Punk nostalgia converges with Tony Patino's The Road

The Tampa native has written a book about legendary punk bands on the road.

click to enlarge Crowd at Homer W. Hesterly show circa 1987. - COURTESY OF TONY PATINO
Courtesy of Tony Patino
Crowd at Homer W. Hesterly show circa 1987.

Punk … history?

A few decades ago we never thought about those two words in one sentence. Punk was new, inventing itself and reinventing itself, segmenting and regenerating like an earthworm before our bleary black-lined eyes.

The formative years of punk rock happened when many of us were just old enough to get drunk with a fake I.D.

Of course, some didn’t drink or indulge in substances at all: the straight-edge punks. Others were skinheads. There were the skinheads who were white supremacists but many weren’t racists at all. And thus began the strange diversification of punk.

What began as a vague number of kids wearing mohawks, army jackets and combat boots increased to several well-defined niches who listened to different bands, abided by different codes and wore distinct clothing.

Our gathering places were not only bars but warehouses, empty storefronts, parking lots and house parties, where bands played loud, distorted minute-long songs to which we screamed, jumped around, slam-danced, skanked, thrashed, stage-dived and flailed.

If you were in my generation, you might’ve heard the Ramones from older siblings or friends’ older siblings and Black Flag from a cassette tape your friend made you in high school.

I remember when the American hardcore scene was in its early phases, when bands like Fear and Suicidal Tendencies were touring and playing dives like the Lonesome Coyote in Pinellas Park. It’s hard to believe, but these days were long before the reaches of the internet. We read about out-of-state bands and progressive social issues in copy-machine-crafted ’zines and bought music on 7-inch vinyl.

For the aging punk rockers, there are a bevy of fond, if sloppy, memories, and it’s a bit surreal to that we are aging and getting all Big Chill about it. We’re reminiscing about the major players, the landmarks; people who died and went to jail.

What was so great about it? We thought we were part of something bigger, that we were thumbing the establishment, and it kept us going even if we were completely disillusioned with the world.

Memories of these times give us a snapshot of the chaos, camaraderie and blissful abandon around live punk music that lives on today. Local bands like Clairmel and Pink Lincolns have embodied the lifestyle locally.

Their road stories — along with those of Anti Nowhere League, UK Subs, Husker Du, Bad Religion, Dead Milkmen and some 50-plus others — have been documented in Tony Patino’s The Road, a book that makes you feel like you’re right there in the van — so much so, you might even feel like you need a shower afterward.

The Bricks celebrates the Tampa-born author’s new tome with The Road Book Signing and Release Party. Headlining the free shindig will be Tampa’s Decker (Dave Decker of Vagina Sore Jr. and Clairmel fame) and Murder-Suicide Pact.

Incidentally, Decker tells us he’s finishing up a 13-song solo album with Bill Clower (of Radon) and Todd Rockhill (The Draft, Discount and The Enablers). The trio will be touring the West Coast in September.

Writer Tony Patino, born in Tampa in 1970, is taking upon himself to document punk rock memories, starting out with a book about punk bands on tour in The Road.

In his bio, Tony Patino says he was introduced to the power of music by his mother who exposed Tony to The Rolling Stones, Dylan, The Allman Brothers and Bob Marley. His attraction to more obscure artists emerged when his older sister began dating, and later married, an employee of a local Tampa record store, Vinyl Fever, where he was exposed to underground acts such asKing Crimson, Devo, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Motorhead and The Ramones.

“I grew up in Lutz, which back then was not the residential paradise that it seems to have become,” Patino said, “but a great place to grow up nonetheless.”

The married father of three now lives in Lexington, Ky., a place he says is cool for raising families. In his youth, he played bass, and he says music has never left his blood. He has worked as a concert booking agent, a local promoter, a columnist for music magazines, the A&R person for a record label, and an artist manager. He says he’s experienced firsthand the unpredictability of life on the road, and decided to bring the insanity of it all to readers who want a glimpse of what life was like backstage and in the van.

Patino, inspired by his experiences hanging out at Tampa shows, says his latest project is a film about our local scene.

“I've been working on a documentary film about the Tampa scene from 1980 to 1990,” he said. “I'll be interviewing some people for that project this week.”

Who are the players in Patino’s backstory?

"I was involved in the Tampa punk scene from late 1986 until I left 1992, so I'm either good friends with or acquainted with just about everybody from the scene back then. I'm friends most all of the bands from back then, Jehovah's Sicknesses, Rat Cafeteria, Guy Smiley, BOS, COR, Awake, People's Court … geez, there aren't too many people from the '80s punk scene that I don't know."

Patino says he collected thousands of show fliers and talked to members of Dead Milkmen and Circle Jerks, who commented on Tampa's violent skinhead incidents. Their voiceovers will be heard with montages of photos of past punk shows.

From the looks of it, Tony Patino may be our unofficial Tampa Punk Historian Laureate.

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