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Entry date: 2-20-2024 – Whack the Weeds and Get Back to Work – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,


It was a nice three-day weekend. I’m ready to get busy, though. We have three weeks until spring break, so the sooner we get these done, the sooner I can really take a needed break. Fourteen days. That’s all.


Yesterday we got some good yard work done and I had a nice trip to the back cracker and the grocery store. It felt good to just be out in the beautiful weather and I got some really good sourdough bread at Trader Joe’s.  Good sourdough is a good thing.


I’ve been a fan of sourdough since I was a kid. I think my first trip to San Francisco with my dad got me into it when we had some chowder in a sourdough bowl in Fisherman’s Wharf. I remember asking Granny to get sourdough for me after that and she obliged. I especially liked having a hamburger on a sourdough roll.


It’s funny how little things like a certain type of bread can not only bring back good memories but bring a little bit of pleasure. The loaf I picked up yesterday was very reasonably priced and I’ll enjoy sandwiches on it for lunch for most of this week (unless the kids figure out how good it is).


Someday I want to try my hand at making bread, too. I’ll have to get a good sourdough starter somewhere. It will probably play a role in the Rye’s Above story, as well.


On Sunday, I had another really nice day. I don’t know why I didn’t get into it yesterday, but that’s how the muse is somedays. I wanted to talk Presidential/existential stuff.


We started off the day by having an early lunch with the Churchills, including Madelyne and her fiancé, Matt. I’m going to be the officiant when Madelyne and Matt get married in May. It was a really nice time. After that, I headed over to see Jon Rauhouse and Blaine Long do their thing at the Dirty Drummer. They sounded great and it was fucking packed. I’m kinda over crowds these days, so I just sort of hung back and listened to their set. I did get to see Teresa and Jen, so that was nice and I met a few of Jen’s friends. If you don’t have Jon and Blaine’s new record, you really should get a copy.


After the Dirty Drummer, I headed over to Michael’s for a Living Room Collective jam. Unfortunately, Bill couldn’t make it, but our friend, Rob, brought over a really fun song to play. We did the LRC thing to it and it sounded good. We also jammed a few others that were really fun. I was spent after the jam, but Ben and I found a little time to have a good and necessary chat.


He had a friend of his work out a song our Uncle Allen wrote. I didn’t even know such a song existed. It was the impetus for a really good conversation about him that Ben and I had never really had. We had two very different experiences with our uncle. I wish I had been able to know him a little bit. I feel like I never really got the chance to get to know who he truly was away from the bottle.


Lesson learned



The definition of the word “hardcore” has changed a lot for me over the years. I think the first time I really remember thinking a lot about it was the 1979 film, Hardcore, which starred George C. Scott and a totally creepy Peter Boyle. I watched it on our cable TV thing called ON-TV and was pretty unnerved by it. I was ten, though, so it wasn’t exactly the kind of movie I could comprehend at the time.


From there, the word “hardcore” would switch over to being an adjective that described the music I gravitated towards. In 1986 or so, I started getting turned onto the New York Hardcore scene when somebody turned me on to the CroMags. I liked what they were doing a lot.


I also saw D.R.I. play at the Mason Jar in 1986. It was a seminal show for me. Admittedly, I went to that one because I had the money and it was at the Jar, which was a short walk from the apartment I shared with my mom. I also loved the flyer for it which featured a skull with exploding eye balls. It was very psychedelic and fun to look at on acid.


That was the first time I ever saw Sacred Reich and a band called Desecration played, too. They were very metal and, as I was prone to do, I loved metal on the down low. Both opening bands became new favorites for me on the local scene. It was not much longer before Sacred Reich started having some serious success.


Anyway, though, D.R.I. was a revelation. The songs were so fast and so hard. To me, at the time, this was hardcore. I didn’t think it could get any harder, really, and the adrenaline I felt that night was certainly palpable. I remember going around the pit and getting punched right in the nose by a guy I went to high school with at Camelback. Ronnie was his name. He drove a VW Bug and signed my yearbook at the end of that year, “Ronnie Cumbubble.”


I think that was Ronnie’s way of welcoming me to his scene. I don’t know. Either way, I bled a lot and got lots of pats on the back for being a trooper. There was no way I wasn’t going to get my $5 worth of exercise at that show.


The thing is, I didn’t go out and buy any D.R.I. records after that. It wasn’t until the next year when Crossover came out that I bought my first D.R.I. wax. It was a record that divided a lot of people, too.


