PUNK – by Andrew Baranek

(c)  Andrew Baranek

It’s that kid again, he’s been tagging along all summer. I’ve seen him at every Foul Tip show, standing way in the back shadows, smiling as the band thrashes onstage. It’s weird because he doesn’t even look like a punk: he always wears khaki shorts, a white t-shirt. Like he’s a Boy Scout, or maybe a bando.

And now he’s in my cellar while I’m supposed to be recording Foul Tip’s next record. He sits there in the folding chair, with his weird little smirk. And Nate the frontman’s on the cement floor next to him, in tight black jeans and jacket, all studded with silver. And Nate’s staring off, contemptuous, getting his Foul Tip face ready for the next vocal take. I love when he gets like that.

But this other kid is all like, delicate… or normal… or something. With his hands tucked in his lap. You’d think he’d be put off by our assholish-ness and all of our B-O. I mean valley hardcore doesn’t fuck around, and this kid… he just doesn’t look serious. It’s like he’s amused by us, and afterwards he’s gonna go hang out with a bunch of girlfriends, and they’ll all laugh about us.

Nate never used to tolerate weird fanboys. He used to be fucking rank to everyone. That’s why I loved Foul Tip in the first place; they openly hated you, they dug deeper than other hardcore bands, they made your fucking hips tremble. And it’s mostly because of Nate. Onstage he screams, barks, punches the air, he’s goddamn terrifying; his body’s like a whip, flinging sweat everywhere.

I pressed the Stop button on my four-track recorder and said, “OK dude, ready for another take?”

“Hmm.” Nate bit his pierced lip and stared down at the floor. “Something isn’t right here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t feel… like… scared enough. You know? I’m too happy right now.”

“What should we do?” I said. “Turn the lights off?”

“No, man, get this. I got an idea.”

“What?” I stared at him and the kid.

Whatever, I thought, as I circled Nate and the kid, dragging a roll of masking tape around their back-to-back bodies. Nate had taken his jacket off so that now his black t-shirt was hard against the kid’s white one. The smell of sweat hinted between their necks. Whatever, I thought. I don’t mind giving in to a frontman’s whims, for a good vocal take.

Then I looked down and noticed, among the criss-crossed strips, that their hands were oddly kind of touching, pink beneath the pressure (I had tied them fucking tight). I thought, this’ll definitely egg Nate on into screaming some dark shit, as I slipped headphones up onto his ears, and pressed the Record button on my four-track.

Then I walked over to the wooden staircase, and flipped the lightswitch on the wall. It could only add to the atmosphere. On my way up the cellar steps, I turned back and looked, as Nate’s headphones began to screech. He and that kid were tied together, their bodies dark under the glowing window. I couldn’t see their hands anymore. Then Nate leaned forward, pulling the kid along with him, until his lips brushed against the microphone. His body began to sway. The whole time, the kid went on smiling at nothing.


Andrew Baranek flits about Coal Country PA, New York City, the Jersey shore, and Philadelphia.