For a community that proudly embraces the creed of "Do It Yourself," the Twin Cities punk scene still has its share of cooperation.
When the cash-strapped collective known as Extreme Noise Records was forced out of its first location in late 1996, a massive volunteer effort of punks and weirdos banded together to renovate a new spot at 25th and Nicollet. They tore out floors and raised ceilings to give their beloved store a new home. Three short years later, the same group and a few new faces did the whole thing all over again.
"Minneapolis seemed to be... they say DIY, but it was a very organized place," explains Chad Anderson, lead vocalist and guitarist for the Strike. "You had lots of people working on the same thing. Whenever there was a show, it didn't feel like it was hastily thrown together, it was always well-organized and well-run."
Anderson knows a thing or two about organizing. In addition to his group's exploits, the songwriter has spent 25 years as a proud, card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and was active in labor unions both here and in his adopted home of Chicago. The staunch leftist politics and poetry of his lyrics recall a young, angry Billy Bragg. His words set the Strike apart from the rest of the mid-'90s TC scene, including good friends Dillinger Four. With a style reminiscent of early U.K. groups like Stiff Little Fingers and the Clash, the Strike were uniquely melodic and deliberately paced.
"This was a scene where you'd play with everybody, a Dischord [Records]-style band followed by a Discharge-type band," Anderson recalls. "If you wanted to play, you couldn't just pick and choose, you had to all get together and just do it."
Punk shows at established venues occasionally occurred, but the majority of live performances happened at DIY spaces such as the now-defunct Bomb Shelter on Bloomington Avenue and the Scooby Don't House, which was sometimes known as "the 35th Street Entry" by its faithful.
The music and energy of that circuit was captured on the now-legendary No Slow All Go compilation, released in 1995. The record meant to show the world everything that sweaty, dingy Twin Cities basements had to offer. The Strike contributed two tracks, as did Dillinger Four and other seminal bands like Code 13, Dirt Poor, and the Salteens. The Strike eased into a hiatus in the mid-'00s.
"The compilation was obviously significant. It was such a nicely done record, I mean they really did a nice job on the packaging, it looked great," Anderson says of No Slow. "You had these people who were really working at it, not just half-assing it. So you felt proud to be part of that whole scene."
Dave Hoenack, now owner of Hymie's Vintage Records, was an impressionable kid head-over-heels for the music scene during that era, and he still feels No Slow's impact.
"We're always biased here in Minneapolis that we're the best, but in this case we might have been," he explains. "That album had hardcore bands and pop-punk bands alongside each other in a totally un-ironic way.... The No Slow disc was surprisingly cohesive, for how different all the bands were."
The Strike would go on to greater exposure than most of the No Slow groups, and released their first LP, Conscience Left to Struggle with Pockets Full of Rust, on Chicago indie label Johann's Face. Eventually, they moved to the Windy City to pursue a deal with the larger Victory Records.
The late '90s saw the band's ragged charm mature into a full-fledged statement of purpose on Shots Heard 'Round the World for Victory. Chad, his brother Chris Anderson on drums, and bassist Kris Manion crafted an album so righteous that it should have sparked a workers' revolution overnight.
Songs like "Clockwise" and the title track are protest anthems that would make Woody Guthrie proud, armed with aggressive guitars and big, inclusive hooks. When Anderson bellows, "Together in union we are strong" on the defiant "Communique," you can tell he's speaking about more than the steel workers he once rallied for.
He's talking about the type of communities that built Extreme Noise three times over, and published No Slow through unflagging dedication. It's a community that's still thriving 20 years later, and that's something worth coming out of retirement for, according to Chad Anderson.
"This is a confluence of everything," he explains, about the store's 20th Anniversary Weekend Festival. "It's Extreme Noise, obviously, it's almost the anniversary of the comp, and a friend of ours just got out of prison."