Stop Saying MANPANTIES!
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.
Reading the archived forum on CD-R, available from the site for $10, you realize that TCPunk is as much a document of the past three years as of the much-mythologized scene that came before. Writers talk about what happened last night, what's going on the next. "People tend to have a conception that computer bulletin boards isolate people," says Jon Copeland (a.k.a. SonicFreak), via e-mail. "The thing about TCPunk is that it was completely the opposite." Copeland met other parents, sometimes by identifying himself at shows with a TCPunk T-shirt. When one parent logged on before Christmas to ask advice about how to cope during lean times, a circle of TCPunk women anonymously bought her presents and groceries.
"Some of the most heartfelt support was given by many who did not even know each other," says a former administrator who goes by Emma Peel online.
Now it's all gone, and many who miss the board blame an influx of loutish newcomers for overwhelming the place and making it untenable for those who ran it. Admittedly, TCPunk became loud and packed with scatologically fixated threads (usually relegated to a place called The Shitbag). To escape further underground, some people created "secret forums" and began posting in code (until I interviewed members, I thought these long strings of Ms, Fs, and Ps were simulated fart sounds). The "Backstage" area became a place for disgruntled old folks to grouse about the new blood. In other words, popularity fractured the group. Sound familiar?
"Punk started out witty and sharp, and then a lot of people jumped on late in the game and it just became sort of insipid," says Toby of his Southern California days. "I kind of think what happened to TCPunk is what happened to punk rock back in the early to mid-'80s."
If TCPunk is a microcosm of punk, then the chaotic table where I'm sitting is a microcosm of the forum. It's one week after Ron Clark, the graying dad who launched the site, pulled the plug. So he and four other TCPunkers have converged at the downtown Grumpy's to talk about the thing that wasted so much of their time, and to set the record straight about what happened.
Because "RC" has posted under a slew of aliases, most of TCPunk's 600 or so members were unaware that he was the same guy who started Your Flesh magazine with Bob Mould and Peter Davis, before Davis bought it out for $100. Now Clark is looking to move on again, citing exhaustion. "I'm gonna raise my kids and get drunk at Disneyland," he says, dead serious. "I don't fucking care."
Across from him sits a depressed Dedly Daego, the twentysomething singer-guitarist of Onward to Mayhem who once ran the Inferno (an East Lake Street punk space) and is known in TCPunk circles for a shamelessly arrogant column titled "A day in the life," which began with the sentence, "Today I woke up around 11 and tore a couch to splinters with Kla," and proceeded from there.
"My life's over now that it's gone," Daego says, also dead serious. "It gave me a reason to adventure. I would go out because I was like, dude, 'day in the life' is gonna suck today if I don't do something."
Next to Daego sits Chelsea 40oz Bondage, a New Orleans born zine-writer in her 30s. And next to her is Yuck Foo (born David Roth), also in his 30s, who shot Soul Asylum's "Automatic Heart" video. Last, there is Zom-Zom, whom Chelsea and Daego were excited to meet. Zom has tussled with everyone present at one point or another. (He was approaching a mind-boggling 2,000 posts in April before he fiddled with his odometer to make it an even 77,340,000.)
Amid chaotic cross talk, Daego wants to make one thing clear: "I could not give a fuck less about what happened yesterday," he says. "The reason I got on the board was because I didn't feel that any of the bigger media in this city were giving any play to my whole niche." Now he claims to be the most hated guy on the board, though others dispute this.
"I said shit to people I know that I wouldn't say to their face," says Yuck Foo. "I didn't want to start any hateful shit, but there was something really great about just trying to get a few people mad."
"There wasn't something about it, there was everything about it!" says Daego. "Because it was fun."
So why did he go where he wasn't welcomed?
"I got the dick sucked, dude," he says, and the table breaks out laughing. "I got laid twice over TCPunk. I'm getting laid again on the 25th."
"Not if this comes out first," Chelsea laughs.
Like lovers doing a postmortem on their relationship, the TCPunkers find themselves replaying how it all started. There had been punk message boards before. Between 1990 and 1994, a local one called SubMission Records: The Punk Rock Hotel, was kept up and visited by many future TCPunks. But this predated the Internet, so only one person could connect at a time. And no one was prepared for TCPunk's popularity: some 600 users under some 1,000 names. "And a lot of people lurking," adds Clark.
The server for TCPunk is owned by a guy named Bone Man, explains Yuck Foo, who helped Clark start the site. "He used to be a kind of Daego-like type in the city. He would kick anyone's ass; he would get the cock sucked."
"He was better-looking than you, too," adds Zom.
"His original name was Johnny Action," Yuck continues, "that's what we should call you, Daego. But he had reappeared after being a biker and in prison, and became a computer geek. He contacted Ron and me a little bit later from these really shitty little towns in Texas, because he was on parole there. He offered server space to Ron, and Ron's the kind of guy who always wants us to get shit going."
"In a nutshell," says Clark, "I made the fucking board 'cause I thought it was a good idea. We wanted to post up a bunch of pictures of old friends and remember some times...Let go of my fucking ear, Daego!"
The two begin swatting each other.
"Anyway, it turned into something else and it was kind of a fluke."
Was it a happy fluke?
"Nah, I was bummed out. It was too much fuckin' work. I flew by the seat of my pants, and I lucked out that I got out without being sued or knifed."
The conversation then turns to the shared hatred of hippies. "There's nothing worse than a new hippie," Zom says.
Clark plans to leave as much historical material online as possible. But for someone who founded a website about the past, he's not particularly interested in dwelling on it. "It's better now than it was then," he says, something that TCPunk only reinforced.
"I went to Thrash Fest and I thought D.S.-13 was better than Hüsker Dü." He's goading his old friends.
"But Hüsker Dü were doing it 20 years ago," says Zom.
"Who fucking cares? I'm listening to D.S.-13 and it blows my skirt up, makes me want to live another fucking day while I go to fucking work. Tomorrow it'll be something else."
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