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John Lamb, Published January 29 2013

Lamb: Is rock conference punk or bunk?

Twenty years ago I was a college student and, like a lot of my friends and others of that generation, into punk rock.

The thought of combining the two – an academic study of punk – never crossed my 21-year-old mind, which, quite honestly, was occupied with trying to scrounge up enough change for Kirby’s $1.50 pitcher night.

The idea of combining academics and punk still boggles my mind, which is why I’m so intrigued about this Saturday’s “Punk Archaeology Conference” at the Sidestreet Grill & Pub.

The flyers sure look punk. They’re colorful, have lots of pop culture anachronisms, are somewhat hard to read and don’t include important information like whether there’s a cover charge or where people can get more information.

The event features music by June Panic, Andrew Reinhard, What Kingswood Needs and Les Dirty Frenchmen. Discussion will be led by academics, because you really can’t discuss punk without Talking Heads.

Punk has long had a place in higher learning. Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin has a PhD in zoology and has taught geology at UCLA. Descendents singer Milo Aukerman was on his way to eventually getting a PhD in biochemistry by the time the group released “Milo Goes to College” in 1982.

Defining “Punk Archaeology” looks to be a big part of Saturday’s discussion. The event’s Facebook page promises, “Everyone will have a chance to consider and offer commentary on what Punk Archaeology means locally and globally.”

So, it could be a punk approach to archaeology, a field many of my punk friends studied, which makes since because punks are all about getting dirty and digging up, say, $1.50 in old coins to drink bad, cheap beer.

Or it could be an archaeological study of punk. Maybe scientists would try to uncover what ancient people (40-year-olds) thought by dusting off old tattoos. (Anarchy symbols are nicely covered up by five-pointed stars once you decide you want to get a job. Or so I’ve heard.)

Personally, I favor the latter. Maybe Archaeologists could make a dig site of the former Ralph’s Corner in Moorhead. They could dust off the resin left by Pyromanics Smoke Shop and dig through the pilates mats of recent tenants.

They would have to dig deep as Ralph’s was torn down after it closed in 2005. It’s too bad because I’m sure those floor tiles would hold a wealth of information like bogs preserve bodies. I think all of the old spilled Schmidt Ice secured old flyers, band pins, ear plugs and flannel shirts to the asbestos tiles the way amber preserves old insects. Or maybe they could just find the door to the back room. Covered in stickers for bands and causes (real and fictitious), it would read like some kind of a cave painting documenting the 1990s and early 2000s at the bar.

Maybe they could bring in Jesse Yborra who could recount his ill-fated Testicle Festival in 2001, which led to Fargo police in riot gear taking on a group of unruly punks in Lindenwood Park and more than one local TV reporter to say “Testicle Festival” on the air with a straight face.

Or go further back to the 1980s. Unearth a cassette of the Blacklisted, the band to open for the Vampire Lezbos in 1984, considered the first punk show in the area. Or dig up the black leather jackets worn at the time, the ones painted with a favorite band’s album cover or icon. Extra points if the owner can still fit into it. (My money says Joel Lee can.)

That’s a conference I would want to attend. To me, punk was about getting active, getting loud and dirty to make a point, even if that point now seems kind of pointless. It wasn’t clean, it wasn’t pretty (though some of the girls were) and it wasn’t always well thought out.

If this conference is like what you think of when you think of conferences – more talk than rock – well, then old school attendees may feel more like they’ve been punk’d.

If you go

What: Punk Archaeology conference

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Sidestreet Gill & Pub, 301 3rd Ave., N., Fargo.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533