By: Laura Friederich
I’ve been floating in and out of some state of panic attack for the last three weeks, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the coming of winter. Maybe it’s because I switched up my meds in July. Maybe it’s because all of the tiny little impacts of the last year have finally caught up to me at once. I’ve been leaving the house less than usual, and through it all tendrils of guitar and screaming vocals have been wafting over from the Bad Friends practice sessions at the house next door.
It’s been a long time since I went to a punk show. The last one may have been in Asheville, before its gentrification was complete. So last Friday I squashed my social phobias and ventured out to The Pinhook’s 7-year anniversary party to investigate. And, oh man. I really didn’t realize how much I needed a band that sounds the way that I feel right now.
Sometimes you need loud, you need abrasive. Sometimes you need drum hits that sound like the smashing of windows, the cracking of bones. Sometimes you need vocals that are sheer unadulterated wails from the core of our existential disgust with this world. Sometimes you need throbbing bass and layers of distorted guitar that pull you forward through wave after wave. Sometimes you need noise to wash over and engulf you.
Bad Friends reminds me of sweaty house shows. Of warehouses before they were turned into art galleries. Of punk houses before they were condemned. Of the hope and terror and anguish that come with trying to create your own world, your own rules, your own space in the shadows of an economy, a government, a culture that actively seeks to crush you.
And sometimes in this world you fail. Sometimes you pour all of your energy into surviving, and there is not enough left to heal. Sometimes life or karma catches up with you. Sometimes you are felled by your own bad habits, your own un-exorcised demons. Sometimes you work your ass off, pouring your heart and soul into something, for years, only to watch it crumble before your eyes. Maybe it’s a band. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s a city. Maybe it’s a bar.
As you’ve probably heard by now, The Pinhook has been hit with devastating news. Be it idiocy or an honest mistake on the part of the previous accountant, they owe $80,000 in back taxes from the first five years they were open. It’s a mistake they found themselves, and a mistake they self-reported, in the hopes that the IRS would work with them on a timeframe to pay it back (no such luck, unfortunately). To be honest, I don’t really care what happened, why the money is owed, who made the mistake and how. Someone somewhere fucked up early on, big time, and now it needs to be fixed. $80,000 is a LOT of money. You could buy a house in Durham with that, pre-gentrification. Alternately, it’s 1600 people, if they donated $50 each. The space is an anchor of our community, and it is time for us as a community to hold it. In order to stay open, we are going to need to give the Pinhook a serious Empire Records moment.
The Pinhook is a space in constant flux. It’s an idea. It’s an experiment. And really, so am I. So are most of the artists in this town that are struggling to create the interesting parties, genre-bending music, and inspired art that help make Durham “marketable”. That help make it appealing to the folks that want to move in and spend money. This is part of The Pinhook’s appeal. It’s a flawed individual like us. It’s experimenting, and sometimes screwing things up. It learns. It grows. It evolves. And it rarely says no to our weird ass ideas. We can make complex art there. We can be slightly dangerous. Threatening to the status quo. Or just in danger of not making money. In danger of doing things that flop. The Pinhook lets us TRY things.
I don’t want to see Durham follow the path of Asheville, but on some level I know that this is what happens. I have watched the gentrification process several times over. The warehouses get turned into art galleries. And don’t get me wrong, I love art galleries. But most of them won’t let you throw a punk show. Right now in Durham, there is a giant high rise going in across from the Pinhook that has condos for sale for 1.8 million dollars. The condo fees alone are $11,000/ year. Stop for a second and think about that number. Compare it to your rent. Tax breaks are going to create housing that no one you actually know can afford. And directly across the street, we are in danger of losing an anchor point for the entire arts scene. We cannot let this happen.
Last Friday was the seven-year anniversary of The Pinhook. It is a space that has spawned music careers, supported political organizing, and provided space for a meeting of minds that has resulted in more than one marriage. It has supplied a cost-free venue for fundraiser after fundraiser after fundraiser. It has fostered community and served as an incubator of rebellion. Sure, it’s gritty and flawed. But it is a space in which we can create our own weird art, our own weird reality. It experiments and grows with us. And personally, I do not want to live in a Durham without it. So let’s fill this bucket up. Drop by drop.