In punk and far-left circles, the idea of marriage can provoke fierce controversy. Some activists cry that marriage is one more form of complacency; others see it as an unnecessary vestige of a patriarchal past. So how did a founding member of the political punk legends The Pist approach the choice to wed?
"It just popped into my head," explains now-Pittsburgher Bill Chamberlain, "and it seemed like the right thing to do." Rachel Courtney, his partner of eight years and soon-to-be-spouse, quietly retorts: "I had to think about it." And so, in tiny Ossining, NY, Chamberlain and Courtney will unite in marriage on July 21.
Yet punk fans here in Pittsburgh will profit nicely from the venture the weekend prior: On July 13 and 14, the almost-weds present two gargantuan punk shows. "It was just a good excuse to get all these bands together for a weekend," Courtney says. The pair moved here from Connecticut after the demise of The Pist, at the behest of Aus-Rotten's Corey Lyons, with whom Chamberlain plays now in Caustic Christ.
On Friday night, Profane Existence Records' Thought Crime headline at the Mr. Roboto Project, with Caustic Christ and additional locals Brain Handle, FLAK and Night Terror. On Saturday night, the party moves to Fossil Free Fuel in Braddock, where co-proprietor Dave Rosenstraus (also former R.A.M.B.O. and Pissed Jeans guitarist) offered the shop's upstairs space for the larger of the weekend's shows. Richmond's ever-popular Municipal Waste, along with Annihilation Time, Criminal Damage, High On Crime, The Deacons, and locals Warzone Womyn and Kim Phuc are all secured for the Saturday night celebration.
Oh, and if that's not enough, The Pist, broken up since 1996, have reunited just in time for an appearance as well.
"We had the show already planned, and Bill was on the phone with Al, the singer of The Pist, and said, 'I've got another band for the wedding show,' and wrote 'Pist practice' on the calendar," Courtney says.
The seminal mid-'90s punk outfit that laid down no-bullshit political songs like "Ideas are Bulletproof" and "Do What You're Told" is reuniting to play shows in a number of cities -- not a tour per se, but a series of one-offs throughout the summer and into the fall. This is The Pist's second reunion, the first confined to their original home in Connecticut. By this time, an entire class of punks has grown up on The Pist and their contemporaries, such as Pittsburgh's Aus-Rotten, without ever having the opportunity to see the band live.
If there's discord among some anarcho-punks on the subject of wedded life, it isn't apparent among the crowd coming to town for the shows. Chamberlain and Courtney say it wasn't hard at all to get so many well-known bands to play in commemoration of the wedding. "A lot of the bands are planning tours around it, or doing one-off shows," says Chamberlain.
Even the most ideological out there would be hard-pressed to argue that there's anything less than positive and, well, adorable about the union of these two punks. "The singer from Thought Crime kissed my hand when I asked if they'd play," Courtney says, then quickly notes, "He's from England."
Thought Crime, Caustic Christ, Brain Handle, FLAK and Night Terror. 7 p.m. Fri., July 13. The Mr. Roboto Project, 722 Wood St., Wilkinsburg. $6. All ages. 412-247-9639 or www.therobotoproject.org
The Pist, Municipal Waste, Annihilation Time, Criminal Damage, High On Crime, The Deacons, Warzone Womyn and Kim Phuc. 6 p.m. Sat., July 14. Fossil Free Fuel, 223 Braddock Ave., Braddock. $10. All ages. 412-894-8184 or www.fossilfreefuel.com