To me, Crossover fit right in with some of the other heavier/hardcore punk I was listening to at the time. I had a copy of S.O.D.’s Speak English or Die, for example, on cassette and my buddy, Jason, had made me a cool mixed cassette with bands like Crumbsuckers and Agnostic Front on it. I don’t know what happened to that tape and Jason ended up working at a prison last I heard.


A lot of people were not down with Crossover. The girl I was dating in 1987/88, Suzi (RIP) had given me a poster for the record she had gotten somewhere, and I proudly displayed it for many years. I had no particular allegiance to the early D.R.I., so when they went a little more into the Thrash Metal thing and upped the production on Crossover, it didn’t bum me out at all.


If you listen to it now, it still holds up quite well with some of those other bands I mentioned earlier. It’s not the greatest record ever made, but it is certainly a lot of fun. Crossover kicks off with “The Five Year Plan” which has the extremely infectious chorus bit of “I Lose, You Win” which then morphs into “I Win, You Lose” by the end of the song.


The way Crossover starts off, though, you know what you are in for right away. If you are not in the mood for headbanging, you should probably avoid this one. There are no weak moments, ballads, or needless riffage. Everything has its place. Even “Decisions” which is the last song on Side A and comes in at just over five minutes is neither too long nor too short. It is just right.


Speaking of “Decisions,” I particularly like that one. It comes on the heels of “I.D.K.Y.” which is another favorite, too. Just heavy and straightforward with some excellent riffage from guitarist Spike Cassidy.


This is one of those records that makes me wish I played in a band like this. It occurred to me while thinking about this one that a lot of the records I’m writing about this year are ones that I wished I could have been part of the writing/recording process.


One of the most fun memories I have from a short trip to San Francisco/Berkeley/San Jose that North Side Kings did in 2007 was meeting Chumly Porter (RIP) who played bass in D.R.I. for a few years in the 90s and roadied for them for a long time. He was a friend of my buddy, Alex, and when we played Gilman Street, he came out.


We hit it off right away. Chumly was a big dude. A mountain of a man, really, and was probably intimidating to many people over the years of his way too short life. After NSK got done playing, he pulled me aside and said, “You’re the second-best bass player in hardcore.” When I asked him who the first was, he just smiled and gave me an “aw shucks” shrug.


He was very kind and his words made me feel really good for a long time. We did play particularly well that night as it was the last of three straight shows and if you couldn’t get up for playing Gilman Street, then you’re doing it wrong.


I digress, though.


It occurs to me that “I.D.K.Y.” is pretty similar to an NSK riff, so Danny might have lifted it from them. I’ll have to ask them. That’s a great thing about hardcore, actually. All the bands steal from each other.


I’m very fond of the entire B Side of Crossover. It’s just, well, snappy. From “Hooked” to “Oblivion,” the songs just move. “Go Die” and “Redline” are both standouts, too. And damn it, I can’t not mention “Fun & Games.” I love a good syncopated start/stop beginning to a song and “Fun & Games” has this cool little pause in the main riff, too, where the band kind of holds for half a second before finishing the riff. People don’t realize how hard this is to pull off well. Kudos to their drummer, Felix Griffin, on this one. He rules across the whole record, but he truly shines on “Fun & Games.”


“Oblivion” is a killer song to close with, too. It’s actually the longest song on the record, but it has some street sounds at the front that add on to it quite a bit. It’s very typically metal, but I mean that in the best way. D.R.I. cleaned up the table with this one and left me wanting more.


I forget about this record sometimes, but the other day, I thought about the poster. Funny how the brain works sometimes. Listening to “Oblivion” again tells me that I ripped off the cadence for one of the Religious Skid songs. Thanks Kurt (Brecht)!



See you tomorrow.

AI - Art doing it's thing.

26 views3 comments


Damn you played Gilman Street, bad ass!

I just recently played "Dealing With It", my favorite from D.R.I. - now I need to revisit "Crossover" after reading this.

I hated The Jar yet I look back and remember how many great shows I saw there. I really dug Sacred Reich and Desecration. I remember seeing them open for G.B.H. and Agnostic Front at The Metro.

Now I need some sourdough bread. Yum.


I actually had a rough acid trip with that D.R.I. flyer 😂 It was next to my bed, on the wall.... couldn't get it to stop staring at me and bleeding its eyeballs out everywhere.

Replying to

I take that back. Now that I think about it, it was a Corrosion of Conformity flyer.

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