The Turn - by Raymond Epstein
There wasn't reason to go home so I didn't.
I did not have much in the way of discretionary cash and going to the beach to drink overpriced beer with other college types was of no appeal. Yeah, I did those Spring Break shenanigans once; the whole Ft. Lauderdale deal, wet t-shirt contests, etc. Meh. No, this year for Spring Break of ’89 I decided to stay put in D.C. I'd wake up late, go running, work on my thesis, go skateboard and simply lay low. One of my roommates was in town, but he was mostly gone at work so our cavernous house was pretty quiet.
Lack of noise was strange as I lived with five other guys who were all music nuts and random characters were always at the place doing questionable activities. I gave up on trying to study there after the first few months and would hole up in the campus coffee shop or the 24 hour study lounge. It had been over two years at this point since I had played any music with anyone and even as loud as our place usually was, cranking up my Marshall in the basement to noodle around wasn't something my housemates were fond of.
Meanwhile, my tastes were shifting. I had musically arrived via early 80's hardcore and the location I chose for college was mostly based on the huge music scene there. I saw (and played with) pretty much every major hardcore band of the day and then many of the first gen speed and thrash metal bands that splintered out of it. But Hardcore in that incarnation was basically dead by '86 and most of the bands who continued expanded their horizons into other realms or became a parody of themselves. Repetition can become torture.
Still, I craved intense music and shows were still comprised of audience members (mostly guys) beating themselves senseless. The term "moshing" took the late 70's/early 80's circle, slamming and pogoing, mainstream into a more jock-ridden macho exercise that I had grown tired of. Yet, I digress.
During that break a high school friend came up to hang out and take pictures around the city. We meandered around town and he snapped tons of rolls of all the sculptures and architecture we could fit in. My roommate mentioned that we should check out a band at the DC Space that his older sister, a serious music aficionado, had recommended. Neither of us had heard of The Cynics, but even if they sucked at least the Space was a good place to hang and get our swerve on.
The DC Space was by any standards a tiny club, but still managed to get some of the most amazing shows year after year on a regular basis. You were intimate with the band whether you wanted to be or not. Sometimes you were feeling it and other times you'd retreat to the front bar out of the main room. This show was the former in spades.
The Cynics had only released their second album at this point, but they were on fire. Check out the video below to get an idea of their sound, but what really blew my naive brain was that a band could be rocking, hard, intense or whatever and still get EVERYONE in the crowd to dance. Not beat each other up mind, but actually dance. Men and women. Glorious! The singer in fact would go out into the crowd multiple times and play harmonica right in audience member's faces and dance with everyone. My friend and I both were floored and found ourselves dancing too despite not really knowing anyone. This was what I wanted, and as the case was, had to do.
It would be another year before I started playing music with anyone again, but I had a new goal. I wanted people to have a blast and bug out. I wanted people to move and dance, both men and women. It could still be hard and loud, but I wanted everyone going off and it not being a rugby match. The Cynics at that moment informed my music view that has endured through this day.
I hope that others will find something that turns things around for them. I say go out. Freak out. Make music that evokes someone to do something different. Dance around and don't give a rat’s ass.
By Raymond Epstein