Though skateboarding had been popular with beach-adjacent youth culture since as early as the 1950s, it wouldn’t be until the street skating boom of the late ’80s that skating would begin taking on a more urban aesthetic. Even so, the counterculture musical movements of 1970s New York City — specifically punk rock – found a receptive home among disaffected youth in coastal California and, by the early ’80s, bands like Venice Beach’s Suicidal Tendencies were carrying the torch of a new sub-genre, skate punk.
Like nearly all sub-genres — from Gangsta Rap to adult-alternative-jazz-rock — skate punk was a term defined by people on its periphery as a way of categorizing music that was hard to qualify. Skate punk, with its blistering speed, overstated aggressiveness, and lyrics that were either overtly ironic, overtly political, or both, sounded a lot like hardcore punk. In actuality, the defining feature of skate punk rests in its adherents’ connections to the skate scene. Put simply: If you ride a skateboard and play punk rock, you may be said to play skate punk.
In the ’90s, skate punk had a brief flirtation with mainstream popularity, as California bands like Blink 182 who, mostly because of their proximity to the X-Games skate culture burgeoning at the time, received more play on MTV than their derivative, melodic hooks and sunny pop melodies likely warranted.
Today, local quartet The Wastedist deftly captures the sound and energy (as well as the sardonicism) that extraneous forces first conferred on the bands-who-happened-to-skate of the 1980s.
“The Wastedist was a skate crew way before it was a band,” band lead vocalist Jeramy Maile tells Folio Weekly Magazine. “[Our music] is kind of theme music for the way we live.”
And how do they live?
“When we play shows, we get as fucked up as possible,” Maile boasts. “I’m pretty sure our band can out-drink any other band that we play with.”
That’s quite a claim, considering the circle in which The Wastedist currently runs, a punk rock scene that’s as eclectic and thriving as perhaps any music scene in Northeast Florida, featuring many adherents of booze-rich revelry such as TJ Hookers and The Concrete Criminals. It’s a scene that, according to Maile, is anything but glamorous.
“We play dark, dingy hole-in-the-walls, sometimes for nobody,” he says. “The only thing that holds it together is the people playing in these bands and the people that support the local punk scene.”
Formed in 2008, The Wastedist has gone through some lineup changes, and currently features Trevor Stevens on drums, Devin Clark on bass, Tim McIntyre on guitar,
The band’s most recent six-song offering, which carries the thematically appropriate title Booze Hound, features the group thrashing through tunes heavy in distortion and musicianship, and light on subject matter. The album’s second track, “Raining Beer,” opens with the crunching of glass (beer bottles, one would assume) followed by equally crunchy guitar riffs, with intermittent drum rolls and the groups’ collective vocals serving as a kind of siren, warning the listener of the fury that will soon befall his or her ears. (Spoiler: Said fury takes the form of a raging backbeat and a three-syllable refrain, “Ray… ning… beer!”) Two songs later, the sounds of the wheels of a skateboard approaching quickly morph into the sound of the board’s trucks sliding across a concrete surface, kicking off a power chord rager called “Hit After Hit.” The album’s final track features a prolonged, militaresque drum intro — rendering it the longest song to offer, by far, at three minutes, 42 seconds — followed by a chorus that unapologetically announces, “I’m a drunk!”
On June 25, The Wastedist, along with local punk bands including Gross Evolution, TJ Hookers, and scene-vets Powerball, play a 39th anniversary celebration at Kona Skate Park. Not just an anniversary party — the event, which features bands on three stages in various locations around the park, will promote National Go Skate Day and serve as a fundraiser for the nation’s oldest continually operating skate park. There’ll also be food, beer, skate demos, and the unpredictable antics of Canadian YouTube sensations, the JoogSquad.
The park’s owner, Martin Ramos, says the music is what he is most excited about.
“Punk has always been a small, niche culture here locally,” says Ramos. “But it’s always kind of gelled well with skating.”
Ramos, whose family has owned Kona since the day it opened in the summer of 1977, says that because skateboarding is so much more diverse than it was nearly four decades ago, the musical interests of its adherents have expanded. For that reason, Ramos added bands like local bluegrass hellions The Firewater Tent Revival.
“The lifestyle and culture surrounding skateboarding is always evolving. That’s
one of the cool things about it,” explains Ramos. “The festival is kind of a way to invite people from different backgrounds and say ‘hey, come be a part of skate culture.’”
With the proliferation of free public skate parks in Northeast Florida, the economic feasibility of a private park that does little more than open its doors and charge a daily admission fee has become increasingly dicey.
“To be honest, I suck at asking for money,” Ramos laughs. Proceeds from the festival, Ramos says, will be reinvested in the park.
“We need to smooth out all the concrete and that’s a roughly $30,000 job. We feel if we get this done, it’ll put us in a good position to operate successfully for years to come.”
In the festival atmosphere of Kona’s upcoming celebration, Ramos sees a potential path toward long-term sustainability.
“I have always put skateboarding first, so this is new to me,” Ramos says of now trying his hand at festival promotion. “But as we try to expand to a broader audience, I think music seems to be that great unifier.”
If Kona is to host more concerts and festivals in the future, it’s clear that they’d do well to lean heavily on bands from the region’s tight-knit (skate) punk scene, as its members have proved not only loyal, but rather prolific. Later this summer, The Wastedist will release a split 7-inch with friends The Concrete Criminals and a full-length to be released on Beer:30 Records.
“If you like beer-drenched rock, you’ll like these albums,” says Maile. In the meantime, Maile says, “Come to a show and we’ll party.”