How Half Man ended up on the marquee of the Huntington Shore Quad

I love this picture. It captures such a time. It’s me (in the slouchy skater clothes that I thought were cool at the time), Cliff Allen, and Dan Crowell in front of the Huntington Shore Quad, which of course is repping Half Man in full effect.

First of all, this picture makes me remember how much I love Cliff and Dan. Sure, things went sour with Half Man in the summer of 1995, a story for another time. And I was pissed at both Cliff and Dan, each for different reasons, after I was kicked out of Half Man. But this picture doesn’t evoke any of that memory for me. Instead, it brings back the pure love of our friendships back when Half Man started in the Spring of 1993. Cliff and Dan were awesome friends, and today that is the emotional memory that I carry of them.

And then there’s the story behind this picture. It is a return to the scene of the crime, probably taken early in the morning (if my memory serves me right, this photo was probably taken by Mike Appel). This was a time in which I was involved in a lot of somewhat-risky pranks. I don’t remember whose idea this was, but obviously one of us did the spelling to figure out that of the four movies currently playing there was the potential to steal letters to spell out HALF MAN.

What I am almost sure of is that I was the person who went up onto the marquee to make this act of sabotage happen. How does my generally-unreliable memory give me this vivid recollection? Well, I distinctly remember how covered in pigeon shit my hands and clothes were after climbing up on Cliff’s shoulders onto the platform underneath the marquee. The night before this picture was taken, a number of us had done a late-night run to accomplish this feat. It might have been in the summer after school was over, but our clothing choices make me think that it was early in the Spring, which would mean that at the time I was Dan and Cliff’s substitute teacher at Huntington High School. Real smart of me to be the person involved in this caper, much less the one up there changing the letters.

Statute of limitations, thank you very much!

Great interview with Billy Werner on No Echo

There’s a great interview on No Echo with Billy Werner that was published today. I love hearing the stories of how different people got into punk and going to shows, and Billy has a really cool background eventually leading to his many musical accomplishments.

His interview confirms that despite their current “cult status” Saetia was a band that didn’t really get the credit that it deserved while they were actually playing. Oh well, we were there and enjoyed their work.

I also laughed at the description of Saetia’s recording experience with Geoff Turner because it was eerily similar to how I experienced The State Secedes’ recording session at WGNS. Recording with someone who treats his work like a shift slinging french fries at MacDonalds kinda sucks.

Lifetime, Milhouse, Mind Over Matter, Serpico, Silent Majority, Stillsuit, & Yum Yum Tree at the PWAC (1995)

I am not so sure that this set of photos was from a single seven-band show, but until I unearth my Mountain Monthly archive I don’t have the dates and lineups for these pictures, so together they go into a big jumble.

As I look at these photos, I am struck by just how big these shows were. The PWAC was a huge venue, and it filled up (check out the one bad picture of Silent Majority below for a sense of just how many people showed up for a local show!).

Some mystery Saetia photos from before their LP was released

Ugh, in case it was not clear that I was (and therefore probably still am) a terrible archivist, take as an example these two great photos of Saetia:

I definitely did not take these. They were given to me when we were working on the Saetia full length released on Mountain. Apparently I never wrote down who took these pictures on the images themselves; I need to pull out one of my Saetia LP’s to see if there’s a credit in there.

The year? Definitely 1997 or 1998. Discogs tells me that I put out the Saetia LP in the summer of 1998, so these images were from just before then.

The picture will Billy screaming in the foreground is clearly the ABC-NO-RIO basement, a nice image capturing the conditions down there (big P.A., not much space).

The other one of JamieGreg, and Adam (and I believe the late first bass player Alex) I am guessing is at NYU, but that’s just a weak guess. Is that a young Mark McCoy in the background?

So much to say about Saetia, most of which I will post later. An amazing band that I was very lucky to work with.


Losing a skate brother…

For those of us who have skated at Pier 62, Angus and Duncan McGillivray-Smith were total fixtures. A little bit of their brilliance is captured here:

Brethren. from Kyle Matthew Hamilton on Vimeo.

I was really saddened to hear of Angus’s recent death. As a person who grew up going on skate adventures with my own brother, it is hard for me to imagine losing my brother, especially at such a young age. My condolences go out to Duncan and the McGillivray-Smith family.

