Revolver Goes to Court
One clear thought goes through my head the night of April 30 as I watch three beef cakes in Gibson's security shirts encircle a scared, scrawny kid pinned against a light pole. And that thought is This is a bunch of bullshit.
Five minutes earlier, Chris Costedio, 23, had been bouncing around on the dance floor inside the Tempe club, where Girls Against Boys was firing off loud volleys of organ-laced punk rock. Gibson's security strictly enforced a no-moshing policy during the GVSB concert (for some reason, the crowd at a Reverend Horton Heat show a few days later was allowed to slam with abandon).
Several fans at the GVSB show, including Costedio, tried to start up a pit about four songs into the band's set, but were quickly shut down by Gibson's security guard Mark Bjorem, who warned them not to try it again. A short time later, Costedio started to pogo around anyway, knocking his roommate down in the process. At that point, Bjorem, who had returned to his guard post on the perimeter of the crowd, purposefully turned his baseball cap backward, came up fast behind Costedio and, without warning, put him in a strong half nelson/wrist lock and dragged him out of the club, the would-be mosher's face grimacing in pain.
By the time I caught up with the situation outside, Bjorem had Costedio pressed up to the pole, his face mashed against the metal. Well within Costedio's personal space stood two other Gibson's security guards, including head of security Sean Newton. Worried they were about to start making squeal-like-a-piggy demands, I walked over and innocently asked a fourth trooper observing the action what all the ruckus was about. He told me only that Costedio had been ejected from the club for moshing.
During my conversation with that bouncer, I saw Bjorem's cap fly off his head out of the corner of my eye. I looked over to see Costedio get put in another arm lock, this time by Newton. Newton later testified (and Costedio admitted) that Bjorem had let Costedio go and Costedio had immediately knocked the security guard's hat off. Newton says he detained Costedio because he believed Costedio was threatening Bjorem (Costedio is five feet 11 inches and weighs 150, according to police records; Bjorem is six feet four, 295.
Now here comes the fun part. Right after Newton finally released Costedio--about ten minutes after he was originally ejected from the club--Tempe police arrived to arrest Costedio for assault. Newton told them Costedio had slapped him on the side of the head before he could get ahold of him, and his story was backed up by his fellow Gibson's enforcers and a member of T.E.A.M., a private security force contracted by Tempe to patrol downtown. Costedio denies slapping Newton. Unfortunately, I had a bad angle on the brief altercation in question--Newton had his back to me. He might have taken a slap, but I didn't see his head snap to the side from a solid hit.
When I realized Costedio was getting busted, I approached the cop and told him I thought Chris had been bullied by the security guards. The cop took my statement, and a week later Costedio called me. He said he'd been charged with misdemeanor assault and was facing a $500 fine. He'd gotten my name and number from the police report and told me to expect a subpoena.
When the court date (May 31) rolled around, I caked my armpits with topnotch deodorant to impress the judge (it didn't work, but then we got off to a bad start--I don't recommend that anyone respond in the affirmative in a court of law by snapping one's fingers and exclaiming "Gotcha") and biked over to Tempe Municipal Courthouse. I passed the time by watching Judge Michelle O'Heir-Sullivan grant a batch of protection orders then go outside to chain-smoke until Costedio's case came up on the docket.
Costedio was in bad shape from the word go. He represented himself--you get a public defender only if you're facing jail time--against a municipal prosecutor with four witnesses, one of them in patriotic camouflage (Newton, an Army specialist by day, arrived for the trial in full fatigues). The trial was quick and ugly. The prosecutor tore Costedio up with procedural objections, and the word of the defendant and his punk-rock critic/star witness didn't count for much on the scales of justice with the testimony of four buzz-cut, upstanding young men on the other side. The judge found Costedio guilty and sentenced him to time served (one night in jail, no fine).
Looking back, I see three points of concern:
First of all, I'd say whether a guy deserves to get booted from a GVSB show for moshing is highly debatable. But just for the hell of it, let's say Costedio should have been ejected. Why didn't Bjorem just walk up, tap him on the shoulder and tell him, "You're outta here, asshole. Follow me."? If the customer takes a swing or won't budge, then escalate the force. But don't wrench somebody's arm behind his back just because you have an excuse to.
