But were we here to see the final remnants of that legend? Had we arrived, like voyeurs at a car accident, to watch another washed-up punk rocker whose music we love but who now sucks (Greg Ginn, ahem)?
The set opened with "Punk is Dead," a classic indictment of punk-rock hypocrisy. The crowd was in a frenzy, a pit to be proud of, all sweat and screaming and a little blood here and there. Just little drops, splattering along like a Pollock painting. It's worth my mentioning that the Emo's employees acted like a bunch of pussies and did their best to keep kids from crowd surfing or getting too crazy in the pit. People didn't fall, they no sooner touched the ground and a dozen hands flew towards them and pulled them up. We were together, it really felt like that, one big tribe. I haven't felt that in Austin, for years. For the night, at least, it felt like camaradarie.
For the record, what the hell is a punk show if stage diving is banned? Shame on you Emo's, grow some balls. . .
So what made the show work? Apart from the excellent delivery of classic songs from "The Feeding of The 5,000" there was a kind of hysteria exploding up front by the stage. My little buddy and loyal photographer Ian got two ribs cracked in the pit. "One of the best shows I've ever seen..." he said to me, a twitched grin on his face. "I think I might have broken something."
He stayed throughout the rest of the set, a good two hours of standing up and getting knocked around. Turns out, this morning he visited the hospital, and his ribs were snapped like toothpicks. Didn't even notice, he was enraptured.
"It was really cool, pretentious rock stars they were not, the set was fucking epic. They played over an hour and a half, and I think a three song encore. It might have been more," Ian said to me that night, "The meaning behind Crass shown through very brightly, they weren't rock stars or trying to be rock stars, it's a real niche thing anyway and they expressed that brilliantly. It was my childhood dream to see Crass, and I felt like they made that happen. They were talking about specific events in these songs, socially I mean, things in England from years ago. And yet, they are totally relevant here and now even if the context is different. It's still relevant, I mean, look at our world. There's always a need for the social change Crass was all about. At the same time, people like music, they don't want to sit down and be lectured...Crass didn't lecture between songs, not annoying like so many bands that get on a soap box. The songs were enough. We got it, we felt it."
"I really loved the crowd tonight," said Carol Hodge, the female vocalist on this tour. "Everyone here is cool, I felt a great vibe playing here."
"I have played in Austin before, and we remember it as being cool, that was years ago. It was a great time tonight." guitarist Gizz told me after the set. There was a real rapport between the crowd and the band. As Steve screamed a chanted response would roar back from the ecstatic crowd. For once, a good crowd in Austin! And at Emo's, where years earlier Leftover Crack left the stage because some asshole yanked their peddle off the stage. I was so ashamed of Austin then, but Crass was a hopeful night for me. As cheesy as it might sound, the words of Walt Whitman came to me, a strangely appropriate appraisal of the whole deal..."The armies of those I love engirt me, as I engirth them...and charge them full with the charge of the soul."
And how appropriate, "The Last Supper," a tour where each night is a profane communion between loyal punkers and the word of Crass. All one can do is put the message out there, and for the love of fuck, being into Crass isn't about going Vegan or squatting or hopping trains. Crass is about taking your life and making it what you want while not fucking people over in the process. What an idea! A non-violent change produced by intelligent, dedicated kids. If we want to make any change at all in this world it will come from working together.
A song is like a bomb. Punk might be dead, but Crass has proved resistance to extermination. Their songs are like bombs, Emo's was hit with an utter blitzkrieg. These are songs that should never lose their importance, no matter what the line-up is. Beyond a movement, Crass are Dada punk masters. And because of this, they will never really die. Hate on this tour if you will...Steve Ignorant has once again proved that words are mightier than the sword.