Saturday, January 5, 2013

Supporting Chicago's pop-punk scene


By Eric Schelkopf

From Screeching Weasel to Sore Subjects, Chicago has been at the center of the pop punk scene since the beginning.

Bradley Adita knows how important Chicago has been to pop punk's evolution. And he is helping to support and promote Chicago's pop punk scene through his website, www.poppunk.com

I had the chance to talk to Adita about his website and other topics.

Q - How did you get involved in the punk/pop punk scene?

During adolescence I was a huge fan of three bands: Weird Al Yankovic, R.E.M., and They Might Be Giants, but I didn't know a thing about punk rock. 

In February of 1994, I was a freshman at Glenbrook South High School, in Glenview, Illinois. I was looking for a place to showcase the juggling skills I had developed in Junior High and found a small, student-run theater group called Paradox. 

While rehearsing for the show, I met a Junior named Emily who made me a punk rock mixtape with Screeching Weasel, The Queers, NOFX, Op Ivy, Rancid, Pseudo Hippies - to name a few. My family didn't have cable or MTV, but a couple months later, I started hearing Green Day songs on Q101. 

As I drew connections between the bands on the radio and the songs on the mixtape, I began to embark on my path into the mysterious vortex of punk rock.



Q - You took over Pop Punk Dot Com in 2009. What made you want to get involved in the website?

Yeah, it was late 2009 when Steve Neurotic and I negotiated a purchasing price, but I didn't officially take over the site until around March 2010. When I moved back from Iowa to Chicago in 2003, it was a time of taking stock of my previous experiences and trying to figure out a plan to go forward. 

While in Iowa, hardcore had become a way of life for me, but as I transitioned back to the area I had known growing up, it seemed like pop punk kept popping back up, and I remembered all the fun and good music from earlier times, and I started focusing more attention on the genre of pop punk. 

The more I listened and the more bands and music I discovered, the more I wanted to learn about this often maligned punk rock subgenre. Soon, I was doing research and hoping to find a book about pop punk, but when I couldn't find one, I realized that it was an opportunity to somehow produce one myself. 

So the original impetus to acquire the domain was out of service to the idea of creating a book about pop punk.

Q - PPDC celebrated its 15th year anniversary in 2012. What can people expect from PPDC in 2013?

Actually, www.poppunk.com was registered on June 8, 1998, so the 15th anniversary will be on June 8, 2013. I guess that's good, because I didn't do anything in 2012 to celebrate!

In 2013, I hope to continue with the Weekly Featured Shows series. I also plan on continuing to try new things to figure out what works and what doesn't. One plan I've been thinking about involves completely re-hauling the website, but that's gonna take a lot of time and money and I'm not sure if its going to happen in 2013, but a good goal would be to have the update done and ready to launch for 2014. 

So there's that, and now that I'm aware of it, I'll probably plan to have a PPDC party on Saturday, June 8th, 2013, for the 15th anniversary - so look for details about that.

Q - How does PPDC go about about choosing the bands to feature in its weekly concerts?

For the Weekly Featured Show, I keep abreast of concerts and shows around the Chicago area and keep a schedule of possibilities. Based on a number of factors, I decide which show seems most likely to be the best match for the week. 

I have a really great relationship with www.mpshows.com, which books shows at Township, Ultra Lounge, Stage Bar, and sometimes at Reggies and Bottom Lounge. They have been super helpful in getting this series off the ground. In addition, I've also promoted shows at Mayne Stage, Brauerhouse, Beat Kitchen, and more recently, Quenchers and Elbo Room.



Q - How does the pop punk scene in Chicago compare to the rest of the country?

It definitely depends on who you ask, but Chicago really has one of the best pop punk scenes in the world. 

What's great about pop punk in Chicago is we've got a solid punk rock history dating back to at least 1977. Then we've got bands like Naked Raygun who survived hardcore's heyday, but who nevertheless kept a strong sense of melody in their songs. Then, in the mid-to-late 80s, you've got Screeching Weasel coming up and laying down many of the main components of what pop punk would become. 

In the early-to-mid 90s, the underground suburban scene really made waves with bands like Smoking Popes, Winepress, The Vindictives, The Bollweevils, AYA, The Fighters, The Mushuganas, 88 Fingers Louie, Allister, and on and on. 

Underdog Records, Rocco Records, and Harmless Records were just some of the many labels that had sprung up and released some of the best pop punk records at the time. Even Victory Records has released a handful of notable pop punk records over the years. 

The pop punk scene kind of boiled over in the late 90s, but even then you have bands like Lawrence Arms, Rise Against, and Alkaline Trio busy cutting their teeth. By the early 00's you've got the whole emo-influenced style of pop punk coming into the forefront with Fall Out Boy leading the way, followed by others on Pete Wentz's Decaydance roster and also Spitalfield, Plain White T's, and beyond. 

Then in the mid 00s you have The Methadones, The Copyrights, and others turning back to a sound and style more similar to that of the early-to-mid 90s. In recent years, Red Scare has easily become the best local pop punk label (even being named Chicago's Best Local Label 2012 in the Chicago Reader). 


And now you've got newer bands coming up such as Sore Subjects, Sass Dragons, Downtown Struts, Stay Golden, and The Fur Coats representing just some of the best of the latest crop of artists who mix their punk with some pop. New York City city has a richer punk history, and the San Francisco Bay Area may lay claim to Gilman St., Lookout Records (RIP), and Green Day, but no scene is as layered, consistent, and multifaceted as Chicago.

Q - Where do you see Chicago's pop punk scene going from here?

Obviously, no one can tell the future precisely, but I think Chicago will continue to have one of the best pop punk scenes in the world, and now with Pop Punk Dot Com located in Chicago, hopefully we can build even more connections and strengthen the scene at large. 

And while there are many pop punk sub-scenes (which don't always get along and see eye to eye), it's my hope that Pop Punk Dot Com can be used to build bridges between these factions, and provide more opportunities for dialogue and idea sharing, but only time will tell.

Q - You've been involved in other projects, such as the zine "A Day In The Air." What made you want to publish your own zine? What other projects are you working on?

Projects, projects, projects! Yeah, I guess I am sort of notorious for always having some kind of project that I'm working on. My history with zines and self-publishing goes back many years (I even found a small zine/book I made when I was 5 years old), so in some ways, self-publishing comes second nature to me. 

My mom is a CPS Special Education teacher, so I think having her around a lot when I was growing up, with all those creative ideas she exposed me to, really helped to foster my own creativity. I've always got one or two other projects going, but recently, I have narrowed it down to really focus on Pop Punk Dot Com. 

One auxiliary project for 2013 is do the final sale and distribution of the IowaHardcore.com(pilation) CD which I put out as A Day In The Air #15, in 2003. I have around 300 copies left and it's time to celebrate the 10 year anniversary since it came out, so I'm looking at the possibility of organizing an anniversary tour around Iowa and free bandcamp anniversary compilation. 

So if you are interested in that, please get in touch with me. I'll also be tabling at this years Chicago Zine Fest, which is March 9 at Columbia College's Conaway Center (www.chicagozinefest.org).