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Gunk Rock

In his 2010 tome We Never Learn, author Eric Davidson didn’t set out to write a history book. His mission was humble; he wanted to devote ink to the “undergut” of punk and bands like the Dwarves, the Gories, Supersuckers, and Guitar Wolf, who existed between the genre’s vintage era and the rise of grunge [...]
Kevin J. Elliott



In his 2010 tome We Never Learn, author Eric Davidson didn’t set out to write a history book. His mission was humble; he wanted to devote ink to the “undergut” of punk and bands like the Dwarves, the Gories, Supersuckers, and Guitar Wolf, who existed between the genre’s vintage era and the rise of grunge and Green Day. These were tales of the “gunk” that had been forgotten, but were essential in forging the “garage” sound so currently en vogue. Of course, the New Bomb Turks, who Davidson has fronted with his flamboyant throat for 26 years, play a huge role in the narrative.

There’s never been any doubt who spearheaded High Street’s ’90s punk renaissance.

Gaunt may have brought it to the masses with more melody and a brief dalliance with Warner Bros., and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments may have mutilated it to anthemic extremes, but it was the New Bomb Turks who cleared the overgrowth with a figurative machete that the rest of the Midwest was still trying to sharpen. For many around the world—not just campus dives—the New Bomb Turks were a strain of raw “gunk” punk—both cathartic and campy—that still resonates.

Never in a reunion mindset, the quartet—including Jim Weber on guitar, Matt Reber on bass, and Sam Brown on drums (who replaced original drummer Bill Randt in 1999)—which originated in the dorms of OSU, stay fit with frequent jaunts to European festivals and terrestrial punk extravaganzas, even if they haven’t released an album since 2002’s The Night the Day the Earth Stood Still. When the Turks take the stage as headliners at this month’s Sick Weekend, they’ll be surrounded by bands half their age who owe them a debt of gratitude for blazing and maintaining the trail.

(614) recently spoke with Davidson about the band’s upcoming show and their status in Columbus as pioneers who have yet to switch off the lights.

To what do you attribute the Turks’ longevity?

I think basically, along the way, we avoided a lot of the classic downfalls of rock bands. No one in the band died of an overdose, there was never a huge spat that caused decades-long grudges, and if there’s a good thing about never having a huge hit and becoming a household name, it’s that there wasn’t that kind of weird, depressing downfall that makes you want to never revisit it all again. So a couple of times a year, if someone has a good party or a fest they can fly us to, it’s fun to get together, maybe come up with a new cover tune, and try to keep the flame of the music we like burning a little while longer.

Being on Epitaph Records (Bad Religion, Rancid, the Offspring) in the ’90s, was there any pressure to produce something that transcended what you had already done?

We might have tried to put a little pressure on ourselves, because we didn’t want to always just remake the same exact record. But that was just to keep things interesting, stay fresh artistically, and try different things. We trusted ourselves as a band, I guess, to weld together albums we liked, and figured our fan base would go along with us. I should note that I am speaking for myself here, but I always thought we would have to change our sound a lot to “get on the radio,” which would take some time, and then whatever zeitgeist or trend was around that got you signed would have passed. I felt that most of the bands we loved, were primarily inspired by, and we were compared to back then, like the Saints, the Ramones, Dead Boys, Pagans, Devil Dogs, Replacements, and the Lazy Cowgirls, never had huge hits, so why would we all of a sudden have one? And no, I am not saying we were as good as those bands.

What keeps you going? Are there bands around who motivate you?

Oh yeah, I mean there are always cool bands that pop up. I have to admit that personally, working as an editor at a music site, I have no idea where music is going, as far as distribution, consumption, and how music will influence the lives of children growing up right now, into the future. One friend said he thinks music will just be like pants or toilet paper, just another thing to buy online. That’s weird to me, and doesn’t keep me going. But, you might also assume that having to sift through endless press releases every day, of probably 80 percent total crap bands, would kill my interest. But is has not. Good tunes and fun bands always seem to come along at just the right time, and as usual for me, it’s a bunch of bands no one gives a crap about, so I’m not going to list my 10 Favorite New Bands, or whatever.

What do you hope the legacy of New Bomb Turks will be once it’s all said and done?

I just hope that we, again, along with others, helped keep alive the notion of punk rock as a raw music with a sense of humor and perspective that can get lost sometimes. I often see “punk” being described first as political ideology or fashion directive before the, you know, music is actually mentioned. To us, the Saints are a perfect punk band. But as they say, history is written by the winners. Just make sure you get your 12-year-old nephew an Australian ’70s punk comp for his or her birthday.

The New Bomb Turks play the three-day Sick Weekend Festival on Friday, March 25 at Ace of Cups. Visit for tickets and a complete list of bands.

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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause




To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need




Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here:

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here:

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?




A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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