Looking for punk in a button-down town

Pastel Skeleton rocks out at a house party earlier this year. (Ashley Rerrie/AQ)

It was Friday the 13th this past April, and a modest house on York Street pulsed with music. Outside, the small porch was infested with people. Cloud puffs of weed and tobacco polluted the air while voices yelled thoughts about music, humanity and summer vacation. The door was plastered with posters advertising the night’s event: “Bad Luck Punk Party at the Bloodbath House”.

Opening that door was like hitting a goddamn tidal wave of mohawks, stretched ears, and petite girls in sundresses. A dancing blue man with a casual watermelon on his head didn’t look out of place amongst the tribal face painted kids as the snapped dozens of photos with disposable cameras which had been handed out at the door.

While a sleepy woman and a clown named Brandonnie lazily sprawled a couch, the painted kids started to dance in unison to the music of their hosts: Pastel Skeleton. This was the band’s first live show. Alex Curtis hit the guitar as he screamed into a microphone. To his right, Jake Martin down-strummed the bass at max speed, while a polo shirted Tom Creagh waited to play some noisy guitar solos. A half naked Alex McCain slammed all hell out of the drums.

Creagh and Martin are STU grads and Curtis is currently finishing up his last year also at STU.
A month before, the punk-noise band didn’t even exist.

For years Curtis messed around with music.

“I was just bored all the time and wanted to do something productive,” said Curtis. But just recently Martin had been hounding on Curtis to start up a band.

“One night we were just sitting around talking about records and I asked Al if he wanted to be in a punk band. There was no punk band, but the next day we all just started playing,” said Curtis. The same day they started jamming the guys decided to plan a punk house show. The band gave themselves a month to prepare.

“We picked Friday the 13th because it was cool. It was a hook and that’s why we named the event the ‘Bad Luck Punk Party’,” said Curtis.

The band spread the word through social media and word of mouth. The Facebook event reached almost 200 confirmed guests.

“Now we had something to work towards,” said McCain.

On the morning of the show the band still had no idea what they were doing. They gutted Martin’s apartment and somehow made it work.

Two hours before people started piling in, the band plugged in and started playing at max volume for the first time.

“Luckily, it sounded awesome,” said Curtis. “We had no idea what the logistics would be like, we were just super stoked on having this house show.”

They blitzed through their 45 minute set without any kinks and the night ended with a D.J. spinning old school punk playlists as the crowd danced on into the early morning.

“Everyone was running up to us saying we thought you guys were gunna suck, but that was awesome,” said Curtis. Even strangers were complimenting the band.

“We had made the party invite only for fear of trashing the house, but random people came and they seemed to really like the noise.”

It’s not just friends and local punks digging Pastel Skeleton. This summer, a man from Yorkshire, England, asked the band if he could use one of their songs on a punk compilation he was making.

More recently, Tempe Starving Artist Magazine asked the band for an interview. The magazine deals with popular bands like Minus The Bear and No Age.

Punk fan Dave Duval is hoping events like Pastel Skeleton’s house shows will revive Fredericton’s shrinking underground scene.
Fredericton has a long history of punk and hardcore music, from the early 80’s with Neighborhood Watch right through the mid-2000s with various local bands. Unfortunately, the scene died down with the 2007 closing of the infamous grunge bar Bugaboo Creek- which was turned into the folky Cedar Tree Cafe.

“They serve good coffee but the music sucks down there and there’s a bunch of dudes with macbooks but back in the day it was the dirtiest goddamned bar in Fredericton. It was where all the weirdos and alcoholics and punks and whoever went to see good bands. It seems that ever since it closed, we’ve been left with a whole bunch of this weird, “chug chug chug” myspace metal shit, which seems to dominate underground culture at the moment,” said Duval.

Regardless of the smaller scene, Duval said there is still some kick left out there on the quiet streets.

“There are still kids that are interested in the real shit in this town, including Haunted Ground-a newer power-violence band that seem pretty darn awesome, and HARD CHARGER, who are great. They play Gallery Connexion once in a while,” said Duval.

“I’m currently working on a bunch of rotten noise to release on cassette with a local weirdo named James who has been releasing straight noise for a long time, previously under the record label Hamburger Tapes and now under the name Runk Records. He’s another cat in Fredericton that’s passionate about punk/noise/shit culture, and he’s getting into putting on shows too.”

Punk fiends don’t have to wait long for a good, dirty, noise show. Pastel Skeleton is throwing a “summer is dead” show this Friday. The band decided to stick with a house venue as oppose to a bar because they like the personal vibe.

“Everyone is gunna be moving and bumping into each other. It’s really physical. Bars have an exclusive feel, but house shows have a chill, hang-out feel, “said McCain.

“We want everyone to come enjoy the baptism of noise and we’ll take real good care of yah’s,” said Curtis.

Pastel Skeleton will also be releasing their new C.D. Thrash this Friday. Fifty handmade copies will be up for grabs for ten bones a pop.

For more details on the band and their upcoming show, check out www.pastelskeleton.com or the group’s Facebook page.

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