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A band that was more a legend

by Jordan Green

The punks, anarchists, opt-outers and scenesters are jammed into the Hive community center, a nondescript room with inside walls of brick and cinderblock painted white – an address that once housed the infamous Game Time Lounge, a club reputed to accommodate open drug use and discrete prostitution.

Mike Welch, a 20-year-old Greensboro resident with a shock of dirty blond hair and an open, boyish smile, stands about a head above the rest of the crowd. Tonight will be his first time seeing Zegota, an activist hardcore band founded in Greensboro in 1997 whose conscientiously non-commercial approach and trans-Atlantic residency has limited its appearances and commensurately driven up its appeal.

Welch ordered the band’s 2001 release, Namasté, from CrimethInc., a label known as much for its shadowy manifestoes on lifestyle anarchism as its discography. Not until much later did he realize that the band was from Greensboro.

A handwritten “no alcohol” sign on lined notebook paper is placed on the table near the door for this all-ages show. The clack of a skateboard sounds behind the venue in the parking lot, which is nearly full from Glenwood Avenue to McCormick Street. Out front on Grove Street, another skateboarder squats in front of a nearby storefront with his board and his dog. Clots of people spill into the narrow street visiting and carrying on animated conversations. It’s the biggest turnout for a do-it-yourself punk show in Greensboro anybody can remember in recent years.

Later, as des_ark wraps up a searing, soul-funneling set of loud blues-inflected punk, singer and guitarist Aimee Argote exhorts the crowd: “Zegota is an amazing, fantastic band, but when you are dancing think about the violence that happens to women every second of every day. When you are dancing, please do not hit women.”

Jon Ridenour straps on his guitar. He has a fine, noble face, and wavy blond hair that gives him a slight resemblance to Jerry Lee Lewis and turns into a mass of wet curls when he goes into full sweat. His brother, Will, with shoulder-length blond hair, a light beard and glasses, settles in behind the drum kit. Bass player Mark Dixon and the singer, who goes by the name Moe, set up equipment and chat on stage left.

Will Ridenour is a familiar figure in the Greensboro scene as the drummer for indie rock band Dawn Chorus [YES! Weekly staff writer Amy Kingsley is also a member] and a player of the African stringed instrument the kora. His brother joined Catharsis, a band with similar politics and sonic density, on tour in Europe in 1999, fathered a child and subsequently relocated to Sweden for good. The last time Zegota played in Greensboro, the band members concur, was 2001, the year al-Qaida flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and George W. Bush launched the Global War On Terror. In 2004, they played in Winston-Salem and Carrboro.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to say this,” Jon Ridenour says. “Our band’s called Zegota. We come from Greensboro, North Carolina.” He and his bandmates smile, happy to be surrounded by friends. Their ease and relaxation between songs contrasts sharply with the intensity of their songs.

The first song builds like a reawakening volcano with molten rock slowly but surely liquefying. The bass and drums are locked into a repeated groove that suggests the funk-inflected hardcore of the late 1980s Dischord scene in Washington, DC. The guitar begins subtly with just a couple muted notes and grows with layers of sonic energy. Moe thrashes his body and knocks the mic off its stand. Then he screams in a manner so primal that joy and agony merge into each other in a cathartic release. The crowd surges forward, rocking. The song drops back down into a tightly controlled funk and explodes again. The pungent smell of sweat pervades the room and Moe bends over, almost horizontal and thrusts his hands toward the floor as if to shoot lightning from his fingertips.

This is the final night of an East Coast tour that has featured 10 performances in as many days. They’ve played in a church and a beer-soaked basement with insulation falling out of the ceiling, never in a bar or commercial nightclub.

Dixon has remarked in an interview earlier in the evening that the Hive is a significant place to end this particular run. Several of the band members’ friends have had a hand in getting it organized.

“Greensboro has this incredible space,” he says. “This is a special event. To me, I feel especially embraced by Greensboro. To have a show in a place that doesn’t ordinarily do shows and has been doing some really rad work is something else.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com.

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