The Hardest Working Punk Band in No Business
“Hit me!” singer and lead guitarist Ian Moore yells. And the band nails a single beat. “Hit me two times,” he cries. And they lock down the two succinct beats to complete James Brown’s signature intro. “Let’s go to work,” Moore quietly says, and they tear into “No Possibilities.” The tight execution of the song might owe a debt to the Godfather of Soul, but the style and attitude is sheer classic punk rock and roll. True to Queen Anne’s Revenge’s modus operandi, the guitars blaze and shudder. The bass rumbles over an independent course, amplifying an insistent dub reggae groove. The drum set thunders. The players glare at the audience with unswerving focus on their music, notwithstanding the cigarette dangling from rhythm guitarist Billy Cain’s lips and the occasional swig from a can of Pabst perched on a nearby amp. Get in, get the job done and get out of the way. The cloth bandage around Moore’s lower arm begins to unravel as he strums the chords. He treats the annoyance with game toleration, then jerks it loose on an offbeat and ceremoniously drops it to the floor like a shed snakeskin. The dress shirt that he’s spray-painted the stenciled words “know your rights” in homage to the Clash is soaked through on both the back and front sides. Such is the scene during the opening slot of a five-band extravaganza booked by Ironhead frontwoman and death-glam queen Angela Fox at the Garage in Winston-Salem on Aug. 4. Among the dozen or more fans clustered in front of the stage is the band’s former lead singer, Blake Corvin, a heavyset guy with a black goatee and a perpetual grin. He’s in training these days to be a professional firefighter. “Blake is a conservative fan of Ronald Reagan who loves his former bandmates,” he says, referring to himself in the third person. “Now they’re doing great. They have seven new songs. When I was there it was kind of a stagnant scene. They’ve all been my friends for twelve years. Ian has total rock-star appeal.” Corvin quit last December, roughly two and half year’s after the band’s founding in the summer of 2004. Then Queen Anne’s Revenge’s drummer followed suit. In the early spring they tried out Bucky Cornwell, a 22-year-old UNCG music student. “We had two or three practices,” recalls bass player Jon Bohlen, “before we said, ‘Do you want to do this? If you want to do this you’re not going to have time to go to school.'” Then, a few weeks later, Moore fell through a window, slashed open his arm, lost six pints of blood and nearly bled to death. “We played a show with Bucky and then Ian hurt himself,” Cain says. “We were out for six or seven weeks. Horrible luck. Now we’re playing shows. All we want to do is play shows, build the scene in Greensboro and get out. There’s no tomorrow for us. It’s do or die.” Despite lacking funds to record and enduring numerous setbacks, Queen Anne’s Revenge is a band that demonstrates total commitment. “We rehearse six days a week,” Moore says. “We sit in a hot-box, ten-by-twenty space and we sweat. We have a work ethic.” Despite the band members’ conspicuous love of the Clash, they express indifference for the classic English punk band’s left-wing politics. “A couple of us feel like, ‘Where’s it going to get you?'” Bohlen says. “If you’re political, you have various groups getting behind you because it serves their agenda. We’re trying to operate outside of that. We try to write about direct life: Going to work – it’s shitty. Crazy shit that people do.” Despite the guys’ aversion to what might be termed “politics,” they have found themselves thrust into the middle of a matter of local governance. Until recently they rented a house on the outskirts of Greensboro for $300 a month, where, as Cain says, they “could shoot guns and play music at four in the morning.” They found themselves evicted when a certain one-time Carolina Panthers wide receiver named Ricky Proehl set his sights on the land to build a sports complex. They note that although a wide gash has been bulldozed through the landscape, with a lawsuit against Proehl and his partners wending through the courts, no buildings have gone up. “We were kicked out of this house; it’s senseless,” Cain says, after expressing less than charitable feelings toward the professional football player. And yet it’s only one episode in a string of setbacks characterized by Cain as “kick in the balls after kick in the balls after kick in the balls.” Bohlen protests that the term doesn’t quite describe the blow. “It’s a brick in the face,” he says. “If any of us decided to give up, we could make money and get nine-to-five jobs, but ten years from now I’ll want to kill myself. It doesn’t matter that we opened the show and played for fifteen people.”
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