The band engages in homoerotic male bonding for homophobes while they play at CBGB’s in New York in 2002.

Kevin’s house is small, drafty, and dirty. It sits in a poor neighborhood in upstate New York that straddles the line between rural and suburban. It’s early spring and it’s still freezing and grey: the fields, the roads, the faces. Down in Kevin’s basement, however, it’s hot as summer and warm with flesh tones.

His basement smells like body odor. The room is packed with boxes and there’s a sharp scent of mildew and kitty litter, but it’s body odor that dominates: the scent of sweaty boys working hard.

I’m sitting on an ancient brown couch, just a few feet from the amps, and close to where Greg stands at the microphone. I feel guilty taking pleasure in their smell; I fear them noticing how happy it makes me, and then never speaking to me again. It’s a big deal to me that they’ve let me sit in on their band practice. It’s my third time here, and Kevin’s basement might be my new favorite place. It’s warm, safe, and full of handsome boys sweating and spouting off radical rhetoric and contempt for the cool kids.  

“What did you say there, Greg?” says Kevin between songs. “In the next to last line of that verse? ‘Something something chicken, something something living?’”

“What the fuck is wrong with you man?” says Kevin to Greg. “Chicken?”

“So the song’s not about eating meat? I can’t understand a word you’re saying. I don’t know how you’re going to convince all these kids to become vegans when they have no idea what the fuck you’re saying,” he says as he stomps off and pretends to look through a cardboard box full of family photos.  

“Oh my fucking God! The song has nothing to do with eating meat! God! The line is, ‘I don’t want no part of the world you’re building.’” Kevin turns to me and asks, “Does anyone else in this room have any idea what the fuck Greg is saying when he sings?”

The only people in the room who aren’t in the band are Amber, Greg’s girlfriend, and me. Neither of us are objective observers. She’s in love with one of them and I’m in love with all of them. So we both say ‘yes.’ Gary, the bassist, wants no part in the conversation. His contribution to the scene involves scowling and occasionally grumbling rude remarks as he sits on the amp.

Some fans get in on the homophobic fun while watching the band at CBGB’s in New York in 2002.

Amber sits next to me on the couch and quietly flips through magazines. If she enjoys band practice as much as me, she hides it well. I say: “So what’s the word, Amber?” When she says, “Not a whole lot,” Greg yells, “Quiet in the peanut gallery.” He then winks slyly at her to cover up his chauvinistic impulses with humor.

As much as the closet Stalinists — Greg, Kevin, and Gary — mouth feminist rhetoric, they have a bad habit of telling Amber to shut up when she talks. But it’s different for me. I’m a boy; I’m allowed to have an opinion.

“Oh man, Simon, you should have seen it,” Kevin says to me between songs. His tone reveals that he cares more about retelling the story than informing me. “That kid Bolevice, the guy we always talk about? You should have seen it — he came to school the other day wearing a Metallica t-shirt! Can you believe it? I asked him what was up with that. Then I figured, hell, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was being clever about it, and you know what he said? He said, ‘Metallica’s punk, right?’ Can you imagine?”

Actually, I can imagine because at my own school that’s me. I’m Bolevice, the corny poser loser the other boys make fun of.  

“So … he likes a band you guys don’t like and that’s a big problem?” I reply. “Why?”

“Hell yeah, man!” says Greg, who can articulate better than Kevin why mainstream culture and its followers lack independent thought. “He wants to come to shows, talk about how punk rock he is, and how he agrees with all the stuff the Dead Kennedys talk about, yet then he turns around and supports bad corporate mainstream music that kills individual creativity and independent labels.”

“Oh,” and I shut up. Of course I agree with Greg; that’s why I love Kevin’s basement so much. We see eye-to-eye: We hate big money, big business, big music. Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart , meat. Capitol Records, and Green Day. We hate sports and the jock thug misogynists on the football team. We despise the way people exert power over the weak: in sweatshops, in armies, in government, on the bus. Yet lately they have started to freak me out, not because they’re a clique — that much was obvious from the start — but because they can act just as mean as the jocks that beat me up in the locker room. They boast about fighting prejudice, but somehow faggots don’t fit into their list of oppressed peoples.  

Walking my high school halls, ducking projectiles, and headlocks, and boys yelling “faggot,” I always wanted to find people who thought like me. I used to lie alone on my bed in the dark, listening to The Sex Pistols or The Clash, and think that I’d eventually find a group of people who would accept me even if I was gay or liked commercial music. I felt happy and relieved when I finally met these three guys, even though they went to another school, but now I’m starting to feel less welcome and less valued by them.

Practice is winding down: They’ve gone through every song they know and now they’re playing around with a new riff. I’m thinking of the long drive home: the empty wasteland of dead depressed Columbia County. After we all leave, Greg and Amber will go off somewhere to fool around — although not to fuck because Greg’s practically a monk now with his new Hare Krishna/vegan/hard-line communist beliefs. He has negative views about non-reproductive sex. I’m avoiding this topic of conversation with him because I have a feeling he will say some pretty ugly things about gay sex.

I’ll begrudgingly drive 20 minutes out of my way to give Gary a ride home so as to not give him any reason to like me less. Then I’ll drive home alone, past the gray cold winter fields and the dilapidated houses. Afterwards I’ll go to my room and jerk off to memories of Kevin’s basement — the smell of boys and the guitars ringing in my ears. Kevin will stay in his basement and play Nintendo and watch television, or watch pornography — straight pornography.  

Sitting on Kevin’s filthy couch, not wanting the afternoon to end, I focus on the sight of Kevin drumming. His shirt’s off and his face shines from sweat and intensity. He bites his lower lip with the same sort of joy, concentration, and pleasure your face shows when you get a blowjob. I focus on the ecstatic look on his face and I imagine my own face buried between his legs.  



Information about feminist theory. Published by Kristin Switala.


“Is Wal-Mart Good for America?”
By Frontline. Published by WGBH Educational Foundation. November 16, 2004.

Citizens Monitoring Coca-Cola
website designed to monitor the actions of The Coca-Cola Corporation. Published by Campaign for Justice at Coca-Cola.

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