SCUM shows operate without a venue, policed by mutual respect and a sense of community.
Of everything I heard while moshing at the last Bridge Show in Riverside, this one still rings in my ears. Kids were saying it, adults were saying it and I even found myself saying it: “This place is f*cking wonderland!” The I-95 amphitheater acoustics swallow fans in music and what better to be swallowed by than numbing bass, fast-paced riffs and screaming vocals; the presence under the bridge feels heavy.
These pop-up punk shows have been a hub for Jacksonville’s hardcore scene for over three years now. Even though they’re dominated by local talent, the shows have grown so popular bands travel to Jacksonville just to experience the community. Rows of vendors, skaters hitting launch ramps, fire spinners and a seven band bill isn’t so bad for something put on via word of mouth and costing only free time.
The freedom to express yourself is evident here, but the best thing about the space is the age inclusivity. Children, teens and adults moshing alongside each other in full punker makeup is not something you see at every venue.
SCUM, Jacksonville’s dirtiest, dirty south punks, is the band behind the scenes making these shows happen. The band holds an important spot in the local scene playing shows all over Jax like Punk Night at Kona Skatepark. They don’t even have their first album out but have no problem drawing a crowd. Squirrel, the band’s bassist and guitarist, told me about a time he was stoked when 25 people showed up for the pop-ups. The last show had over 150 easily.
The band has Kenny Buuken as frontman and vocalist, J-Willie on guitar, Squirrel on bass and Nate drumming. They came together three years ago when a few were working at UPS and noticed a ton of music gear in a new coworker’s garage after giving him a ride home. These guys bring an unmatched energy to their performances with genre-bending, fast-paced punk, rap and reggae. The bent genre is a perfect parallel for the shows; Squirrel said they started the shows to give the local music scene a stage and make a collective space for different groups to come together.
“To really thrive as a scene everybody’s got to play together like there should be no reason to have a straight punk show. There’s no reason why you can’t throw in a metal band or you can’t have a punk band plan out a metal show. Music is music at the end of the day. Those fast music styles are always gonna be that outer rim of music so why are we going to divide when we’re pretty much typically all listening to the same shit. There’s no reason why you can’t have a badass show with a bunch of different genres,” explained Squirrel.
The mix was as evident as the inclusivity; despite the tough appearances everyone was welcoming. Never have I felt more comfortable dancing and skating in a group of people. The biggest thing I’ve taken away from the community is social awareness and acceptance.
“Come as you are, it doesn’t matter what you look like,” I heard someone say on the phone.
Many punk shows and venues I’ve been to have an aura of elitism and often feel exclusive. The show was the complete opposite. This is on top of the fact they leave the spot as if they weren’t even there, usually just in time for the Riverside Arts Market in the morning.
“At the end of the night, like, we’re gonna make sure we can keep the spot clean. We’re not going to trash it. There are times when it gets kind of rowdy, but we’re not like burning the bridge down, as much as we would like to. That would be rad as shit but we’re trying to stay respectable. Just because the name is SCUM doesn’t mean that’s what it stands for.”
The next show is planned for September, but given the current state of the COVID pandemic, it is only tentative. Even though it is an open air venue, they’re prioritizing the safety of performers and audience. Regardless, keep your ears open for SCUM’s first album, they’re hopeful to drop it by the end of the year.