Benefit Old Thrashers Reunion 2022 UAY
Trumpet Blossom Cafe – Saturday, July 23 at 7:00 p.m
“At the Old Threshers Reunion this summer, you’ll find old pumps and tractors and balers and there will be overly cute baby goats and freckled girls with pigtails,” said musician David Murray, summing up an annual festival in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, that celebrates agricultural heritage of the state. “If you go to an Old Thrashers Reunion, you’ll see a lot of old grumblers, hacks, and well-meaning naysayers.”
And plenty of loud, weird sounds have sprung from the mouths of Iowa’s music underground — like Murray’s band Instant D/eTh, which will play alongside Scorched Earth Policy, the Shining Realm and Maaaze at an upcoming United Action for Youth (UAY) benefit. The event has benefited the arts and music programs at UAY since its inception; this will be the first Old Thrashers reunion since the pandemic.
The first Old Thrashers reunion took place in 2008 after Kylie Buddin, a longtime coordinator at UAY and a veteran of the local music scene, talked to his high school punk rock friend Julie VanDyke. As they discussed how strange it is to enter middle age, she asked him what he would do to celebrate his 40th birthday if there were no restrictions.
“Without hesitation I said, ‘See Stiff Legged Sheep, Soviet Dissonance and Pestients one more time at 10 South Gilbert.'” 10 South was the home of the punk scene and the venue for so many amazing shows — Effigies, Die Kreuzen, Hüsker Dü, 7 Seconds and Naked Raygun, just to name a few. Julie said if I could get the tapes she would take care of the rest. Everything came together and the first show was magnificent. Even the conflicts that arose reminded me why I love our scene so much.”
Buddin’s experience was shared by Hart Epstein, the organizer of this year’s Old Thrashers reunion, whose band Scorched Earth Policy will reunite for the event after a 30-year hiatus.
“It’s an extended family. When I started going to shows I was on the younger side of things; now I’m one of the older ones,” Epstein said. “You drift apart as the years go by, but you pick up right where you left off at one point. ICHC [Iowa City Hardcore] the extended family was and is pretty tight knit I’d say. Almost everyone who is still with us speaks regularly.
Scorched Earth Policy—which drew on a variety of influences that included “King Crimson, Chrome, Slayer, detuned AM radio and John Zorn,” as Epstein put it—parted ways around 1993, but its members remained close friends.
In the 1980s, the underground exploded with punk rock anger, virtuosity and artistry that didn’t follow any prescriptive templates – rockabilly bands, industrial bands, loud-fast hardcore, gothic rock and noise were all part of the mix.
“If you were out of the norm, you were welcome,” Boudin said. “Everyone had performances and everyone was represented.”
Murray recalled that beneath all the provocation, hugs and silliness was a do-it-yourself spirit that reminded them they didn’t need agents, beaters, parents or intruders to have a good time.
“We children have found a way to explore our expressive selves and meet new, exciting people,” he said. “Find a free hall and bring a sound system. Create stage props, visuals or flyers. Just take a small amount at the door so everyone can come.
UAY, founded in Iowa City in 1970 to provide support and opportunities for youth creativity, played a central role in this emerging punk rock scene.
Epstein’s associate Billy McKenzie found a home at UAY, where he picked up his first bass guitar around 1983. And Instant D/eTh’s Murray took advantage of UAY after he started playing music as a student at City High in 1980. when he and his brother formed a group with others they met through this organization.
“It’s a great pleasure to play under the banner of United Action for Youth,” Murray said. “This organization helped me get out of the gutter and onto the stage. The opportunity they provide to a young person with artistic flair but no strong direction is priceless. I found other kids doing things I thought I could do. Make art. Take a video. Play in a band.”
Epstein also spent every possible moment at UAY as a teenager—learning to play the drums and guitar, figuring out how to use the studio’s recording equipment, or just hanging out. Now he has a 17-year-old son who is the same way.
“He found his way there, as I did,” Epstein said, “and he found the same sense of belonging and community that I did 35, 40 years ago. And the OG Old Thrasher, Kylie, helps make it such a great place.”
“I would say the continuity and connection between generations is pretty hard to miss,” he continued. “What’s old is new again in terms of the challenges and stresses children face. I think the current generation of kids have a lot more tools, they’re a lot more enlightened and attuned, they’re able to face a lot of this crap with a lot more courage and confidence than maybe us Gen-Xers ever could. I find hope in these children.”
Trumpet Blossom owner Katie Meyer feels honored to host the Old Thrashers Reunion over the years, especially because it’s a fundraiser for UAY, which she says is an absolutely vital organization. Meyer could not maintain her venue without the continued support of the community, which is why she is delighted to offer her venue for this charity show.
And what is the difference between Old Threshers Reunion and Old Thrashers Reunion according to Meyer? “One involves picking up a grain and the other involves swallowing it.”
As always, Kembrew McLeod reserves the right to shake things up. This article was originally published in Little Village Issue 308.