What is punk? Clear your mind of the mohawks, leather, piercings, and tattoos that are the common accoutrements of the music/movement/lifestyle; what do you have left? There’s music, sure, but there are so many sub-genres within the frame that it’s hard to use any particular punk rock music style as a definitive reference point. There are ideologies, ranging from nihilistic to activist, and everything in between. Henry Rollins told me, a couple of years ago, that being punk means being able to go into a record store and buy a Sting album, because that’s what he wants. Along those lines, I think, when you boil it down to its condensed kernel, “punk” — whether music, lifestyle, or philosophy — means doing what you feel is real and true, within you, not giving a damn about what anyone else thinks or says about it, and (whenever possible) doing it yourself.
Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss each have true punk cred, no matter which definition you use: Wheeler has been the frontman (as Sean Doe) for SoCal punk revival band Throw Rag since 1993. Schloss has played bass and guitar in iconic punk bands The Circle Jerks, The Weirdos, and with legendary Clash founder, Joe Strummer (not to mention his contributions to numerous film sountracks, including Sid and Nancy and Repo Man, in which he also acted as ‘Kevin the Nerd’). Pretty raucous, hardcore stuff, eh? So what happens when you take these two punk veterans and mix ‘em together? You get what they call Spirit Music; a heady, acoustic blend of blues, country, gospel, ragtime, and bluegrass that surprises “traditional” punks out of their skin, and gets them dancing and swaying along to Wheeler’s hypnotic, rasping vocals and Schloss’ masterful 12-string.
Sean and Zander opened for X at Club Red in Tempe. The audience, comprised of kids new to the punk scene and folks like me, who came up in it in the late 70s and early 80s, was mesmerized by the duo. I heard murmurs, after the set, along the lines of ”I didn’t think I’d like that!” and from one 25-ish guy who was trying hard to look early Strummer, “Shit, that was fucking awesome!” I agree.
Wheeler & Schloss are so damned punk.