Modest Proposal had its 25 Year Reunion Show at Comet Ping Pong last night

one... two... three...

let me try to throw down some words to accompany the images on the page

last Saturday night I went to Comet Ping Pong to catch a band called Modest Proposal
this band, Modest Proposal was returning to the stage after a 25 year hiatus

the images tell a better story than the words... I am going to throw down some words just the same
maybe some words about the other night... maybe some words about something that happened 25 years ago
who knows...

Some quick background information...
Washington DC is a music town...
people from Austin say that Austin is a music town... people from New Orleans say that New Orleans is a music town... I am (pretty much) from Washington DC and well... I believe that DC is a music town

back in the 80's Washington DC was experiencing its own version of what was known as HARDCORE music or HARDCORE PUNK
all over the country in a pre-digital age many cities independently expressed itself through a subset of punk rock known as HARDCORE
each city did this in a different way... each city having its own personality or identity

a trailer from AMERICAN HARDCORE could explain this more accurately

or if you choose a paper version than paging through Banned in DC or Dance of Days may work better for you
then there is the lesser known Yellow Arrow Walking Tour:The Capitol of Punk maybe be the most immediate because it is an electronic o
no matter where you get it... you will need to get that information elsewhere... because I do not have what it takes to write this glossary of local music

yet... I will continue with this brief introduction

long music history lesson short...
within the genre of of PUNK ROCK there are a multitude of sub-genres...
sub genres which are then broken up deeper into sub-sub genres

back in the 50-60's in England there was a movement called Mod
Mod being short for Moderism or Modism
Mod was about music and fashion... head to toe... from the haircut to t
he shoes... don't forget the shoes... the shoes are often the defining accessory of any subculture
okay... rather than my trying to talk about a history that I did not experience
or a subculture that I neither studied nor documented I turn the few readers that have made it this far to the movie Quadrophenia
if only we had Modest Proposal's first bass player's PHd dissertation... perhaps that cold clear things up
until then you will have to reference Quadrophenia

Quadrophenia may well be the Modern Mod Bible

early Mod bands would be The Kinks or The High Numbers
The High Number only having one 7" Single before changing their name to The Who

some trademark articles of the Mod identity would be Scooters; Vespa or Lambretta, and green parkas worn over the business attire of a working cl
ass; three button suits, skinny ties, and the shoes... don't forget the shoes

this Mod movement had a resurgence in the late 1970's with bands like The Jam

in the 80's this resurgence of the Mod Movement continued to a level where they made claims like DOZENS LIKE US
the scooter even made its way into the subculture of the Modern Mod Movement here in DC

in Washington DC as clubs and community centers were hosting DC Punk and DC Hardcore bands you could also find a number of clubs hosting shows with a few local Mod bands on the bill
Modest Proposal was one of these bands

Modest Proposal was born from a previous DC Mod band known as Mach Five

the following of Modest Proposal was scattered
there were small pockets of Mod culture found around the city... young and old... old being somewhere in the mid to late 20's
private schools like GDS (Georgetown Day School) seemed to be Mod making machines

while Mod may have been a sub genre of Punk there was some tension... some people crossed lines... while others figured such line crossing as unacceptable
that tension may have been a tongue and cheek attempt at living up to the Mod Versus Rocker sentiment as taught in the previously mentioned Modern M
od Movement Bible Quadrophenia

to the adolescent boy who was clinging to be tough the notion of being M
od may have been too soft

the "pro-us" mentality can often equate to "anti-them" but this is not a sociology class and I am not qualified to teach a sociology class... so I ramble on

boys will be boys
teenage boys are often looking for something to fight about
so... if there was any anti-Mod sentiment... it was all fabricated so that someone would have something to complain about
because we all know that the DC version was just a fashion show... much in the same way that a kid would dress "punk" or "skin"

it does not make sense for a kid from DC to be clinging to a set of ideals from a country that they have never been to
again.. I am not the sociologist trying to sort this stuff out... so on with the story

there was an overlap in these two "scenes"
more than likely to the point that the Modest Proposal name graced the Marque
e of the time... that Marquee being the Xerox Flyer pasted on the telephone pole or the construction site wall

the Mod Kids were Punk Kids
it was just a different costume and maybe a few different cassettes in the tape player
but to the outsider the Mod Kids just looked like Punk Kids

