Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 16th 2017

Archives

Memories of Punks’ Past

By Shelby Nalepa

Historian Ian Hamilton wanted to find a way to preserve the punk scene he grew up in and learn more about the under-documented community that came before him. What resulted is “Pensacola Punks,” a documentary that acts as an oral history with interviews from some of the scene’s biggest frontrunners.

“This project has many parts to it,” Hamilton said. “First, it is a way to collect pictures, show flyers, music, oral histories, fanzines and other materials to document Pensacola’s punk scene through the decades. I was then going to turn some of my gathered material into a film to act as a promotional tool for the project, Pensacola, the punk scene and ultimately the 309 Museum Project.”

Hamilton recently graduated from UWF with a Master’s in Public History with a Film and Media Specialization. He is planning to move to Massachusetts mid-July or August and plans to have the film online by then.

“It is important for people to share their own histories and experiences,” he said. “I had so many directions that I could go with the film that I did not know what the film was going to focus on until a week or so before my first premiere. I am currently working on what the future of the project is going to be.”

Hamilton grew up in and around the punk scene from high school through his twenties to the present, with varying degrees of involvement throughout.

“I always found the community to be interesting and unique,” he said. “The people are welcoming. The music is innovative. The art is always eye-catching. Punk is more than fast-paced music. It is a, for lack of a better word, a lifestyle. It helped to shape every aspect of my life.”

Hamilton said that each interview he conducted for the film also acts as an oral history that future researchers can use as primary sources.

“Typically, with subcultures like punk, the history is passed down orally,” Hamilton said. “Also, major areas like Los Angeles, New York or D.C., receive most of the attention when it comes to documentaries and books. I knew how interesting Pensacola’s punk history is, so it was just a matter of recording and sharing it.”

Hamilton said that he had mentally worked on this idea for more than a year before actually starting.

“It started as a broader documentary of punks in the south and gradually narrowed to punks in Pensacola,” he said. “I found a way to finally do this project for class credit, giving me a focus and a deadline to actually film it. I already had a list of people of who I wanted to interview and as I started pre-production that list grew even bigger. Through my undergraduate and graduate research, I focused most of my attention on subcultures and minority groups. This project allowed me to use that practice on my own city and culture.”

Hamilton said that the biggest surprise from this project came from the realization that no matter how well he thought he knew his own scene and city, he actually knew very little.

“Admittedly, I have never been in the center of the scene or worked on a project before this film,” he said. “However, I thought that I understood Pensacola’s punk scene and history. This is something that happens to me regularly while studying history because you can zoom in almost infinitely on a region, culture, time period, etc. With this realization, I have a much deeper appreciation for the overall community. I feel much closer to the people that I already knew and made so many new friends because of this film.”

As far as the interviews, Hamilton knew he wanted to talk with some of the people he grew up with, but he also thought it was important to interview people from the beginning of the scene to the kids creating bands now.

“I interviewed David McGuigan, owner of the first ‘punk’ bar in Pensacola,” he said. “Clay Reed from the Beach Monkees, an early punk band. I did a dual interview with PNJ reporter Troy Moon and local vinyl pusher Eric Jones, as well as the famous Earl Lyon of Earl’s Killer Squirrels and Hall of Fame delivery driver. Promoters from various eras including John Fivgas, Chris Wilkes, Colten Wright and Eliza Espy. The legendary Kent Stanton. I also conducted band interviews with current bands Rezolve, Sour, DFM and Cookies & Cake.”

Hamilton conducted 24 interviews with a total of 35 people, ranging from 25 minutes to three hours.

“From about the mid-80s to the mid-90s, there were shows happening in Pensacola regularly at various venues like Sluggo’s many locations, the Handlebar, Section 8, house shows, and the Nite Owl,” he said.

Hamilton said that some of the most-mentioned shows in Pensacola punk history include R.E.M. in 1980, Green Day after their first or second album, and Black Flag at the Handlebar.

“The scene has ebbed and flowed through the decades, but has always been there,” he said. “One of the questions I asked almost everyone was, ‘Was there a golden age of punk in Pensacola?’ Some had a definitive answer; other people had a more philosophical answer. However, through my many interviews, it is apparent that from 1985 to 1995 Pensacola saw the most concentration of touring punk bands.”

Hamilton said that even though Sluggo’s changed locations many times, it and the Handlebar were regular safe havens for the outsiders.

“They were some of the few venues who catered to the bands that did not fit the mainstream,” he said. “Each of those establishments deserves its own documentary.”

The most notable local bands in the Pensacola punk scene were The Beach Monkees, The Names, Maggot Sandwich, The Headless Marines, Wooden Horse, This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, Blount, The I Hate Yous, Sour and DFM.

“The only difference between the different eras in Pensacola is the names of the bands and venues,” Hamilton said. “I found that people (myself included) complained that the scene is not what it used to be. This is untrue. If it seems like nothing is happening, it is because you stopped paying attention. The scene is more active and vibrant now than ever before.”

Hamilton worked with Voices of Pensacola as a final destination for the material he gathered and the film.

“When I approached them with my project idea, they jumped at the opportunity to host the archive collection and screen my film,” he said. “They were great to work with, and I hope that my project brings more attention to the work they are doing there. ”

With Hamilton’s film and plans for a Pensacola punk museum getting more solidified, there’s no doubt that Pensacola’s punk history will be told and preserved for decades to come.

“There is no excuse, in this world of information and technology that we live in, that anyone’s history should go unrecorded,” Hamilton said. “Many people have recorded segments of Pensacola’s punk history, and many more projects were started but never completed. The goal for this project was never to record the entire history of Pensacola punk. I want this overall project to be a starting point to inspire other people to record their stories and experiences.”

PENSACOLA PUNKS SCREENING
WHAT: A screening of the documentary “Pensacola Punks” by Ian Hamilton
WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday, June 29
WHERE: Open Books, 1040 N. Guillemard St.
COST: Free
DETAILS: ianrhamilton.com

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Coming Soon: P’cola’s first Punk Rock Flea Market

If you’re looking for more proof that Pensacola’s current punk scene is alive and well, look no further than the upcoming Punk Rock Flea Market.

Applications are currently being accepted for vendors and artists for Pensacola’s first Punk Rock Flea Market, which is happening this fall.

The concept behind Punk Rock Flea Markets is about giving artists and other creatives an avenue to sell their unique wares and merchandise that would not normally do as well in a traditional flea market setting.  The original idea for these markets started years ago on the West Coast and has grown from there. The largest and most successful branch takes place in Trenton, NJ and was once named by The Huffington Post as one of the best flea markets in America.

Complete with live artists, punk bands and a planned acro yoga display, Pensacola’s market is scheduled for Oct. 8 at Chizuko with plans to become an annual event.

If you’re interested in being a vendor, stop by Nearly Dead Threads at 4006 N. 9th Ave. or contact the market organizer Bari Kyle at 748-5400.  The fee for early registration is $25.

DETAILS: facebook.com/punkrockfleamarketpensacola