Second, why didn't Bjorem let Costedio go once they were outdoors? Why push him against the pole and hold him there? Why not just toss him out and walk away?
And, finally, although I didn't see Costedio hit Newton, several other people said he did. So again, for ease of discussion, let's just say he popped Newton one. From the way Costedio was treated, I'd call it at least justified retaliation, if not outright self-defense. A tight black shirt and a taste for violence are not a license for some jock who's seen Roadhouse one too many times to bully kids around.
Gibson's owner Matt Engstrom said recently that he didn't see any stage of the altercation between Costedio and his club's staff, so he couldn't comment. He said that he has instructed his bouncers to "discourage" moshing, but said, "I tell them to handle customers as lightly as possible." Engstrom said he planned to meet with all the bouncers who dealt with Costedio at the GVSB show to "rehash everything that happened."
The Walking Wound-ed
Talk about house parties. Olympia sonic destroyer Unwound blew the stage apart at its packed June 16 Boston's gig, then hung around the Valley an extra day to do a show in the living room of the Tempe house where they were crashing. Both nights, Unwound's visceral space punk exploded through the rooms. Its songs are dichromatic--feral but refined, aggressive but detached, tight but definitely unwound. The trio is nearing the end of a tour that started in March and took the group through nearly every country in continental Europe with Sonic Youth before returning to the States for a final blitz in support of their fifth album, Repetition. Revolver interviewed Vern (bass), Justin (vocals, guitar) and Sara (drums) over expensive beer (how nonpunk rock) and expansive quantities of cigarette smoke at Boston's shortly before they went on. The band's answers were characteristically curt. Here's an excerpt:
Revolver: Will Unwound stay on Kill Rock Stars (notable Olympia indie label) until death do you part?
Justin: Yeah, that's our directive. Our objective. One of those.
R: So you've known each other since you were kids, but when did you start playing together?
J: Vern and I have been playing together a long time. What, six years?
Vern: Yeah. We've known each other since third grade in Tumwater, one of three small communities that make up the Olympia minitropolis.
J: Tumwater High is a virtual breeding ground for rock talent. Eric from Subvert went there. Derek Martin from the Screaming Trees went there.
R: Where do you pull your songs from?
Sara: Who knows?
J: Couldn't tell ya.
V: We always write our songs at practice. If it sounds good, we keep doing it. If it doesn't sound good, we stop--fast.
J: It's like food, man. If it tastes good, keep eating it.
(Kill Rock Stars, 120 NE State Street, #418, Olympia, WA 98501)
Once upon a time, skateboarding was a renegade sport far removed from the world of big business. Airwalk shoes weren't sold in department stores, Calvin Klein didn't advertise in Transworld, and pro skaters didn't try to act in major motion pictures (seeing Jason Lee star opposite Shannen Doherty in Mall Rats felt like the seventh-sign apocalypse). "Skate Jams"--ritual parties of the skateboarding underground--used to consist of homemade ramps set up in parking lots where punk-rock garage bands hauled their amps to whip up a sonic fury while the best skaters in the area put their bodies on the line for the viewing pleasure of whomever showed up. Alas, corporate America long ago thrust its talons into skateboarding culture, so it was only a matter of time before skate jams were co-opted by The Man.
Witness the Warped Tour, a prepackaged skaterpalooza (emphasis on "looza") that stops at Desert Sky Pavilion on Thursday. The demos by pro skaters should be excellent, but the 14-group lineup of "skater bands" includes Pennywise, Lagwagon, NOFX (all prime examples of everything that has gone wrong with punk rock in the last three years), Unwritten Law, Fishbone, CIV and Rocket From the Crypt (all major-label/MTV bands that would have been jeered off the stage at a true mid-'80s SoCal skate jam). Throw in a few corporate-sponsored, interactive-media tents and the Warped Tour looks like the epitaph for a sport born of rebellion, independence and everything beautiful about escaping society and gravity. Save your $18 for college.
