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Hardcore showdown 

Punks and metal heads battle to see who rocks best

- GOOD-FOR-NOTHING PUNKS :  James Sullivan and Graham Condict of NDT keep it classy with "Sweet Statutory," a soulful ballad about defiling teenage pop stars. -  - PHOTO BY NICK POWELL
  • PHOTO BY NICK POWELL
  • GOOD-FOR-NOTHING PUNKS : James Sullivan and Graham Condict of NDT keep it classy with "Sweet Statutory," a soulful ballad about defiling teenage pop stars.

When most kids my age were bopping their heads to Kriss Kross, I was rocking Pantera shirts and drawing flaming skulls all over my Trapper Keeper. By the time middle school rolled around, I’d devolved into a punk rocker, with brightly dyed hair and a middle finger set to automatic.

But something went wrong somewhere along the way. I mellowed out and became a boring “normie” with a respectable haircut and a desk job.

That’s the rut I was in when I stumbled upon a Facebook e-vite to a Punk vs. Metal show at Camozzi’s in Atascadero.

“Hot dog!” I thought, since cursing is rude.

I blasted a Rancid record on the drive up Highway 41, singing along and getting psyched for a return to my radical roots. I was early on purpose so I could interview the bands and chat with some snarling political dissidents, but opening the door to the bar was like getting kicked in the gut.

It was entirely empty: just me and the barkeep.

“Am I in the right place?” I asked. “You’re doing a concert here tonight?”

“My wife handles the details for the concerts,” said bar owner Dalton Holladay. “We didn’t get flyers; we didn’t get shit. But I think they’re doing something here tonight.”

I was worried, but after I killed an hour with beer and cigarettes, a band strode in and started setting up. A few dozen people followed, but nowhere near enough to pack the place for a proper mosh pit.

I talked to the Alter Boys, a ragtag band of teenagers from the south bay of Los Angeles. They drove four hours to be told they had to wait outside in the rain while they weren’t onstage.

“It feels cold and degrading,” said the singer, who calls himself J-Boy. “We thought it was gonna be an all-ages show, but whatever. Maybe someone will take pity on us and buy us some beer.”

- METAL REIGNS SUPREME :  With pounding rhythms and blazing solos, Randy Hughes helped Militant Civilian steal the show. -  - PHOTO BY NICK POWELL
  • PHOTO BY NICK POWELL
  • METAL REIGNS SUPREME : With pounding rhythms and blazing solos, Randy Hughes helped Militant Civilian steal the show.

After last week’s shoulder-tap-sting cover story, I knew better than to fall for that undercover gimmick, so I fled for older, more legal interview subjects. The band Some Odd Reason was there to represent the South County metal scene, even thought they’d recently lost their singer.

“If you know anyone that can scream, send ’em our way,” said drummer Chris Souza. “We’re like musical A.D.D., trying to change our sound every album and stay progressive.”

That description didn’t disappoint. They opened the show with a string of fast songs that changed melodies every two or three bars. While the next band set up, I worked the crowd, talking to Santa Margarita residents Ian Farrell and Travis Badger over pints of PBR and a game of pool.

“Atascadero’s coming back,” Ian said. “We just got to get rid of the criminals in city hall so we can make something of this town.”

He said live music has been limited outside of SLO, but “anything beats standing elbow to asshole with spoiled rich kids just to get a drunk in public as soon as you leave the bar.”

Joy Wilde echoed that sentiment. She prefers indie pop music to the punk and metal scene, but she came out with her friends to support local live music.

“The Central Coast is like a black hole for music,” Joy said. “We’re trying to change that.”

She and her friends run Wilde Ride Productions, a company that aims to lure musicians to SLO and pair them with local acts.

The organizer for the Punk vs. Metal show was Chris Sandoval. He said tons of great bands bypass the Central Coast on their way from Los Angeles to San Francisco, so he’s trying to build enough of a demand here to convince them to stop.

“The metal scene’s strong around here, and there’s punk bands scattered around,” Chris said. “I’m trying to blend the scenes together and build something bigger.”

Chris does most of his promotions online; aspiring bands and alternative music fans can find him on Facebook. He’s bringing classic punk band D.I. to the Z Club in January.

- PUNK PRINCESS :  Somebody's got to make sure the bands get paid, so Helen Lewis collects the dollars and hands out the wristbands. Try to say no to that face. -  - PHOTO BY NICK POWELL
  • PHOTO BY NICK POWELL
  • PUNK PRINCESS : Somebody's got to make sure the bands get paid, so Helen Lewis collects the dollars and hands out the wristbands. Try to say no to that face.

When the music started again, it was clear who would win the Punk vs. Metal battle: Militant Civilian, an old-school metal band from Paso Robles. They sounded like Pantera meets Megadeth, with tight, pounding rhythms and a howling front man.

“This is the only way I can get away with yelling and screaming in public without going to jail,” said the singer, who looked like a strung-out war veteran and went by the stage name Hellair. “Being a militant civilian means taking responsibility for yourself and fighting for what’s right.”

The night’s last band was called Nigger Dump Trukkk, which would have been horribly offensive had guitarist James Sullivan not been a black dude. Whew, that was close.

“We’re rude and crass in every way, shape, and form,” James said. “We try to be socially conscious without actually reading the news.”

All in all, the night was fun, the music was loud, and the beer was cheap. Still, these punks have a long way to go if they want a scene that compares to bigger cities.

Contributing writer Nick Powell contributes his contributions through Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach. Send your comments to aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com.

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