Modest Proposal was a band out of Washington DC
much like many bands they practiced, played shows, and fought for that bi
g break
they never scored
not sure what it takes for a band to score a record deal... but most of this subculture music never made it to the large distribution labels
instead they released their music themselves on small local releases as in the case of Dischord Records

the DC music of the 80's can not be discussed without mention
of Dischord Records
while there may not have been any Mod bands on the Dischord label DC is a small enough town that the actions of each tribe was on the other tribes radar
while getting on Dischord records may have been an honor and a great way to get exposure... Dischord Records was no big record deal either... as it was not a money driven machine... but that is a story for another blog
Dischord mention on the Gwadzilla Blog

back to Modest Proposal...
Modest Proposal was a band for a few years in the 1980's
during that time the band had various member changes which more than likely contained some Spinal Tap dynamics minus the big hair and the exploding drummer
I do recall my ears still ringing on Wednesday after a "show*" on a Saturday where they must
have cranked it up to "eleven"
I do not know the reasons for band break ups or musician changes

*SHOW: big rock bands played concerts in arenas while smaller bands played "shows" in bars, clubs, and community centers
knowing the difference between a concert and a show was an early lesson in music culture for me

the music and lyrics of Modest Proposal was Hip and Clever... maybe a bit campy and cool... cool if Mod was your flavor... perhaps not so cool if you were a member of an opposing or closed minded tribe
the music has a squeaky clean flavor
a rhythm and a beat that made the listeners want to get up and dance
a music that may express its anger in anthems

there may have been some aggression... but it was a more cerebral angst

so last Saturday Night there was a reunion show for Modest Proposal
after a 25 year hiatus the band was getting back together
except for a few problems... adult life... time... space... and perhaps the realities of life
yes... jobs.. wives... children

for a series of reasons unknown to me there could not be a regrouping of the original line up of Modest Proposal... two MP of the former bass players were invited.. one declined while another was across the pond in the Motherland of the Mod Movement and could not make it... again... reasons unknown to me

with short notice and two slots to fill somehow someway two people who were members of the DC Punk\DC Hardcore Movement back in the '80s
Danny Ingram stepped in and sat in on drums and Steve Hansgen picked up the bass

Danny Ingram on the WIKI page
Steve Hansgen on the WIKI page

the shows are often about more than just the music... so often the "show" is also about the scene
in the weeks leading up to the "show" I wondered about the scene
I wondered what the scene would be like... what sort of people would come out to see THE RETURN OF MODEST PROPOSAL? I thought about the people that went to their shows "back in the day" and the people who identified with the Modern Mod Movement during the DC Mod Resergence
I wondered how the music would sound and how the band would look and how the crowd would respond
I wondered if the music would would move me in such a way that I would get up and dance..
. I knew I wanted to get up and dance

When I thought of the band I laughed to myself as I thought about their quest for the perfect outfit... the attire that makes the statement without saying too much
that mod outfit that looks natural and does not appear questioned whether
to dress up but not appear dressed up

I wondered... if the band's larger than life front man would still have that manic energy on stage... I wondered if a man half a century old could still holler and sing like that 20 something year old kid had some 25 years ago
and the musicians... new and old... would they remember the songs... could they learn the songs... how would they sound together

then when I thought more about the scene I tried to figure who might show up
what Mod was loyal to the tribe... what DC music fan of that era was loyal to this band of that era
who was going to be in town... and who was lucky enough to get one of those one hundred and 50 golden tickets
my mind went through a series of mental images of who from my era lived that "dc mod lifestyle"
a number of people appeared in my mind in the most hip of "dc mod fashion"

shamefully I got this far... but have lost my steam
not enough to finish this thought
not enough to give this rant a proper re-read\re-write
started this with a different thought a few days ago... time to just PUBLISH AND POST

City Paper mention of Modest Proposal along with a YOUTUBE video that has some still photos of various members of Modest Proposal

YOUTUBE VIDEO of MODEST PROPOSAL doing the song off one of their vinyl singles, "nobody says no"

Modest Proposal's front man Neal Augenstein kept a short online journal of the months leading up to the reunion show at Comet Ping Pong


gwadzilla said...

anyone who wants to clear things up or fill in the blank... please feel free

a whole lot of void there

fill it in...

Alex said...

Nice writeup Gwadzilla... and I remember being with friends taunting mods after coming out of a showing of Quadrophenia... even the rivalry was for show...

Libby said...

The one show that says it all: Marginal Man and Modest Proposal at GWU.

I recall trading my mini-kilt and DM's for a mini-dress and go-go boots after that show.

Never had a problem reconciling that in my mind or my life. I also ride both scooters and motorcycles.

25 years later, my husband proudly wears his kilt and DM's...most famously on the back of my scooter. My husband is truly a man for riding like that after having an early-life stroke that left him nearly blind.

We costume ourselves everyday when we go to work or ride or play. We should all revel in the freedom to do so and enjoy.

Just another aging suburban punk...