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Chris Thacker

Q&A with Insubordination Fest organizer

Sam Holden
Chris Thacker: Insubordination Fest organizer, Columbian.

By Michael Byrne | Posted 6/24/2009

Insubordination Fest

Sonar, June 26 and 27, with a pre-show june 25 at the Ottobar.

For more information visit

This weekend, nearly 70 bands crowd into Sonar, from 1990s pop-punk godheads the Dead Milkmen to queer-punk good time Pansy Division to maybe the band practicing down the block. It's all part of Insubordination Fest--a now-annual celebration spun from Columbia-based Insubordination Records--that celebrates the kind of pop-punk that came before canned crap such as Sum 41 and, like, every band from Florida. Last week City Paper sat down with festival organizer Chris Thacker and talked suburbs, the Descendents, and generation gaps.


City Paper: How long have you been doing this?

Chris Thacker: This year is the fourth. We did the Sidebar and the Talking Head [the first year], the second [year] we did it at the Ottobar, and last year, the Recher [Theatre in Towson]. [The first year,] we got this band that hadn't played in, like, 10 years. They were called Zoinks! and now they're called Big In Japan. We also brought out this band the Mopes, which is Dan Vapid of Screeching Weasel and B-Face of the Queers--they're just this fun pop band that [we thought] no one really cared about. We contacted them and they were like, "You guys really care about us?" And everybody just flipped. That's how it started.

CP: Did you think it would get this big? What were your goals for the fest?

CT: Just to bring in customers. The second year got a bit bigger. Ben Weasel came out of wherever he was and decided to do this show. We had this one girl come in from Australia, a bunch of people from the Netherlands. It started getting weird. When we expanded the third year it was people we'd never thought of talking to that were just like, "Yeah, we're flying in for this."

CP: Was there another festival like this that you are or were modeling after?

CT: Right now there's this big thing with festivals. The Fest in Gainesville, Riot Fest in Chicago--which is five days. We're modeled after those. What's good about it is that each city is starting to pop up these music festivals and bands that you'd never get to see are able to come out and play. Bands are able to play actual good shows. The thing that I love about doing this is that we're able to get bands that we'd never be able to see. Like last year we got Sweet Baby, which just blew me away. We never thought they'd get back together. They were just jazzed that somebody cared about Sweet Baby.

CP: It seems like there's a mix of older bands like the Dead Milkmen and new, younger pop-punk bands at the festival. I wonder what audience you're going after. People just getting into it? People that were into Dead Milkmen back when?

CT: It's interesting. You get a lot of people 25 and up, people that were really into the early '90s pop-punk scene. But a lot of the bands are fans of that era. Like, we had the Ergs! play and those guys are the biggest music nerds, ever. What's fascinating to me is that in the early part of the decade, pop-punk kind of went underground in the United States and there were a lot of great bands in Europe that kept playing the same kind of stuff and are just now coming out.

CP: What do you mean about pop-punk going underground?

CT: Well, there was this big fad then. Green Day hit, and then third-wave ska came into play, and then a lot of that shoegazer rock came into vogue in the early 2000s. The genre of pop-punk was just pushed aside. Where you have bands that would every night play to 500 people were getting 30 people, 20 people.

CP: What about all of the emo-grade pop-punk that started getting really big then?

CT: The problem with those bands that came up was that they weren't rooted in anything solid, like the early Lookout! [Records] stuff or the late '80s, the era of the Descendents and all of that SST stuff. Then the '90s hit and you had Green Day, Operation Ivy, Screeching Weasel. Bands that came out in like 2003, I don't see what they were really rooted in. A lot of pop stuff of the mid-'90s was rooted in the Ramones, the power pop stuff like Pointed Sticks and the Jives. The [newer] bands are rooted in . . . I don't know.

CP: What attracted you to pop-punk?

CT: The Descendents. Growing up, being a kid from Columbia--I guess the thing was that we were dorks. We never had girlfriends. Most of the students thought you smelled like crap--avoided you like the plague. So, it's natural to find music that's us against them. You listen to a band like the Descendents and they were like Yeah, you're better than that. Just have fun and don't worry about it. And then we started listening to Black Flag and that was just Fuck everyone. I like the idea of that. I came from a background as a kid where [we] never had much money and we're living in a suburban area [Columbia] where everyone had anything they wanted. Even in suburbia you've got kids that don't get everything and having that rubbed in your face. You're young and they push this thing, this way to be, on you. And what you try to do is push back a little bit.

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