A Radio Show Changed My Life
I wandered around in a daze these past few weeks. After the dust settled (?) on the election, I tracked down all the clients who had yet to pay me, and settled into a new round of assignments, I felt numb.
But I found my nerve endings in a truly odd place — a punk rock history podcast, No Dogs in Space.
Back when I was cool
I went through high school a sworn punk. I didn’t want to shop at any malls, (too capitalist), be on a sports team, (too mainstream), or date anyone remotely good-looking, (ugly people only, please). And I spent every weekend in garages and basements across Boise, Idaho listening to flash in the pan bands that never went anywhere, but I happily handed over my crinkled up dollar bills for the chance to jump up and down to their one-two-step sounds.
It meant the world. The bang of the bass drum, the unrehearsed guitar chords, the skinny singers who looked both terrified and confident at once as they got surrounded by kids of the local scene. The underage punk fans refused to do anything but freak out, scream a hearty “F@#K YOU!” at any band we felt like, and rage, rage, rage.
It wasn’t negativity. I remember it as misplaced alcoholism that later got filled up with drinks at the bar once we all reached 21 and could see bands with a beer in our hand. It was the angst that comes with unrequited sexual desire and frustration, a place ripe for the nonstop energy of punk rock.
Believe it or not, punk is important
At the time, I knew we had something. It felt raw and slippery, but equally difficult to define. I had a ton of albums from the second-hand record store and the indy shops packed full of vinyl and CDs, but I didn’t know what any of it meant. I loved it but didn’t truly grasp the history I had in my hands.
Today, No Dogs in Space wants to take me back to rock and roll high school. This podcast both transported me back to my sixteenth year and somehow made punk rock brand new again.
I jumped in at the three-part series on The Cramps, a band that caught my attention when I saw a grainy poster of the group on my friend’s wall. The lead guitarist, Poison Ivy Rorschach, a beautiful redhead who caught my attention immediately with her hard glare, was all I needed to run out and buy their music.
I loved lead singer Lux’s declaration he was “the most exalted potentate of love,” and Ivy’s insane guitar backing him up. Not many punk bands had ladies on guitar and hearing Ivy’s badass licks made me love The Cramps even more. “Cool band,” I thought.
But the series The Cramps by No Dogs taught me how much I missed by only listening to their live recording of Smell of Female. This band did everything I wish I’d done in my life.
Lux and Poison Ivy
Here’s a short list of this band’s achievements. The Cramps played a concert at a mental institution. They got banned from CBGB’s, the home of New York punk rock, for playing on out-of-tune guitars. They refused to dress in anything that wasn’t vinyl, ripped up denim, or full drag, (favored by lead singer Lux Interior).
And the love story! Lux and Poison met while she was hitchhiking then got to know each other in a class about shamanism. Two weeks later, they became an official couple and stayed together for over 30 years.
They performed together. They stood up to corrupt record officials together. They fell through stages and beat up crazy fans as a couple. Romance!
I could go on for an entire book, (one author did), about these two and their incredible story, but back to the people who brought them back to me, the hosts of No Dogs in Space.
Markus Parks and Carolina Hidalgo
Like Poison and Lux, hosts Markus and Carolina are exactly what they say they are — total music nerds who love every note of the songs and bands they put under the microscope on their show. Also a couple, the two make me wonder what happened to my former inner-music nerd, all those Boise bands I loved, my old music collection.
Carolina, a hilarious lady who both checks her husband’s music history facts and cracks deadpan one-liners about the most obscure backstage histories I’ve ever heard, won me over instantly. Listening to her makes me wish we’d met in high school so I could have heard her say, “It’s so cool!” about any band in person.
Marcus, whom you may know from his hit show, Last Podcast on the Left, is a hardcore horror fan and an avid researcher. On Left, he’s the voice of reason in between two loud, energetic dudes, which made me like him. But on Dogs, he matches Carolina’s jokes and silliness without losing his graduate school style reporting on bands like The Damned and The Dead Kennedys. That made me love him dearly and want to hear everything he had to say about every band ever in the history of the world.
Why I care, (again)
What makes the show so magical is how it takes something my generation loved, punk’s last gasp, and looks into the history and cultural shifts that music brought to the world. It was more than a simple set of three chords and a chance to scream together, this music lived through the Vietnam war, gave the young punks of the seventies a refuge from disco, and exploded in the eighties.
Punk also collided with the capitalists running the record companies and many, (The Cramps included), had to learn to do all their producing and recording in order to side-step the nonsense that trickled down from the top. Listening to Markus and Carolina break down each band’s career for me from the band’s creation to their unfortunate ends makes me want to build a time machine and go do it all again.
The stories are fascinating on their own, but having two loving, passionate fans break it all down for me makes me want to throw this laptop out the window and curl up next to my phone and stream episodes for the next 12 hours. I think, “let’s open a record store!” and completely forget that record stores went the way of Toys ‘R Us and got replaced by yoga studios. I can smell those old basements packed full of sweaty teens in need of their weekly dose of rock and roll.
I can’t turn it off
More than anything, Dogs reminded me why I love radio. Something happens when we record a voice, a song, a casual conversation, or bizarre sound effects. Audio has a unique feel and experience.
I heard a quote about why we love podcasts so much, “Listening to an episode of a podcast feels like reading a book.” I think that’s true, but I think the human voice adds something more than consumption.
Shows like No Dogs in Space make us feel like we have a new best friend who likes all the same things we like. Markus and Carolina are welcome in my home any moment they happen to call me up and ask for a place to stay, (I’m serious). I love how much they know about music, but I love them more as people, as a real-life couple, and their passion for sharing themselves with the world.
Honestly, I hate to turn it off. The silence makes me wonder what I’m missing.
More than anything, No Dogs in Space is a reminder that if you have an idea for an esoteric podcast you’re certain only you and a few of your closest friends could ever get into, you should make that show. If something turns you on, lights you up, and makes you want to kiss your life partner, that’s the key to an amazing production.
Put that love on the air.