JUNE 2012 UPDATE — Be Sure to read David Ensminger’s Top Twenty All-Girl Punk Bands list, found in the June 23rd edition of Popmatters.
Toledo punk rock girlie arrives in Tucson!! -Robin H.
After a very long arduous journey including a break down in Abilene, TX, I arrived in Tucson. It was the summer of 1988, the main factor of relocation was to attend the University. I was extremely young and 2000+ miles away from my family. The adventures were truly about to begin. Within days of my arrival I began to see flyers around town that peaked my interest. I remember walking down 4th avenue and being wide eyed at the number of punks that were hanging out on the streets. It seemed exponential to our small scene back in Toledo. I think it might have been during a wandering through WREX records on 6th, that I heard about a group of kids that were putting shows together. My blood raced with excitement and I found my way to the next meeting of the Tucson Action Core (T.A.C). I wanted to be part of it immediately! Anita was the official or maybe unofficial organizer of T.A.C, and she pretty much made sure that everyone was in line and that things happened as they should. Anita didn’t put up with shit. I admired her for that!
My life as a university student had barely begun, but I was already spending less time on campus and more time going to shows, preparing for shows, and listening to music. Tucson was generating prolific amounts of music in the late 80s. Perhaps it was because it was still pretty small and isolated, so people took it upon themselves to make things happen. Perhaps it was the heat of the desert that breathed personality, stamina, and creativity into the musicians. Perhaps we were angry at the way the world was headed. Whatever it was the music generated was fucking intense, astonishing, and certainly noteworthy.
I think it was sometime within those first couple of months that I met Paul Young, of Blood Spasm. Paul was many years older than the rest of us and a lot of us looked up to him. He was the guy that turned us on to new bands and hoped to, in many ways, open our young fresh minds. I remember one time when Paul got a new Bad Brains tape (or maybe it was a record—but it was definitely NOT a CD), he came running in — hair blowing wild in the hot desert wind and he was like you must all listen to this NOW! “It will fuckin’ blow you away… you will not believe how fast these guys are”. He put on the tape and the Bad Brains delivered all that Paul had promised. I recently heard that Paul sadly has passed on, he is a legend and will always be remembered.
It was hard to focus on school because there were so much music happening. Venues were plentiful bands played at Mudbugs, warehouses- like Magnum Sound Warehouse and Dodajk, the University, lots of house parties and even in the middle of the dusty desert. The shows were cheap like sometimes only a buck or two, which meant even if you were totally poor you could still go. Minimum wage was an anemic $3.35—so even if you had a job you were most likely still very poor. Arizona was and is a right to work state. Right to work for nothing we always said. Luckily, some smart sod put the Plasma center near the University so it was relatively easy to earn some extra cash. I think we got about 20 bucks for our beautiful healthy young plasma. I hated the big hole in the arm, but hell it was a pretty easy way to earn some cash and catch up on the homework that I didn’t seem to have much time for. Food baskets and government cheese were also a handy supplement that helped keep the body going.
There seemed to be no shortage of talented youth. Civil Order, Cosmic Jackhammer, the Blink Dogs, Opinion Zero, FUCT, What Went Wrong– just the tip of the iceberg. Of course the list must also contain Malignus Youth—at the time these guys seemed like kids to us (I was 18-19), but they stand out in my mind because they were insanely energetic and powerful! Those crazy kids from Sierra Vista could definitely hold there own next to the older and more experienced bands.
Sometime in 1989, I moved into a duplex on 6th and Lee which turned out to be quite an interesting experience or should I say experiment. As we were unloading our stuff the African American man that lived on the other side of duplex came over and asked if we were moving in. We said yes, and he responded, “Just want you to know that in the hood we take care of each other”. I hadn’t realized we were moving to the hood, I guess the bars on the window should have been a clue!
