When I was younger there seemed to me more options for music venues. We had Mead's Café and Vagabond Blues out in the Valley, and in Anchorage — back when we had to get inventive; I’m talkin' late 90’s to the early 2000’s — the Fairview Recreational Center was a punk mainstay.

I even remember a stretch when people were renting out the Gary's Auto Sales building over off Dowling,  throwing shows regularly. Sound systems were often found to be stylized on some Frankenstein shit. Even still, we made do with what we had. The urge to play outweighed the obstacles. Around the time the all-ages downtown venue known as Bitoz door were being shuttered, the Downstairs came to be. Located in downtown Anchorage in the basement of the all-ages dance spot known as Club Millenium, run mostly by a young Hellen Payares (now half of Showdown Productions).  The Downstairs came at a time when live music on an all-ages level was frowned upon. It played as a refuge for many young, angst-ridden teens looking for a positive place to find sanction. Despite it being a little after my time, I always appreciated what The Downstairs stood for — a safe space for youths to help build identity.

 “We (She) always felt old for The Downstairs, even at the time. The rec centers, Bitoz, Indica Haus, The Wasteland, The Kodiak, The Avenue — There used to be a lot of places,” recalls She lead singer Andrew xxxx with a tone of agreement. Andrew has been the frontman for a handful of Thrash Punk/Post-Hardcore bands over the years. In spite of these past endeavors all being note-worthy, the group he's been most commonly associated with over the past decade is She. Alongside members Mercy Cofield (Guitar), Justin Rodda (Drums), and Justin Costiniano (Bass). Some may be familiar with his graphic artistry under the moniker of J.Cost.  Despite each member having their fair share of involvement with other bands, only one group seems to last. She has been the raw-iron anchor pulling them back together for the better part of 10 years.  

“Personally, I feel as though we’ve somehow stayed the same and kept evolving slightly,, drummer Rodda  said. “There’s equal amounts of familiarity and progression at all times. What we do has really become a part of who I am as a person and I’m extremely proud to attach this band to my identity. It perfectly satisfies what I yearn for as a drummer at this point in my life. ’ve known Andrew, Justin, and Mercy for a long time. Being vulnerable during the songwriting process is imperative to creating material that you actually enjoy and want to play. I think our familiarity with each other on a personal level, and obviously our collective interest in what we do, has a direct impact on our ability to continue being creative as a band.”

The subculture of punk rock was born around the same time as hip hop. Both genres, in terms of ideological movements, held similar narratives. Rooted in the ghettos, punk’s UK origins were a response to a monarchical society quick to sweep those living on the fringe under the rug. You then hop across the pond into the ports of New York City, where hip hop was flourishing in the Bronx. It lent voice to voiceless youths. It gave a sense of community to neighborhoods flooded with gang activity. DJ'ing and breakdancing became a positive opportunity with the goal of pulling young colored youth away from the violence.  Sadly, over time, stigma and stereotyping take hold, and preconceptions arise.  The end result has made finding places willing to host shows a chore, to put it mildly.

“The all ages crowd are the most important aspect of the music scene,” guitarist Mercy points out.  “Their interest in music events is less focused on alcohol consumption and more focused on enjoying the music and community aspects of the scene. Not to say that the over 21 crowd is less supportive or attentive, I just feel like it’s important for young people to be able to experience local music and art and be involved like I was when I was young. We had multiple all-ages venues back then.”

That's when Andrew chimes in: “When I was younger it seemed like every week people my age and younger were starting bands and wanting to play out. I don’t see that as much anymore. Part of that could potentially be chalked up to there not being any viable space for underage folks to play. Maybe that’s why all these tired ass ‘adult' music seems so out of touch and whiny to me. I miss the vitriol and unbridled angst and rage. Adults are boring and then shit on underage shows because they can’t drink at them… then those same adults just stand there at a show and bob their fucking heads like automatons with a goddamn beer sloshing in hand.”

It’s hard to disagree with the sentiment. Bar crowds are a tough crew to win over. Half the time they’re regulars and see you as simply interrupting their regularly scheduled entertainment of having the same 3 conversations they’ve been holding for God knows how long.  The youth identifies more easily with the culture of music. They live it fully — both in appearance, as well as perspective. To them, there is a message, it’s more than just noise for the background.

As part of Studio 223’s July First Friday event unveiling the underground comic Dirge, She is performing an all-ages show being held in the gallery.

"Dirge is an abstract comic dabbling in meta-narratives and the concept of consciousness recycling. It’s definitely a long-lived passion project between Matt Terry (who happens to be the band’s original bassist), Justin Costiniano, Justin Ferguson, Levi Werner, and myself…(it) has served as a means of keeping us connected not only with one another and our shared contemporary reality, but also with friends and loved ones that have passed,” Andrew said. “It’s about suicide and God complexes, and the lengths to which we will go as inter-dimensional beings for some semblance of control. There’s comfort in control. Perhaps that’s why, societally, things are in such a state of unrest. Our shared reality is an uncontrollable entity tugging at the leash of our collective unconsciousness… It’s important to us as a collective to bring people together and share our experiences and projects with one another…and hope only to inspire others to create something of their own.”

Costiniano also played a role in the creation of Dirge as one of its illustrators. 

“I always wanted to be a comic book illustrator so it's a dream come true,” he said. “The work comes with great challenges that result in personal and professional growth and I work with some of the most talented and exceptional people I know. I couldn't ask for a better situation.”

To promote the release of Dirge, She’s members have paired up with a slew of local artists, both of visual and aural perspectives.  You can grab a copy of the comic, revel in local works, and actually do something with what figures to be a beautiful Friday evening.  

The event is this first Friday of August 6th at Studio 223(223 East 5th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501).  

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