Frameworks is carrying the Screamo torch quite nicely

I have been going through a bit of a screamo thing lately. I have relatively diverse musical tastes and what I am listening to at any given moment probably reflects some inner state that I can’t fully articulate. These have been screamo times.

Who the hell knows what “screamo” means: it’s just another one of those semi-useful genre terms. But for me what really typifies a good screamo band is a very basic combination:

  1. Screamed vocals that are emotionally evocative and have that feel of someone who’s not just pissed off; and
  2. Music that’s heavy when it needs to be but also creates emotional dynamic, often through a certain level of melodic.

I feel really lucky to have put out two of my favorite screamo albums: the self-titled debut records from both Closure and Saetia. I don’t really think that any of us had any idea of what “genre creation” we were involved with when these two records came out: there was just a desire to combine the screamed vocals of our favorite hardcorepunk bands with music that wasn’t so much of a hit-you-over-the-head sound. And maybe I need to check that: this was music that was written to hit you over the head, but to make it through your hard head and into your heart. I see the release of these two records as a big part of my rebellion against the tough-guy, very man-gendered nature of DIY music of that time and place.

Very few people know Closure, but somehow Saetia has become this beloved screamo band, with versions of their original Mountain LP going for hundreds of dollars on eBay and Discogs. I think that both bands deserve recognition for their contribution to the genre, but you know how history goes: it’s always spotty.

A few weeks ago I was browsing Bandcamp, which has been a bit of a revolution for me in discovering new music (or at least music that’s new to me in my semi-isolated current state). One of my favorite features of Bandcamp is that you can check out what other people have in their collections: I have gotten a lot of amazing “tips” from looking at what other folks have supported. You can also follow other users, which is a neat feature. I have only three followers, two of which are Ben Kates from Countdown to Putsch and The Mountain Collective for Independent Artists and Adam Goren of Atom & His Package fame. My other follower is Divy, and I have to thank the brother for introducing me to the amazing screamo band Frameworks.

Damn, Frameworks is a good band. I started off with their 2013 EP “Small Victories”, which is still my favorite release. But they have released so much music, and all of it is really good. Check them out on Bandcamp, or peep some of these videos:

What I love about Frameworks is how they exemplify what screamo has become. There are a lot of sounds in Frameworks — particularly the pedal-infused space guitar — that weren’t a part of those early screamo bands. But the heart and soul of the best early screamo bands is channeled by Frameworks. I hope that they keep it together for long enough for me to get to check them out live.


Amazing Envy video (Live in Hong Kong 2015)

One of my favorite screamo bands of all time is Tokyo, Japan’s Envy. The band has been around for a long time (1992!) and were forerunners of epic, emotional post-hardcore. I place them alongside Saetia in terms of influence: whereas a lot of the guitar and vocal sounds were innovated by Saetia, Envy really mastered the rollercoaster-ride composition that’s so important to this genre.

I was super-excited to discover this incredible full set video of Envy performing in Hong Kong back in 2015:

It’s kind of ridiculous the kind of documentation that now exists for live shows, and this set is meticulously captured.

New Modern Life is War single and video

There’s a new Modern Life Is War EP out on Deathwish. Their 2005 album Witness is an amazing work, so I was pretty excited to check out this first release in a long time. Jeff Eaton’s vocals are as great as ever. The music is more rock oriented than previous releases, but the title single Feels Like End Times is a pretty powerful song. The B-Side, Lonesome Valley Ammunitions, is a song that I am still figuring out if I like… it’s a bit weird!

There’s a video for Feels Like End Times that was released with the EP:

I like the color coordination here, but there’s not a lot going on in this video substance-wise, which is particularly unfortunate given the great content of the song’s lyrics.

Nude Bowl, Spring 1990

My first year of college was a pretty good one. As a kid I had gotten to travel a lot, but I had always lived on Long Island. So it was pretty amazing to arrive at Pomona College in Southern California in the Fall of 1989. The entire environment — ecologically and culturally — was different.

I was lucky to find “my people” at Pomona pretty quickly. There were only about 1600 students in total at the college, so I encountered everyone. And back then the punks and the skaters stuck out pretty clearly, so it wasn’t long before I found some co-conspirators. My closest friend became Hassan Abdul-Wahid, a skater and punk from Los Angeles. We were pretty much the only two students who skated seriously that year at Pomona, and I think we were lucky to find each other. Hassan had a friend from high school named Rey Castro who went to Pitzer College (another one of the five Claremont colleges), and he introduced us to Dag Yngvesson, another Pitzer student and a pretty serious skater. Our skate crew was born.

