(Re)Collection #7: SoulSide
Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Can't wait to live my life.
Can't wait to get the pictures back.
(From the song Pembroke by SoulSide from the LP Hot Bodi-Gram, 1989)
I have thought about this band a lot over the years. I discovered them at a time in my life when I started going to a lot of shows and participating in music.
Prior to 1984, I was just an outsider looking in. I didn't go to shows, big or small. In fact, the only show I had been to was when Jackson Browne played a benefit on the Mall for solar energy in 1978. It scared me. The crowd, the volume, the drugs and alcohol. Music was something made by adults I didn't know.
In the summer of 1984, I worked in a file room at the World Bank with a guy named Jay who was the drummer in a band called the Velvet Monkeys. He saw where I was heading with my musical taste and fed me lots of new music. I was into Minor Threat and the Faith so he gave me more punk rock: Flipper, Government Issue, the Necros, the Urinals, Half Japanese, Angry Samoans. It was a great moment for me. I did not know anyone up to that point who made music, played shows, toured and recorded records.
Working side by side with Jay was my first musical apprenticeship. The unsuspecting bureaucrats who came in to request files were greeted with a variety of offensive noise. When we weren't listening to Howard Stern (when he was a local DJ on DC101), live Scorpions or Black Flag records, we talked about music. His perspective fascinated me. He was older than me. He was more my sister's age, and I could tell that he thought I was a bit of a clueless teenager. I was, so he was not wrong in thinking that.
The seal was broken. I started to look around and explore. I bought records. I read music fanzines and magazines for the first time. The world opened up a little. Dischord Records releases were the first records I started to collect. I wanted all of them.
I was not a punk, however. I was a curious kid who didn't get his identity from music yet. I just loved it. I would fall asleep every night with Void, Minor Threat or the Faith blasting in my headphones. Just like with My Bloody Valentine, the turbulence of the music, the Sturm und Drang, soothed me.
I bought the first SoulSide record, Less Deep Inside Keeps. It turned out that my best friend Ben knew a couple of the guys in the band through other friends. Our neighborhoods in Northwest DC were fertile ground for future punk rockers. Chances are you knew someone or knew someone who knew someone who was in a Dischord band. Haha. This was another step closer for me. They were our age. I could talk to them at a show and not feel like I was talking to an adult. It was such a big deal to me.
Their second record, Trigger, came out. I bought it. Chris Thomson, the bass player, had left the band and Johnny Temple joined. I saw them many times over the next couple years: d.c. space, the 9:30 club, that Turner Hall show in Madison, Wisconsin opening up for the Beatnigs and D.O.A., Fort Reno during the summers. The shows were a little hardcore. People slam danced and stage dove, but it was friendly not scary. Lots of pogoing. At least that is what I did. I didn't like slam dancing and was not outgoing enough to stage dive.
Eventually, I moved away to Chicago in 1989 and left DC behind in body but not in spirit. The music of DC still loomed large in my life. Of course, I loved other bands like Soul Asylum dearly, but I had actually participated in the DC music scene. I was there.
Very early in my new life in Chicago, I went to see SoulSide when they were on tour for the Hot Bodi-Gram LP. It was like being home again for an hour or so. Trenchmouth opened up for them. That was the first time I saw that great Chicago band. I saw them many times after that. SoulSide bridged the gap between DC and Chicago for me. From that point onward, I would get back involved in college radio and go see bands at clubs, basements and parties. Being in a band seemed like a little more of a possibility. I was meeting people and finding my place.
That record would be their last. Too bad. Along with Fugazi, Shudder to Think and Jawbox, the new sounds were very exciting. It was so much more post-punk and less hardcore. That was fine with me. I had grown tired of hardcore.
Why did I love certain DC bands like SoulSide so much? The anger, urgency and earnestness of the music appealed to the idealistic, young me. I loved them for not being cynical. I took it to heart. I think they did too. But all good things end.
Thanks Soulside. You mean a lot to me still.