Dear Davey

by Colleen McCarthy


My computer speakers are pumping out the sounds of loud angry music: heavy pop punk, post hardcore, metal. I tend to measure time in concerts; or rather, between concerts. The last show was four months ago, the next is two weeks out. Concerts are a beacon of hope, it’s a way to connect to the scene, to reach out and have someone reach back.

My room is a visual representation of the clutter within my head. There are books strewn about, DVDs outside of their cases, perching precariously off the shelf, a bag of trash hangs from the knob on the dresser. Three hampers sit looming against the wall, overflowing with the laundry I’ve been avoiding for the past three weeks, and the closet is brimming with bags and boxes of junk that I’ve neglected to sort. My nightstand has a glass of water sitting in a puddle of its own condensation, and the drawer is pulled open exposing old iPods and cameras that haven’t worked since high school. I’m sitting in my bed cross-legged staring down a bottle of Lorazepam 1MG tablets, prescribed to me for my severe anxiety attacks.

Music is the only constant in my life. Davey Muise’s voice floats out of the speakers, surrounding me. The song is Lead Balloon, by his old band, Vanna who has recently been laid to rest. The last time I saw Vanna was in New Jersey, I’d driven up from New Hampshire with a friend. We stood in the small venue with concrete floors and a tiny wooden stage with chipped black paint, barely large enough for the bands to move. The speakers were stacked high and with every stroke of the guitar, every beat of the kick drum, you could feel the music pulsing through you.

We stood at the back of the crowd, this wasn’t exactly my friend’s scene. She’d joined only so I wouldn’t have to go alone. I could see the kids who made up the crowd, people clinging to the walls, people with their knees pressed up against the stage their heads bobbing, people flailing around like whirligigs made of flannel and denim and leather. As we watched the crowd moshing and singing, my friend leaned over and shouted over the music to me, “I get it now, these are your people.” I nodded and smiled, because they were my people.

With each song Vanna played I tried to step closer, without bringing my friend too close to the moshers. I’m not much of a crowd participator, but I bobbed my head along to the beat. When Davey sang Lead Balloon he made his way into the crowd and the whirligig of flannel and denim and leather became a bouquet as they all huddled together, and I fought tears while I stood at the back of the crowd.

I’ve learned that when you want to die, you spend a lot of time alone. My room is closing in on me, getting smaller and smaller with each day that goes by. Music is the reason that, even though I’m having a staring contest with a bottle of pills, I know I’m going to make it through the night. Because I know that there’s another concert two weeks out, where I’ll walk into the venue, into the pit, and have all of these powerful people standing with me, people who feel just like me.

Partnering with Punk

by Shawna-Lee Perrin


I heard The Sex Pistols for the first time in 1986, when I was 15, 10 years after “Never Mind the Bollocks” came out. I’d seen pictures of punks in Rolling Stone, so I knew what punk looked like: colorful or elegantly void of color, ragged with strategic safety pins, sneering yet laughing. But, as a kid in small-town southwestern New Hampshire, I didn’t really know what punk felt like. I hadn’t even heard it.

One sunny Friday, my Mom picked me up from school and had some errands to run, so I asked if I could buy a new cassette tape. I ended up going home with “Never Mind the Bollocks.”

Sitting in my room with the new cassette, I was nervous. What if I didn’t get it? Like when I listened to that Grateful Dead tape my friend loaned me, and ended up confused, and a little irritated. This was problematic, because I’d already decided I was a punk rocker and not ‘getting’ The Sex Pistols would mean I wasn’t a rebel, a god-damn nonconformist like those sneering older kids in Rolling Stone. Then what? I sure as hell couldn’t go back to cheerleading. I’d been kicked off the year before and, anyways, I fucking hated it. I couldn’t go back to the basketball team; I was too nervous about sweating in front of people. I took a deep breath, and hit PLAY.

There was violent bellowing not quite like anything I’d heard before, but there was also a distinct familiarity. I loved it! Thirty one years later, I have a word for that feeling that I didn’t have then: resonance.

That same night, I went to a dance. I met a tall, cute boy, and told him about The Sex Pistols. He had to hear them. They’d blow his mind. They were punk rock! We exchanged phone numbers, and I never heard from him again. Nowadays, I bet he sees Norah Jones or something every chance he gets.

I never did commit to what had become the punk rock uniform. In a place where not much was objectively scary, it was scary to attract that much attention. I wore more black and white than my peers, and some pretty weird mismatched earrings, but nothing too confrontational.

I never got to see the Pistols – they exploded and fell apart long before I was going to concerts. But I did get to see John Lydon’s (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) dark-disco band, Public Image Limited, in a small venue in 2010. I was just thrilled to be in the same room as Johnny, and would’ve been happy with a good-enough performance. Instead, I got extended, deep grooves, snapping percussion, and gorgeous caterwauling from the man who had started it all. It was life-affirming. It was magic. It was fucking punk.

Since then, I’ve seen punk in many different forms. It’s not dead, but it’s not everywhere; I’ve seen it in the corners of YouTube, in small venues in rural towns or urban parts, in fiddle tunes and Alabama ghost music, and friends’ living room jams. It’s there. I realized it’s always been there, long before the Sex Pistols. It’s an energy, a thrum, a too-hard punch on the shoulder, followed by a raspy “I fucking like you. Come with me.” And I follow. Always.