tom anderson monteroso (22) - Submitted Wednesday Nov 22, 2006
I grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut. My friend Chris's older sister introduced my friends and me to a ska and punk radio show on WRTC, the radio station of Trinity College, in 1997. I was in middle school at the time, wearing long-sleeve Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts and listening to the dregs of modern rock. The hosts were two high school kids named Marisa and Jason whom were closely involved with the local ska scene. Besides exposing us to the Dead Kennedys and the Bouncing Souls, their show "Ska, Punk and Other Junk" played and gossiped about West Hartford ska bands the Infamous Gnomosexuals, Johnny Too Bad & the Strikeouts, and the Glueseaspiders. My first show--arena concerts and commercial radio fests aside--was Skavoovie & the Epitones, Johnny Too Bad & the Strikeouts, Racketball, and the Agents at the Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton, Massachusetts in late 1997.
Just before my time the local scene focused on the American Legion post in West Hartford Center and as best I understand Nigel Six and Johnny Too Bad & the Strikeouts were the essential bands. Elsewhere in the state bands like JC Superska, Cobra Skammander, Spring Heeled Jack, and the Incognitos played to droves of ska fans. The Tune Inn provided a center for punk culture down in New Haven where bands like The Pist and Jiker played regularly and bands from all parts of the world stopped on tour. Owner Fernando Pinto was an iconoclastic champion of the scene and I closely followed his record label Elevator Music. In the early 1990s Big Mistake and Maude were key bands of the central Connecticut punk scene, though I only learned of the latter while at college in Ohio.
My friend Bart and I became diehard fans of the Glueseaspiders (GSS), a high school ska band whose members were between one and three years older than ourselves. They embraced 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola and red Chuck Taylors. Their songs had titles like "Do Things Your Own Way", "Greedy", and "Bowl of Oatmeal". We attended nearly all their local shows at venues like the Universalist Church in West Hartford Center, Elmwood Community Center, the Municipal Cafe and the Webster Theatre in Hartford, and a basketball court at West Hartford's Wolcott Park. And yet we remained outsiders of the small scene. Bart and I dorked out about band members and recognized all the regulars at shows, but we really only knew each other and never played in a band. If we contributed creatively we did so quietly and anonymously. Bands like Sgt. Scagnetti, 8 Days Without Cable, Jimmie Scooter, Everlasting Fruit Brothers, Not My Ritchie, and Golgo 13 defined the scene in our eyes. I remember thinking it a big deal when Sgt. Scagnetti played at the Elmwood Community Center with spotlights at the back of the stage spelling "SCAG". Our fixation on GSS expanded with the debut of a new band called West Beverly, a pop punk band featuring members of GSS, Nigel Six, and Not My Ritchie.
We continued listening to the radio. Marisa and Jason gave way to Helena's ska show. We were soon hooked on Big D & the Kids Table from Boston and between 1998 and 2002 made trips to Boston and Northampton to see them play. Christopher Wu was the next major influence on Bart and my tastes. A Trinity student from Oakland, California, Wu played new pop punk from bands like the Lillingtons, NOFX, and the Mr. T Experience and introduced us to Le Tigre, Rocket from the Crypt, and Discount. In the fall of 1998 we started our own radio show on my high school's station and by the following fall we were on WRTC learning the ropes from Wu. Our show "Lost in the Supermarket" continued on and off through summer 2003. We followed Helena's lead and announced a calendar of upcoming shows. For a while we played the local bands we liked, but we did not have their demos because we were shy and the scene was crumbling. We had Greg of West Beverly play live on the air once and Jake of Nigel Six called in once after hearing one of his band's early songs on the air.
The scene I describe was young and suburban. The musicians and show promoters were in high school and most moved away or lost interest as they graduated or dropped out. With the exception of one show in the basement of the Municipal Cafe (now a Dunkin Donuts), the scene did not take me into the city of Hartford. My involvement with the radio station did, but that was a separate phenomenon. Touring, house shows, zines, and DIY record production were not part of the consciousness--not mine anyway--and I felt both overjoyed and alienated coming across them later.
The internet was always an important tool for announcing shows and communicating as a group. The websites were the busted Geocities and Angelfire jobs of the day with out-of-date show listings and promises that photographs would be posted soon. I remember instant messaging about upcoming shows with band members I never spoke to in person. Now there are Myspace profiles for so many of these long gone bands. Nigel Six, Johnny Too Bad & the Strikeouts, Not My Ritchie, Big Mistake--even Maude!--are all ready to be your virtual friend in 2006. And you can hear their music.
In 2002 I made CD-Rs from my recording of GSS's 1999 final show and one cassette tape release as a gesture to the scene I knew from the margins. I brought them in a stack to a local coffee shop (Peter B's) where I learned from a flyer that the band was planning a reunion show later that summer. The show was at the family home of the trombone player, Bret. Look him up under Bret the One Man Band. His righteous song "Fuck the Nine Six" is about how the Elmwood Community Center and the American Legion--both icons in their day--now refuse to host punk shows.