It turned out to be a great place to live, considering the events that would occur at the house. No one in the neighborhood seemed to care about what we were doing, it didn’t matter how many people lived there, and our endless rather loud parties didn’t seem to bother anyone. Officially it was myself and the incredibly charismatic, gorgeous, and sometimes secretive Justin Cox of Civil Order that lived there. On any given night guys from other bands such as the Blink Dogs became indispensable inhabitants,along with many other kids that stayed for a night, a couple of days, or sometimes a few months. Justin and I used to joke that we were running some kind of shelter. Anyone that needed a place to stay was welcome. Generally people that couldn’t pay helped out with cooking, cleaning, or other important jobs like keeping us entertained. The later position was often held by Doug also of Civil Order. I remember asking Doug if he knew a certain song he said “no”. I went in to take a shower and by the time I came back out he played the song perfectly on the guitar. No shortage of talent there.
[ During the writing of this piece, I made the unfortunate discovery that Justin has passed on. What can I say except it is yet another absolute tragedy. Rest in peace, dear Justin, you are loved by many.]
Being the only girl of the house had its privileges, like I had my own bathroom and a bunch of brothers that ALWAYS looked out of me. I didn’t really seek out female friendships. Looking back I remember only a handful of girls hanging out at the shows, but there could have been a lot more. Like I said, it wasn’t something I really thought about. I guess I just thought of myself as “one of the guys,” a theme that I would carry with me for least another decade.
I survived those years on top ramen (10 for $1) at Fry’s, peas (if I had so me extra funds), and Black Label which was purchased at the Asian market down the street for $2.99 a 12 pack. If we had a little extra cash we treated ourselves to an exceptional Sunday breakfast of eggs, cheese, potatoes and extremely low quality beer. But not until the the sun was up over the gate arm, of course. In times of prosperity a true breakfast treat was going to Mike’s Place, where the food was cheap and the roaches were not shy.
Amazingly I had managed to stay in school for my first year of college. Although I was realizing that I had no idea what I would do with a college degree. Must have been around this same time that I started working as a stagehand. A job where I could be around music all the time, now this made sense. I started spending more time in the Theatre, more time at shows, and less and less time in class or studying. Upon reflection, I don’t think I ever made any friends at the U of A. I just couldn’t relate to the life that my classmates were working towards. The people that I came into contact with there were not from my world. Many, many of them were rich, pearly white, and driven to make money or meet a man that would make the money for them!
Speaking of men, the story wouldn’t be complete without including a very interesting relationship with a incomparable man. One night I was at a show and I kept hearing people talk about a crazy guy named Hubba. Apparently he was hanging naked from some ropes inside Dodajk, people invited me in for a look—but I being the good Midwesterner decided I would abstain. I think it was Crash Worship that was creating the writhing sweaty mass of bodies inside the show that night.
I don’t actually remember the events leading up to the relationship. But no doubt the music was the impetus that thrust our lives together. Hubba had an amazing RECORD collection, I remember going to his tiny one room house and listening to music for hours or maybe it was days. Before long indeed an unique bond and relationship was created. I was taking a Russian class at the time and had to choose a Russian name– I chose Alla. My coworkers along with Hubba decided Alla was a more suitable name for me. The transformation began….. before long I would be moving out of the 6th and Lee house and Hubba and I would take up residence together.
Hubba was the vocalist for the astonishing and often startling band Headcheese. The band was truly something to experience. Hubba went above and beyond when it came to putting on a show. Full costumes, which were often totally removed, fake blood and lots of props (often including large penises) were sure to not let the audience down. One of the most memorable shows was at a club downtown with white walls and sculpture that made you feel like you were in a cave (Ruins—I think). White walls and Headcheese would surely be a bad mix. Let’s just say the walls were splattered with ample fake blood by the time that the show was over. I still wonder if the club had to be repainted! Recently I came across the band on you tube with the label “Ancient Tucson Punk Rock” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgkGdUu7QBg. I got a big laugh out of that until it was pointed out to me that if I was at that show, which I probably was… then I too must be Ancient. And so with that I bring this rambling to a close and will forever proudly wear the label “Ancient Punk Rock girl”.