By Wal Reid
Andrew Boak is a man on a mission. The ex-guitarist from Kiwi punk band No Tag which had its auspicious beginnings in Auckland in the mid-80s, now living in the US and is back in NZ to reunite with the band after two decades to play a small set at tonight's Punk It Up gig at the Kings Arms in Auckland, including seminal 80s bands Spelling Mistakes and the X-Features featuring special guests. It's a far cry from the days when punks were punks and boppers were bopping.
"Yeah I mean we use to have some really nice gigs that were well attended so you know" recalls Boak. "We'd do a whole weekend the Reverb Room up the road here, it was funny I walked up the Edinburgh Castle was still there. The Reverb Room use to have us a lot and we use to pack that place and thoroughly cane the bar and everyone would have a really good time. It was those gigs, full on Punk gigs and lots of people drinking and jumping around".
Talk reverts back to No Tag, the band supported American Punk legends the Dead Kennedy's at Mainstreet which led to some of the band singing backup vocals on the DK's album Bedtime For Democracy. "I remember when we formed after Mark (Sullivan) the bass player had gone to England" he recounts. " We did a whole weekend at the Windsor Castle and that was just full on, and I do remember when we played at Christchurch it was so full so we were doing two sets with a break in between and we couldn't even get to the bar, that's how packed it was. We really didn't really get anything thrown at us, people did behave there was some level of respect it was pretty cool".
Punk music has evolved over the years, first popularised in the UK with the new wave of groups like the Sex Pistols leading the way followed by the American charge of new wave bands like Iggy Pop & Patti Smith, those times have changed as has the music especially with today's sanitised studio punk offerings that has been likened to twee pop.
"Well I play in a punk band over in San Francisco you know my reference point is there" says Boak. "It's still full on but I think everything's got a bit faster, there's still that good punk rock thing going on. Maybe it's got a bit faster but it's still got the same attitude, we're singing about the same things police oppression, getting absolutely smashed, being angry. I don't think it's really changed, people say it's changed I think its ground level concept has kept its way all the way through".
With the music came the attitude, the lifestyle. Anarchy or an absence of government was the maxim of the day, most punks subscribed or lived out this lifestyle, and it's an ideal that Boak is still optimistic about even to this day.
"The one good thing about Punk is that it made people think about society as a whole and how it's set up" he says. "Government control and police oppression and so on. I think it's still the same, if anything Punk's got a bit more organised but it really is about taking the message to the people, think about your surroundings ‘why does your government suck?' if so, ‘what can you do to fix that?'. Social awareness is what Punk Rock does"
Tonight No Tag take to the stage after two decades, it's going to be a trip down memory lane and a ‘therapeutic' one for Boak who is upbeat about the reunion musing "This is the first time everyone in the band has said yes to doing it, we're getting it together and its coming together nicely and it should be a pretty good show".
Punk It Up - No Tag, The X-Features, The Spelling Mistakes, The Cavemen, bankRobbers (with special guests) and assorted guest DJs
Saturday September 5th: Kings Arms, Auckland
Tickets via Under The Radar