YouTube Live: Why Be Something You're Not

I think I got ripped off with my local access channel when I was growing up. From what it sounds like, everybody else’s public station had low-budget and hilarious shows that were put on by locals who had a lot of free time. Aurora, IL had Wayne’s World, broadcast from a neighborhood basement. Monterey, CA plays student films from the local college. And Dearborn, MI, just ten minutes away from downtown Detroit, had Why Be Something You’re Not, a show that broadcast live punk shows filmed in a room that resembles somebody’s unfinished basement. This was classic, DIY punk, broadcast on live television, and all my local access channel ever played was the school talent show and town meetings.

Quite a few bands played on Why Be Something You’re Not, which actually only aired two episodes before it was canceled. Personally, I don’t think Detroit punks had a lot of funding to keep their little show on, despite the fact they were able to afford multiple cameras, but in the two episodes they had, there was legendary punk displayed. Midwest natives, Necros, put on a high-octane performance of 80s hardcore insanity. To me, the band always seemed like a childish version of Black Flag that was trying to sound angrier, but in this performance, they are much more than that. The (extremely young) crowd truly gets into it when the band plays, “Race Riot”, the band’s minute long opus. Singer Barry Hensler paces back and forth throughout the whole show angrily, screaming undecipherable nonsense into the microphone. As aggravated as you might be by the shrieking and poor sound quality, this is a true glimpse of what the 80s hardcore lifestyle was all about.

Detroit locals, Negative Approach, played on that same episode. The start of this show is great because you get to see the hilarious 80s camera that is recording the show in the midst of the crowd. (I’m almost positive they were shooting on beta.) Vocalist John Brannon stares at the audience most of the time, looking like a snarling bulldog, ready to eat your face. The whole time the band is launching off into a punk rock assault that, actually, sounds like pretty decent quality playing. Also, throughout the whole show, people don’t stop moshing. It’s almost ridiculous how relentless punks were back then. John Brannon also does a quick James Brown tribute in true 80s hardcore fashion; it only lasts ten seconds.

The most notable and known performance of this show has to be The Misfits, which was how I discovered the show’s existence years ago. Apparently, the lighting team was on vacation for this performance, and the mixing board had to be malfunctioning because this show looks and sounds like shit. The Misfits were mainly promoting the Earth A.D. album at this point (since Danzig was trying to take the band in a new direction). However, classic versions of “Mommy Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight” and “Queen Wasp” are performed. Not to mention their even more classic tunes like “Halloween”, “Skulls”, and a “We Are 138” closer (complete with end credits of all the Detroit locals involved). Despite the fact the quality of the performance sucks, it’s still a nifty window to the past at a time when DIY punk really did exist.

My favorite part about this show is still the interviews. A Detroit local by the name of Mike Berry is always sporting a flannel shirt and asking the bands intriguing, yet half-assed questions. It’s like a fan boy interviewing George Lucas: not quite knowing what to say, but wanting to ask the right questions. He asks them about why they like punk and where they come from, and their answers sound like pretty much every other disillusioned youth who likes to be rebellious. None of them go to college and sound slightly opposed to the thought of it, and they just seem to provoke the crowd with punk antics. The Misfits interview is equally as pointless and humorous. Danzig introduces himself as Glenn Whitman, while guitarist, Doyle, talks in a British accent. Danzig is nowhere near as jacked as he would become and tells the crowd there’s nowhere else he’d rather be than Detroit. However, his most priceless moment is a sarcastic remark to the absurdity of the interview. Berry casually asks, “What are the Misfits trying to do?” And Danzig replies, in true punk rock fashion, “I don’t know.”

Those three words pretty much sum up what 80s hardcore was all about. Nowadays, DIY, independent music is everywhere because of the internet. You can hear every local band from here to Thailand by just going on Google. There is now a blueprint for the whole independent rock movement. Bands now have copied all the greats from that era in every sense. Bands back then had no idea what they were doing. All they knew was they had a little money, no exposure, a cult following from city to city, and cheaply pressed records. They threw all those ingredients out there and got a full on movement. Why Be Something You’re Not embodied the spirit of that movement then, and now, because it’s all got to start somewhere, even if it’s on local access in your basement.


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