Bizarro School Daze

Mesa's Dobson High School invites hard-rock bands onto the school grounds, and creates something weird -- respect

So, what the hell, why not invite a few bands in to rock the bells, even if it isn't the Celine Dion, "don't do drugs" cornball stuff? At least it breaks up the monotony of the school day. "School should be a fun thing," says the 37-year-old Green, who, with his enthusiasm, boyish looks and shades, could pass for Towle's older brother.

Green then mentions a concept I never associate with school -- respect for the students -- and it all begins to floor me. "If this is something the students want, then it's something we want," Green says.

And it's that simple. Other schools should take notice. I snoop around the courtyard. I find no one smoking joints -- even the hacky-sack players look decidedly unburnt. I find no fights or even heated arguments, and I see no one get taunted or picked on. What I do see is a core group of punk kids, taping Slowpoke with camcorders, slamming their heads back and forth wildly, wrestling each other down to the ground in playful silliness. Around them, I see the preppier kids minding their own business, just absorbing a beautiful day without commotion.

The kids are alright: Punk comes to Dobson, and behaves itself.
Emily Piraino
The kids are alright: Punk comes to Dobson, and behaves itself.

No doubt, I'm sure high school is still full of no-good assholes. On this day, however, in the middle of a slammin' punk show and surrounded by the dregs of the student body, I feel momentarily assured.

Andrew W.K., whose over-the-top brand of colossal rock and attitude was arguably too ridiculous even for Ozzfest, played inside tiny Nita's Hideaway in Tempe on November 22. Not surprisingly, the show was a claustrophobic affair. W.K., a 6-foot-3 hairy goofball from Ann Arbor, Michigan, whose entire wardrobe consists of white tee shirts and white jeans, thrashes nonstop during his set and openly invites folks to crash the stage and dive gloriously back into the crowd. He also has a habit of throwing stuff, whether it be water bottles, confetti or toilet paper. This is a fine and exhilarating idea for a theater or an arena. But for Nita's -- capacity of 225 people, tight confines, small stage, fence separating drinkers from teetotalers, ear-blasting acoustics -- the W.K. shtick created an especially beautiful chaos. Crowd surfers bounced off the ceiling. Stage divers had no room to leap and took it right in the mush upon landing. The reverberations of people jumping rumbled mightily underfoot. The sweaty W.K. at times looked at a loss for spaces to rock out yet somehow managed to prop one girl onto his shoulders without collapsing. When he ended the set with his agro-pop masterpiece "Party Hard," several dozen fans took over the stage, rowdily cheering and bouncing while the six-piece band, by now completely invisible in the mass, continued to play.

W.K.'s efforts to win mainstream acceptance in the U.S. ("Party Hard" reached the top 20 in Britain last year) have sputtered, despite intense publicity and stunts like licensing songs for Twix commercials. While his marginalization isn't all that unfortunate -- a guy who melds Ted Nugent with Jim Steinman probably shouldn't be a superstar -- his live show is incredibly energetic, and those of us at Nita's that night should be thankful for the opportunity to witness it on such a small scale.

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