Resurrecting a lapsed church

by Jordan Green

The Nondenoms sweat out a recent rehearsal in a rented storage box at Secure Care Self Storage in Greensboro. (photos by Jordan Green)

“This summer flower is wilting,” says Kelly Cranford, showing just the slightest hint of a pout as she cradles her instrument in the back corner of one of the corrugated metal boxes that comprise at Secure Care Self Storage on Greensboro’s West Wendover Avenue.

The drummer seated behind his kit to her left, a Sanford resident named Chris Phillips, nods silently.

Brian Goldstein, the lanky guitar player, humors her the thought, if only to keep the rehearsal on track. Splotches of sweat dampen his green T-shirt and a green and blue checked tie slung over his shoulder secures his Ibanez hollow-body guitar to his body.

“My flower is wilted,” Goldstein deadpans. “My flower is dead and gone.”

They plow through several more songs, mostly new and unreleased material that doesn’t figure on the band’s Persistent CD, which pressed in mid-July. They crack some jokes, discuss Phillips’ interest in the transsexual merman television character known as Old Greg, banter about a half-hearted friend who has yet to show up for one of the band’s gigs and discuss the logistics of an upcoming video shoot at the Soundvent in Thomasville, for which Goldstein has purchased 18 dodge balls.

The Nondenoms perform at the Soundvent, 120-D W. Main St. in Thomasville, on Saturday with South Side Punx, Gasoline and 25 Minutes to Go. Call 336.509.3493 for more information.

“I wonder if anybody’s gonna get a ball to the face,” the singer muses.

“I wonder if anybody’s gonna get a boot to the face,” Cranford quips. “I don’t know.”

For the first time in at least a half-decade, a punk scene is beginning to take shape in the Gate City. Its on-and-off-again home is Nate’s Place on Spring Garden Street, and its circle of friendships is linked through the stalwart Queen Anne’s Revenge, the erratic Devastation Proclamation and the budding Leeves. Its social codes are inebriation, sweaty commingling, close quarters, loud and fast playing and the forceful contact dancing known as “moshing.”

Punk has served as the early education program for practically every rock musician who picked up a guitar or bass after 1977. Since its early-’90s crest with Nirvana, however, the punk movement has retreated to near invisibility and the crop of players who cut their teeth on its angst and energy have pursued screamo, operatic guitar pop, freak-folk, prog-rock and innumerable other variants. The movement has come full circle, with punk achieving outsider status once more, and providing a home for misfits. A kid dressed in a pinstriped shirt and khaki slacks is likely to rub elbows with a bare-chested suede-head. Unkempt beards, summer dresses, dreadlocks and androgyny all vie for attention in the fashion mish-mash. ‘

“I didn’t even want to label our music — pop-punk maybe,” Goldstein says. “People said, ‘It’s punk.’ I said, ‘Okay, punk.’ It’s such a pedestal. Do we have the right?”

At first, Goldstein wrote all the music, including lead bass lines for Cranford, who attacks her instrument with the spare fury of a “My Generation”-era John Entwistle and slams out power solos reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler.

“He told me what to play,” Cranford says. “I said, ‘That sounds good. Let’s make it faster.’”

Phillips, an unemployed licensed forklift operator who wears glasses and long brown hair, may be the most punk of them all, but he comes from a musical country on the other side of the Sex Pistols’ 1976 declaration of independence.

“He hasn’t heard of Bad Religion,” Goldstein grouses, as the band takes a break at the storage unit. Phillips and Cranford are sipping cans of Miller High Life supplied by a reporter, while Goldstein abstains.

Phillips defends himself: “The first bands I listened to were Black Flag and the Clash…. I like Led Zeppelin too. Punk’s more fun to play. It’s faster. Pretty much.”

Given the Nondenoms’ speedy and tight sound and Goldstein’s agitated vocal howl, it seems natural to ask whether Phillips has listened to much Offspring.

“Brian introduced me to them,” he replies.

“Brian loves Offspring,” Kelly says.

Phillips got the gig after answering a Craigslist ad and demonstrating an ability to play at least 300 beats per minute. He’s the third drummer; the first was dropped because he couldn’t play fast enough, and the second grossed out the other two members with a scatological obsession and a habit of lighting his farts.

The other significant lineup change that influenced the Nondenoms’ attainment of the punk mantle was the departure of guitarist Evan Goldfarb. Goldstein describes him and “more of a prog rocker,” and the remaining members say their former guitarist put more stock in musical timing than did they.

“Right before our first show, I said, ‘Do you really want to do this? Because we’re gonna do this show at Nate’s Place and there are going to be people bumping into you.’” Goldstein recalls. “He said, ‘If anybody bumps into me, I’ll punch them in the face.’ I said, ‘If you want to leave now, we can carry on as a three-piece.’ He’s still bitter about it.”

The incident isn’t so much of a secret; it’s the subject of “King of Bitterness,” the second track on Persistent. The trio finds humor in Goldfarb’s distaste for the moniker. As the lyrics argue, “Unhappy with his name, that’s why it’s perfect for him.”

“I dropped off the CD at his house,” Goldstein says. “He said, ‘Should I listen to it now?’ I said, ‘No.’”

Family members enjoy no more immunity from the band’s lyrical ire than do ex-bandmates. Cranford’s great uncle, Greensboro country-rocker Billy “Crash” Craddock, is said to have heard about the band.

Cranford’s older sister and Goldstein’s ex-girlfriend, Katei, is the subject of not one but two songs: “Lil’ Brat” and “The SS Destroyer.” Notwithstanding the familial jabs, Cranford’s mother is a steadfast supporter of her daughter. She bequeathed her cowboy boots to her progeny, gushed about her daughter at a recent Nate’s Place show, and has been playing the CD for her friends.

“I knew it would be hurtful, so I just wrote the first verse about her and then I just generally attacked self-pity,” Goldstein says of “Lil’ Brat.”

“Yeah,” Cranford rejoins. “Don’t have a pity party.”

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