On a brighter note (literally), those extraterrestrial saviors of secret-agent surf rock Man . . . or Astroman? just released a seven inch on Estrus Records. Hot on the afterburners of their new album Experiment Zero comes The Sounds of Tomorrow, featuring two killer new tracks and one cut off that new LP, a cover of "Green-Blooded Love," originally performed by space-rock pioneers The Shatners. Picture Dick Dale doing variations on the Buck Rogers theme song, and you'll know what to expect from this band of oddballs. Astroman is scheduled to grace our quadrant with its presence with a show at Boston's on Saturday, July 20. Also worthy of investigation is the MoA? side project Servotron--same basic concept but in a purely electronic mode. Servotron just issued a seven inch on Sympathy for the Record Industry titled Meet Your Mechanical Makers. (Touch & Go, P.O. Box 25520, Chicago, IL 60625; Estrus Records, P.O. Box 2125, Bellingham, WA 98227; Sympathy for the Record Industry, 4450 California Place #303, Long Beach, CA 90807)
In more earthly matters, Meat Puppets drummer Derrick Bostrom recently undertook his first solo venture in the form of a pseudoband called Today's Sounds. That project's debut, Songs of Spiritual Uplift by Today's Sounds, is completely freaked out. The first time I listened to it with a friend our reaction was riotous laughter followed quickly by an exchange of confused glances. Is this guy serious? Songs of Spiritual Uplift is four cover songs: "Nursery Rhyme" (first performed by The Archies for a Saturday-morning cartoon show); "Let's Turkey Trot" (originally recorded by Little Eva as a follow-up to "The Loco Motion"); an old country song called "Still Going Steady"; and that timeless Buckner and Garcia novelty hit "Pac-Man Fever." The song selection looks like a joke, but Bostrom plays the record in a dorky yet straightforward guitar sound accented with quiet R2D2ish keyboards in the background. Curiosity got the best of me and I called up Derrick to ask him what the fuck is going on. "It's definitely a comedy record," he said. "But I take my comedy very seriously. It's specifically designed to rock out to, just with a little humor. I think it has an immediacy common to most alternative music, compounded with the idea of serious artists recording hack forms of really nonhip records." Uh-huh. (Amarillo Records, P.O. 2443, San Francisco, CA 94124)
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Remember Vern from Unwound? Well Mocket--the latest warrior in the Olympia horde, just released a single called Bionic Parts on his record label, Punk in My Vitamins. "Mocket is a part of the keyboard/Japanese-American revolution," says Vern. Whatever--Mocket plays excitable, sinister punk peppered with keyboards and boosted by dual male/female vocals. Once again, Olympia has produced a great band that forges new frontiers in punk rock. K Records owner Calvin Johnson may have put it best recently: "Olympia is calling again, and young America, as usual, will sit up and take notice. They like punk in their vitamins, Mocket in their belief system and Bionic Parts scattered on their dance floor." (Punk in My Vitamins, P.O. Box 2283, Olympia, WA 98507)
Johnson recently demonstrated his dance-floor expertise with a new single from his funky conglomerate Dub Narcotic Sound System. "Shake-a-Puddin" is the first single-track release from Dub's new album Boot Party. You can party your boot off to trip funk with hot lyrics like "Tearin' up the box, heatin' up the sauce, directin' all the Sweet-N-Lows to go and get lost." So far, Dub Narcotic System is one of the few bands pursuing the reanimation of disco to do so with style. This record is for ultrahipsters only--squares need not apply. (K Records, Box 7154, Olympia, WA 98507)
Finally, from the Washington, D.C., sewah crawls The Make Up, founders and crusaders of the "Gospel Yeh-Yeh" creed, a self-proclaimed "liberation theology" of love which urges its followers to "get theirs" and "off the pigs in all their forms." Manson for the '90s? Not quite. The Make Up is kidding, and this band could play circles around ol' tweaker eyes. The group's Dischord debut, Destination: Love-Live! At Cold Rice, is full of poetic guitar disco. Teetering on the edge of campy schlock rock, Make Up whips back and forth between slow, eerie melodies to feedback-splashed howling. The revival is coming our way Sunday at Hollywood Alley. (Dischord, 3819 Beecher Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20007) Somebody give me a witness.