Early "out of the closet and into the pit" queercore statesmen Limpwrist return to the trenches, and Latino punk vet Martin Sorrondeguy relocates to the Bay Area.
By George Chen
IMAGINE SWEATY BOYS in various punk rock uniforms circling in a pit, shoving against each other and thrashing along to a band onstage, oblivious to the lyrics being hoarsely barked at them: "I saw you from across the pit, your eyes locked into mine, and we nodded cuz we both wanted it."
This is just one scenario played out in the Limpwrist songbook, which also rails against talk radio's Dr. Laura, the commodification of gay pride, and the thuggish mind-set of many boys in the pit. The group, whose recent Complete Discography (Paralogy) compiles four years of recordings, made an impression across gay and straight lines and perhaps helped to define the lines themselves. The record's Tom of Finland-meets-straight edge iconography makes the homoeroticism of hardcore explicit while humorously fighting the good fight.
Though Limpwrist played their last show two years ago in Minneapolis, news of their imminent return could be a shot in the arm for queercore. "I guess you can call it a reunion," vocalist Martin Sorrondeguy says over the phone from Chicago. "We're doing a whole West Coast tour.... After talking to everybody, we were all kind of amped on wanting to do it, so we just brought it together again."
As the vocalist for Los Crudos, Sorrondeguy has long stood out for singing in Spanish and essentially representing for Latino punk. The Chicago quartet toured Mexico and South America and released numerous vinyl-only albums on their Lengua Armada label before disbanding in 1998. Limpwrist started as a long-distance project after Sorrondeguy relocated to Orange County and the other members scattered throughout the United States. Drummer Paul Henry, bassist Andrew Martini, and guitarist Scott Moore worked out tour schedules around their other bands and grad school. Henry recently toured Southeast Asia with the Philadelphia band Rambo, Martini runs the label Cheap Art, and Portland, Ore., resident Moore played in a band called Midnight.
Complete Discography is filled with 40-second galloping drum bursts and choppy guitar and bass riffs that drive the yelled vocals, which require a closer examination of the lyric sheet. Songs like "No Choice" and Limpwrist's eponymous anthem, with its cry of "out of the closet and into the pit," make clear the band members aren't concerned as much with acceptance by the mainstream as with fighting the preconceptions and hypocrisies of punk and its followers.
"Recruiting Time," for example, addresses hypothetical straight Limpwrist haters who fear they'll absorb the group's sexuality by proximity, and though the idea seems insane, I once had a conversation with a coworker who actually voiced that concern. It's always disappointing to be confronted with these glaring contradictions red-state mind-sets in the heart of Berkeley's lefty mecca. But that exchange made me respect the necessary challenge Limpwrist continue to present. It's interesting to think that punk, a genre whose name comes from prison slang for gay (sorry, Ashton Kutcher), would end up producing an offshoot that has such homophobia built into it. American hardcore's development into a jock-centric, militant parody of masculinity seems ripe to be outed as an ideal cruising scene.
Aside from pointing out the homophobia they encounter, Limpwrist also acknowledge the history of out queers in punk rock on "Ode," referencing the Dicks' Gary Floyd, Randy "Biscuit" Turner from the Big Boys, and Joshua Ploeg as pioneers. A few Bay Area artists not specifically mentioned by the band spring to mind as logical predecessors: Pansy Division, Tribe 8, and Matt Wobensmith's Outpunk zine and record label. Sorrondeguy may join these ranks, as he plans an imminent relocation to San Francisco, leaving behind another project called Harto and a run booking international acts at the Santa Ana Mexican Cultural Center. "I gave Orange County five years of my life, and I'm ready to make a move," he says. "I loved S.F. ever since I started going there. I'm ready to try it out; I'm anxious." Sorrondeguy will be working as the new distribution coordinator for Maximumrocknroll, and he's looking for other part-time gigs.
I ask Sorrondeguy if he ever tires of being put in the role of standing in for all queer punks or all Latino punks, and if that's a distressing sign that punk has become even more homogenized. "In that process of co-opting things or trying to represent oneself as one thing or another, what happens is a lot of people in queer culture, in punk culture, in all different subcultures, get left out," he says.
As with the grassroots Gay Shame movement responding to the corporate sponsorship of LGBT Pride events, it seems the punk version of class consciousness may be clashing with the agenda of punk's upwardly mobile peers. "I think there's been this kind of move to prove to the world that we're OK, that we're really not weirdos, and I think that is really what's more disturbing to me than anything. Why do we have to prove anything to anyone?" Sorrondeguy says. Without seeking to prove themselves outside their subcultural circles, Limpwrist manage to broaden the boundaries of what's considered queer music and, hopefully, open closed minds in their scene.
Limpwrist play Thurs/13, Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., S.F. Call for time and price. (415) 626-0880.