The LA Times Festival Of Books is a highly anticipated event for this town’s literary types, but this year’s edition brought an onslaught from a strange new subgenre of author – the punk rock memoirist. While Dave Grohl interviewed his mother nearby about her own autobiography on the trials of raising such a successful aw-shucks overachiever, we heard from five long time participants in the darkest recesses of punk, including two whose bands probably gave Mrs. Grohl the willies if she ever ran across their records while putting Dave’s laundry away. No parent in the 1980s would have thought it was cool that their kids were into Black Flag and the Cro-Mags; if they knew anything at all about punk, it meant the kids were probably on drugs and getting into violence.
And let’s be honest – a lot of the tales in John Joseph’s “Evolution of a Cro Magnon” and Keith Morris’ “My Damage” (see our interview with the author here) are about drugs and violence – oh my goodness, our parents turned out to be right! But the punk memoir is capable of taking other forms too – Scott Crawford’s “Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene” is yeah, a little bit violent but mostly minus the dope talk, thanks to that town’s pervasive straight-edge mentality. And Michelle Cruz Gonzales, drummer for 90s hardcore band Spitboy and author of “The Spitboy Rule: Tales Of A Xicana In A Female Punk Band,” brings her own frame of reference from a different time and place, a scene less physically intimidating than the Dickensian nightmare of Joseph and Morris’ tour stories, but one still loaded with direct challenges for an outspoken feminist band.
My mom cried because a lady at work told her Black Flag cut themselves with razor blades onstage.