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The Colonel Chronicle

The Colonel Chronicle

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Wormtown: Worcester’s Punk Rock Deficit

In+Reverse+at+South+Highs+2023+Talent+show
In Reverse at South High’s 2023 Talent show

Raised on nineties pop punk, playing stock pot drums in my kitchen at the age of four, I’ve grown to not only actively seek my local music scene but seek to be a part of it. I picked up a guitar in sixth grade and went on to pioneer alt rock band ‘In Reverse’ with alum Quinton Gibbons my freshman year, playing that year’s Tri-M talent show and winning the crowd’s vote in the next. 

These shows were a marvelous time for me, not only to live out my dream but to bring my community together. Yet, other than these shows, In Reverse has not played a single venue. You could make the argument of us being minors, and you can debate that high school bands don’t normally take off, but if you were seeking work like we were you’d know – there’s next to no venues and next to no rock scene in Woo.

Evidently, our city seems to have a reputation for this. Usually found on the face of beer cans, breweries, and billboards, it’s safe to say every one of us can recognize the name “Wormtown”, and ask why on Earth Worcester has earned that name. Well, look no further than Leonard B. Saarinen, otherwise known as L.B. Worm. Saarinen is a punk rock DJ and printer who was the first to coin the name. His reasoning was in reference to Worcester’s punk scene in the seventies: dead and still, like worms in the ground.

If you look for a list of punk rock bands spawned in Worcester, the names would be scarce. Blue Moon, Commandos, and Crazy Jack & the Automatics are as many as I could tell you. These bands released music as early as 1979 and as late as 1981. If you extend your search to pop punk, the only band who’s actually made it big is Four Year Strong, who headlined a show at Fenway Park this August, alongside Fall Out Boy and Bring Me the Horizon.

It’s no secret that our city doesn’t have a big music scene. The only time you’ll see live music is at art fairs like StART on the Street. I believe our city’s scene is suffering at the hands of alcohol.

There was a time just around the beginning of quarantine (end of 7th/summer-of-8th grade) where I was playing a show every couple of weeks with this small blues group called the Office Party Band. They hosted open jams at the now closed family restaurant ¨Park Ave Grille and Spirits¨, where Salgabom Snacks stands now. About three other guitarists and I would show up to jam with these old dudes, and while the main quartet would strum chords and bang sticks, we’d exchange solos. The atmosphere was electric, and patrons were always entertained. Their guitarist, who I knew as Gray, summed it up in a few words; “You come here a couple times every week, and everything’s alright. The residents in the apartment across the street can hear [the music] through the window.”

Community is concrete wherever music is involved. Our youth are being actively denied access to their community, barred off from local shows because of our city’s market for alcohol. On the ninth of December, Worcester’s Punk Rock Flea Market was hosted at dive bar Hotel Vernon on Kelley Square. The bar has rendered the event 21+, which was a huge upset to me. I had hopes for a story, with interviews in mind, that were crushed upon the discovery. Worcester’s all-access underground died with Park Grille. Now, the only opportunities for community connection through live music happen at Crystal Park in the spring and Newton Square in the summer once a week.

Events like the concerts in our parks spark a bloom of inspiration in our local music scene and neighborhoods. They bring together and unite people of all creeds, which is why they shouldn’t be scarce. We need more park concerts, more DIY venues, more local networking, and everything in between. Live music is community service, so there’s no reason why our underground should be pushed subterranean. 

I think the best thing young artists can do is petition and organize. Even if we can’t get a public opportunity in our city, we can still assemble DIY shows and venues in youth-safe spaces. Play a show from your basement, play a friend or family member’s birthday party, release your music and play in your school’s talent show. No effort is in vain.

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    Matt WooSkaMar 20, 2024 at 8:14 pm

    Follow Wormtown Ska at facebook/WormtownSkaPromotions
    and The Worcester Community Music and Arts at facebook/WorCMA for information on ska, punk, hardcore and more events in the city!

    Reply