Thursday, February 07, 2008

Twenty Seven Years of Rising Above

Neon Christ, an Atlanta hardcore band from the 1980's, reunited last year to play a series of shows and to participate in a documentary film about the punk scene in Atlanta. The band's final performance was on 2/02/08 at the Treehouse in suburban Lawrenceville, GA. (Read about my first visit to the Treehouse here). There were half a dozen old dudes like me, with eyeglasses and greying hair, mixed in the audience with about a hundred kids.

The final song of the final show that Neon Christ performed wasn't an original song. It was a song that everyone knew, and as soon as the descending notes of the song began, a wave of recognition and camaraderie electrified the room. It was a song known by all the kids -- who were born years after it was first recorded -- and they piled on each other and grabbed for the mic to shout along. And even when you couldn't hear the singer, you could hear the words because they were in your head.

Years before the internet, we read about that song in fanzines. We heard it on vinyl and in record stores and on college radio. We passed it from hand to hand on mixtapes, and learned it from each other to play it in our own bands. It was like one of those old protest songs that was sung around campfires, and at rallies and marches. It has been sung around the world, from the hardcore scenes of sunny South America to the squats of Scandinavia. It is a song of hope and resilience that speaks to every kid and says, "We were born with a chance, and I am gonna have that chance."

Black Flag - Rise Above (buy Damaged) Rest in peace, Neon Christ.

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