The years 1989-1990 were lean times for skateboarding. The last of the skateparks were going under and skateboarding — well, at least vert — was waning in popularity. We all had the bad luck of arriving in Claremont the Fall after the Upland Pipeline was bulldozed just down the block. Every skate spot was underground or a bust. We skated the Mt. Baldy fullpipe, a variety of school yards, and a weird ditch that used to be a water feature in front of a defunct restaurant.

At some point in the Spring of 1990 we took a trip out to the desert to skate the Nude Bowl. I know that Dag had a friend from home named Corey who was visiting at the time, and I am not sure why Rey didn’t join us, but we headed out east on the 10 Freeway in Hassan’s rickety Volkswagen Squareback:

Dubbed The Coffin, Hassan’s car was a bit of an adventure on paved roads. I really have no idea how The Coffin made it up the rutted dirt roads leading up to the bluff on which the Nude Bowl sat. It’s really hard to convey what a weird, desolate location hosted this rather incredible pool, so here’s a picture that starts to capture the environment:

As the story goes, this pool was the last remaining infrastructure of a once-popular nudist resort. Whatever happened to this resort must have been dramatic, because all that remained were the brick shells of its outer walls… and, of course, this crazy large pool.

Skaters weren’t the only people attracted to the lawless, free, open space around the Nude Bowl. As we skated there the sound of automatic gunfire could be heard just over the hill as gun enthusiasts used a bluff for target practice.

I don’t have a lot of direct memories of this day. I know that I skated quite a bit, which impresses me as I look at these pictures: the scene just looks kind of intimidating and exclusive to me now. I am imagining that while there clearly was a “cool guy” vibe at this pool, there was also the acknowledgement that anyone who managed to find their way to this remote and desolate location was obviously committed enough to skating to deserve some level of respect.

It probably didn’t hurt that Dag was in our crew. Dag was a serious ripper who could hold his own in pretty much any skate session, and he had a self-confidence and composure that augmented my own sense of belonging in these somewhat exclusive, somewhat scary skate situations.

To my memory this is the only trip that we made to the Nude Bowl. It was pretty far away and pretty hard to get to, but it was also pretty amazing to skate, so I don’t fully know what prevented us from returning.

There was something really personally transformative about skating these sorts of spots at this time in my life. The desire to skate terrain that was really hard to access during this era led me to some really sketchy and wild spaces. And there’s something really confidence-inducing about belonging in these spaces. That feeling of being able to handle places that would scare your parents and most of your friends would later give me the confidence to explore the crusty punk spaces that would define the remainder of my youth.

Here’s a complete set of images from this day:

FDR Skatepark, 2012-03

I love skateparks. They are such a triumph, for me as their visitor and for their very existence. And there really isn’t anything more impressive than the do-it-yourself skatepark. You probably have heard of the original, Burnside Skatepark in Portland (Oregon), a skatepark that’s almost as old as my skating career. I have also been to Washington Street Skatepark in San Diego, a pretty impressive beast of DIY evil genius. But to me FDR Skatepark in Philadelphia will always be the DIY skatepark that got me into skating big, messy skater-made parks.

One funny thing about DIY parks is that they are often extremely difficult to skate. This is in part due to the fact that they are put together in a fairly unplanned, hackneyed manner. They also usually feature rather inconsistent concrete, especially when compared to the professionally-built skateparks that are now a common feature of so many towns and cities across the nation. So you kind of need to learn how to skate a park like FDR, and I don’t think that’s a mistake of the builders: part of making a DIY park is that you do so to create a space that’s not going to be overrun by every person who owns some rolling device with two-to-eight wheels attached to the bottom of it. There’s quite obviously a very strong connection between DIY skateparks and DIY punk shows: both require a bit more from those who participate. You need to be ready for a bit of a mess and little bit less safety to enjoy the DIY versions of what can now be enjoyed at manicured concrete parks and in manicured concert halls.

This “selfie” was shot at FDR pretty recently on a trip to Philadelphia visiting my pal Adam Goren. Adam has accompanied me on FDR runs going way back, and with every visit the park has expanded. Do I know how to skate FDR? Not really, and that is why I know well enough to show up relatively early in the morning, the hour for the kooks among us.