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White Punks on Hope

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Straight and Narrow . . . Minded?
Straight edge may be a direct offshoot of punk, but a lot of traditional punks don't like straight-edge kids.

"The people who really don't understand are the younger punk kids," says Delbridge. "They're like, 'What? You don't drink? How can you be punk and not drink--isn't that a part of it?'"

There's no question some straight edgers take on the role of moral watchdogs. There are recent reports of straight-edge kids pummeling smokers at punk shows in Chicago and New York.

In a 1995 interview with the Thicker fanzine, Ian MacKaye denounced the stringent attitude prevalent in the culture he is widely credited with founding. "The whole straight-edge thing for me was never about this kind of puritan lifestyle, where I was supposed to be leading the masses toward a better tomorrow," he said.

Developed in the immediate wake of the sexual revolution, the early straight-edge creed was against promiscuity--just another self-destructive force blindly accepted by the masses. "A lot of people don't take the 'don't have sex' thing so seriously anymore," says Eric Corder. "But a lot of people are also still with that. It's basically just about getting free of things that control your mind."

Straight-edge scenes in other cities have divided along lines of hardliner and tolerance. That hasn't happened in the Valley. "Our scene's so small already," says Stinson. "Plus, I don't see how positivity runs in beating people for not believing what you believe." He's referring to the violence hardline straight edgers use to enforce their doctrine on other punks, i.e., the recent beatings of smokers at Chicago and New York shows.

But the Valley scene is divided on the issue of organized religion. Punk-rock literature, including most straight-edge 'zines, often portrays Christianity as a glorified form of crowd control. Nevertheless, on the national level--and locally with Overcome--Christian straight-edge hard-core is establishing itself as a punk genre in its own right. Not to mention Krishna-core. A group of straight-edge Hare Krishnas from New York City called Shelter recently signed to the high-profile Interscope Records.

Members of the central Phoenix straight-edge scene, however, generally hold the typical punk view that "Christian hard-core" is a contradiction in terms. At an Overcome show at the Equinox this spring, one Phoenix straight edger shouted anti-Christian insults at the band.

Eavenson says he tried to bring both Valley scenes together as much as possible at Equinox, and welcomed Overcome. "The spring equinox is the time when night and day are equal. I wanted the Equinox to be a place where everyone could be equal, open to all, hard-core or not, straight edge or not.

"Straight edge is not just about the music. The music is the mouthpiece, but the lifestyle is a launching point to bigger and better things, of a community taking charge of itself.

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Josh Krist