Denise / Pygmy hosts the "We Survived" Punk Rock Reunion Party
“We absolutely could not have done it without Facebook,” says Denise Fantinato, also known in the Vancouver punk scene as Pygmy Paisley. "It was a way to connect with everyone."
On Saturday, August 8, 2009, Denise and her husband Alessandro opened their East Vancouver home to more than 100 people from Vancouver’s late 70s and 80s punk scene. Plans for this epic reunion party started in June when Denise reconnected on Facebook with Kiva Lane, a former Vancouver punk now living in Portland, Oregon.
"Kiva and I were talking on the phone and I asked her: 'Do you ever get up to Vancouver?' and she said: 'Yes I come up every summer,'" Denise explains. "I said: 'Let's get together and do something' and Kiva said: 'Yes! We'll have a reunion' - and we meant just a few people."
But, thanks to Facebook, the party grew... and grew... and grew! At first, Denise and Kiva shared the idea with old friends Dianne Reyes, Judy Insall, and Coco Moon, and together the group started a guest list. Kiva posted a private Facebook event to get more folks on board: The "We Survived" Punk Rock Reunion Party - with an invite that reads: "If you're Alive, then you Survived, and friendships of old should be Revived!"
Guests confirmed their attendance via the Facebook invite, announced what they would bring to the potluck, and volunteered for tasks to keep the party running smoothly. When guests thought of others to invite, they told the new invitees to friend one of the hosts on Facebook so they could be added to the growing guest list. This level of organization is quite a contrast to the parties of yesteryear - when people ran around at the end of a punk gig yelling: "Party at Pygmy's!!!"
Sadly, Kiva and her family were turned away at the Canadian border because they did not have the right paperwork. Denise announced this disappointing news via Facebook, and a flurry of upset wall posts appeared in response. However, Kiva responded with grace and acceptance on her Facebook page - noting there will be more opportunities to reconnect in the future.
On the big day, people arrived with their casseroles, salads, veggie trays, and bags of chips. Many - including me - brought our kids. My son Toby wore my old Kill City t-shirt Ron Reyes gave me in 1983. After the party, Ron did something he had been avoiding for a long time: he actually joined Facebook! "Here's a big fat good bye anonymity!" he wrote. I was very touched by his comment on the photo I posted: "this little guy made my night with his Kill City T Shirt. I screen-printed that shirt about a quarter century ago in my little studio @ 311 Hastings street. Susan kept it clean all these years I was soooooooo impressed and moved."
Throughout the night, gasps of shock and delight blasted through the party as guests spotted each other for the first time in 25 years. The din of conversation and laughter rose above any party I've attended in recent memory. "Remember when so-and-so did blah-blah-blah! Ahhhhhh!"
We enjoyed music by Jonny Swenson and the Vice Kings, The Manglers, and Theda Baras - with lots of jamming and guest spots by Vancouver musicians including (in no particular order) Randy Rampage, Ron Reyes, Brian Goble, Randy Bowman, Simon and Phil Addington, Jen Wold, Doug (Donut) Proulx, Zippy Pinhead, Stevo Knauff, Nadja Feutlinske, Gerry-Jenn Wilson, Mark Godfrey, James Mark, and more. No doubt I am missing people, so please leave a comment and tell me who I left out. Photographer Bev Davies was there, camera in hand. Incidentally, you can see Bev's exhibit of concert photography from the past 30 years at Chapel Arts (304 Dunlevy Ave. Vancouver, BC) til Aug. 16.
Some people compared the party to a high school reunion, but others said it was more like a family get-together. Back in the late 70s and 80s, many of the younger punks came from dysfunctional homes, so they joined together at gigs and parties in a group that felt like family. In my case, I was lucky enough to come from a stable, middle-class family - but, like many others in the punk scene, I felt like a misfit within my group of peers at school. I hooked up with this crowd after transferring to Ideal School in 1983 when I was in Grade 10. This alternative program was for kids who were strong in academics but looking for an escape from the oppressive atmosphere of the conventional high school.
So many of my former Ideal School classmates were at the reunion - like Jim Sigmund and Maria Turner, in this photo on the left, with Randy Rampage in the background. Back in the 80s, we hung out with students from other alternative schools - Total Ed and City School - and went to see bands at all-ages shows and parties.
For many of us, we made it to adulthood relatively unscathed, aside from a bit of under-aged drinking and risky dabbling. Some of us went to university, others went into the trades. Some had kids, started businesses, wrote books, travelled the world, played in rock bands, and did all kinds of things during the past two decades before we met again.
Many others died.
DOA's Randy Rampage stood on the back yard stage and proposed a moment of silence for everyone who did not survive. Most of the missing folks (RIP) were lost to drug overdoses, and I overheard a few groups of people trying to count how many had died. Someone counted 15, and another counted 26, but I don't think anyone reached a conclusive number. This tragic fact of life - and death - reminds us why it was called: The "We Survived" Punk Rock Reunion Party.
Denise guessed that about half the party was in recovery from addiction - hence a lot of pop was consumed alongside the beer and wine! One guest (rumoured to be dead) announced his one-year cake that was "18 years in the making" after he survived a battle with heroin for most of his adult life. He was referring to a tradition within Narcotics Anonymous in which recovered addicts have a birthday-ish celebration - complete with a cake - to recognize the number of years they have been living drug-free.
Thanks to Judy Scully for creating a Facebook group - Vancouver punk rock reunion 2009. As of this blog post, the group has 62 members who posted more than 200 photos of the party. Many, many thanks again to Denise and Alessandro for getting the ball rolling and hosting this huge event! Check out their cool business: SeeSpotRun Canine Services.
I've heard some whisperings about making it an annual event... Any volunteers for next year? ;-)