played in front of the flyers during a student session attended by 55, prior to a set of gigs we played together as E. Rex in Lufkin and San Antonio, where Peter spoke on local radio and blazed at The Mix later that night. I documented him visiting Hog Wild Records, one of the last great indie records shops alive and well in America, below. See our co-written book Epistolary Rex here.


Lastly, I curated a specialized look at the gig flyers of The Island in Houston, TX at Vinyl Edge Records on 19th St. in Houston, TX, which has remained on the walls since November as well. You can see the flyers posted on the wall of the record store in this show below, which I snapped during the Doomsday Massacre record release party.


On the last day of 2012, the Houston Press ran my review of the Youth Brigade and Adolescents gig in Houston the previous night, a real buzzing, voracious, and stunning performance by each band. To see the full text and photos I snapped, click here.

I look forward to more frequent updates in the next year, and I apologize for all the details crammed into this one undertaking — a real reflection on a mere six months — and I do thank you for visiting the blog, focusing on punk issues, and supporting the center’s endeavors. To contact me, please simply email: leftofthedialmag@hotmail.com

Be well, stay stronger … David Ensminger


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