One of the last questions I asked on TCPunk (www.tcpunk.com) was: "Who was the first punk in Minnesota?" The website is subtitled the Punk Rock Nursing Homepage, so it seemed like the place to ask. And since the online forum was busy back in October (with 300 different computers logging on every day), answers appeared in droves. Yet the best response probably had no historical value whatsoever:
You people have got it ALL WRONG! The first punk in Minnesota was the legendary Punk Bunyan, who, with his BLUE OX (How punk is that?) BabeRamone, went moshing around northern Minnesota in the 1800s, terrorizing hippie logging communities, and gobbing on everything. Everytime he would let loose with another loogie, it would form one of our state's 10,000 lakes. He had a guitar carved from the mightiest Canadian maple, strung with moosegut because it always went nicely out of tune. The neighbors always complained because a guy 200 feet tall with a 60-foot guitar makes a HELL of a racket! His only known recording is the 7-foot single, Bemidji Blitzkrieg, b/w Bad Bad Brainerd, on eelpout records (now defunct). I once saw a copy at Oarfolk for $1,995.00.
The "now defunct" is especially rich. Written by one MoldyRamone (who, like most TCPunks, wishes to keep his real name secret), this history lesson is a good example of how the message board transcended both TC and punk. In the three years before the site closed on December 31, the Internet forum evolved as an art--part conversation, part literature. But like the movement that gave it a name, TCPunk pushed the form further. There were "silent" threads (i.e., pictures, no words). There were self-consciously "childish, pointless arguments." And when Moldy's cancer became the subject of its own thread in the same week he wrote the above paragraph, the response was telling.
"Everyone I've talked to has given me encouragement, from health advice to offering rides to appointments," Moldy says via e-mail. "It really felt like family was watching over me."
This article is about how a bunch of cynical fuckers started a new social phenomenon, but no one knew that that's what TCPunk would become. The Nursing Homepage was founded as a way of writing the history of Minnesota punk rock in the collective spare time of anyone who wanted to. With a sort of virtual reunion of fans looking at archives of rare photos (many by CP contributor Daniel Corrigan) and flyers (many collected by Babes in Toyland's Lori Barbero), the place became the stomping grounds for two prominent punk polymaths and curmudgeons: Zom-Zom, who played guitar in Rifle Sport (under a different name); and Felix Havoc, a Maximumrocknroll columnist (under the same name) who bonded with TCPunkers on topics ranging from Marvel comics to the innate beauty of tanks.
The thread titles tell part of the story: "Make your own emo band"; "Is loving cops and using words like 'spic' punk?"; "Dismembered Body of Victim Found in Theodore Wirth Park"; "What are you drinking right now?"; "Gloria Steinem, Ayn Rand, Avril Lavigne"; "I just got fired"; "Best Cinematic Decapitation?"; "People, please stop saying MANPANTIES!"; and, more poignant, "Why are we posting on TCPunk on a Saturday night?" (Answer: "I'm old. I'm Married. I got a kid. Already been to see two shows this past week.")
TCPunk became a way for aging punks to converse with old friends, and to reconnect with the culture they launched. A parents' forum cropped up. Young bands began promoting themselves on the site. And for anyone who regards her day job as a giant product placement in the center of the movie of her life, here, finally, was solidarity in goofing off.
TCPunk's greatest subject was the compromise that comes with age and work. Corporate irony was right up there with collector geekiness as fodder for satire: "Minutemen in Car ad?!"; "Doc Martens: Made in China"; the selling of ad space on police cars ("News that is sure to result in the creation of many shitty punk songs"); the introduction of Bob Marley footwear.
Naturally, I came across a not entirely charitable thread titled "City Pages!" But like local booker Matthew St-Germain and dozens of others, I came to argue and stayed to talk. Along these lines, longtime local radio personality Brian Oake arrived after a shouting match with Zom-Zom during a PJ Harvey concert, when Zom's old bandmate Todd Trainer made some unkind remarks from the stage about Zone 105. Now the two are friendly. Oake accumulated 656 posts as YerMom, reflecting back on a young adulthood spent in Coon Rapids during the 1980s, and his weekend nights at shows.
"These were bands that I had followed and revered," Oake says, reached by phone in the Cities 97 studio. "So chatting with these people on the Internet had a surreal element."
TCPunk drew attention from New York, Texas, California, Nicaragua, and a navy aircraft carrier in the Atlantic (a guy named Garrett, who was mobilized after September 11, 2001). Toby Gibbons (a.k.a. Toby Lifehater) was a house builder in Hawaii who wrote compellingly about his love life, yet had never visited the Twin Cities.