Johnny Ryan
by Ethan Swan

A Very Special July 4
This Week
Various Venues

The Fourth of July is the least punk holiday there is, right? The blatant "we're #1" patriotism; the name "Independence Day," an ironic reminder of our fading civil liberties; the overwhelming odor of grilled Meat--it all adds up to, in the world of Flavor Flav, "a worldwide lie." This year, whether through a concerned effort to battle this hypocrisy or just a downpour of good luck, some of the greatest hardcore bands ever will converge on Portland the week of the Fourth to do battle with the flag, the food, and the fraud.

Starting off the week of resistance, Portland legends Poison Idea and Japanese hardcore veterans Forward will play two nights in a row in what will probably be the best punk shows of the summer. Since Poison Idea's 1983 debut EP, "Pick Your King" (Elvis or Jesus), the group has been relentlessly scraping at the superficial plastic surface of American culture in an attempt to show the ugly truth underneath. Singer Jerry A. carries his anger like an aluminum baseball bat, demonstrating that 20 years of experience only accentuates his intensity. The members of Forward are as revered and practiced as Poison Idea, having spent time in the Japanese hardcore scene since the mid-1980s as members of Death Side, Insane Youth, and Systematic Death. Their combination of Motorhead's driving rhythm section and Discharge's hostility is a perfect match for P.I., and the international presence will serve as a reminder that the U.S. does not dominate the way it believes (and yes, the hardcore community could learn that lesson too).

On the fifth of July, if anyone is unconvinced that this is the fiercest week of the summer, Providence, Rhode Island's Dropdead arrives to quell any doubts. Maybe you've had a dream or fantasy where you tell all the people in power all the things they've done wrong? That is the way Dropdead plays. You can almost see their white-knuckled hands gripping the lapels of congressmen, bosses, and CEOs as their vicious, fiery assault leaps out of the speakers. If you think you might not have the energy or attention for another hardcore band at this point in the week, you're dead wrong. Six years ago I saw Dropdead at a three-day hardcore fest and although I don't have any memories of what else happened, I can remember exactly how they played, how I felt, and how many mic stands were broken.

But perhaps the most important decision is how to show your dissent on the Fourth itself. Now more than ever direct political action will be necessary for any change to occur, but my suggestion is to spend a day living the possibility of a new world. At Liberty Hall, a Portland tradition continues as the band Jonny X and the Groadies celebrates their eighth birthday with the sort of excitement, entertainment, and joy that everyone deserves. Science fiction, heavy metal, dancing and vegan chili will all be present in an almost--utopian abundance. When everyone sees how perfect life could be, the revolution really won't be such a far step away, and "Independence Day" will be meaningful for the punks too.

Forward, Poison Idea; 7/1 Grand Central Bowl, 818 SE Morrison; 7/2, Sabala's Mt. Tabor. 4811 SE Hawthorne, Dropdead , 7/5, Grand Central Bowl, 818 SE Morrison; Jonny X & the Groadies. 714, Liberrty Hall, 311 N. Ivy