photo & text by nacrowe
the INCREDIBLE personal narrative of VENERATED guitarist BRIAN TRISTAN, a.k.a. KID CONGO POWERS, very much mirrors that of the UNIQUE and TRANSFORMATIVE power of ROCK AND ROLL itself. if anything, as a DEVOUT fan and ASTUTE devotee of music, the young native-born ANGELENO found a vehicle of ESCAPISM that recast his IDENTITY as a HOMOSEXUAL and second-generation son of MEXICAN immigrants. first it was through GLAM ROCK / GLITTER scene of the early 1970s in LOS ANGELES and then came the cultural title wave that was PUNK ROCK. whats COMPELLING about POWERS experience is that he was not a musician but a journalist during this period, writing for several fanzines and even starting the WEST COAST fan club, of which he served as president, for THE RAMONES of all things. his connection to PUNK ROCK was both an EMOTIONAL and INTELLECTUAL exercise,
it was only a chance meeting with UNKNOWN songwriter JEFFREY LEE PIERCE (himself president of the BLONDIE WEST COAST fan club) at a PERE UBU show that the seed of becoming a musician was planted. and it is that LIFE-CHANGING event that makes POWERS memoir SOME NEW KIND OF KICK (HACHETTE, 2022) such a UNIQUE, almost MYSTICAL, story. what drew people to his playing was not his playing technique, but his AURA. such was the case when POISON IVY and LUX INTERIOR from THE CRAMPS poached him from the PIERCE-led PUNK outfit THE GUN CLUB. there was a certain special alchemy at play that enabled POWERS to unconsciously blend in with his new cohorts without any words being spoken about that process. his ability to collaborate is seemingly MAGICAL. such was also the case when NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS took interest in his services. its an INTRIGUING dynamic to consider that for a musician with issues surrounding IDENTITY issues related to his SEXUALITY and RACE that were exacerbated by CHILDHOOD TRAUMA (the unsolved MURDER of a cousin at a young age) and years of serial ABUSE of narcotics, that for him his very calling card was his adept ability to be molded and reconfigured in new ARTISTIC contexts.
in essence he literally lost himself in the music. and the DRUGS.
i had a PERIPATETIC childhood being shuttled between CALIFORNIA, NIGERIA, KUWAIT and MASSACHUSETTS and feel a certain kinship in understanding the REPETITIVE EMOTIONAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS of constant readjustment to unknown surroundings and new social contexts, but this level of navigation described in SOME NEW KIND OF KICK is beyond me. and it was all so public being a touring musician and all. i cant imagine the INTESTINAL FORTITUDE it took to submerge your IDENTITY into that of the ARTISTIC ambitions of your cohorts. especially with regards to your SEXUALITY. at the end of the book he is at the funeral of former bandmate, who himself was a closeted HOMOSEXUAL. something POWERS only learns after his death. obviously it was a different era when the majority of the contents of this book take place, between mid-1970s and the mid-1990s.
there have been quite a few books published in recent years that have focused on the early LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK scene of the late 1970s and POWER's addition most definitely gives a palpable introduction to the DIVERSITY and INCLUSION at the heart of the scene, before the second-wave heathens transferred it into something more sonically BRUTAL, intellectually ENFEEBLED and aesthetically RIGID. i would definitely recommend this memoir along with other standouts like UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN by JOHN DOE of X (review linked HERE), VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY by ALICE BAG of THE BAGS(review linked HERE) and MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR by KEITH MORRIS of THE CIRCLE JERKS / BLACK FLAG / OFF! (review linked HERE) as worthy of consideration into further understanding this deeply FASCINATING scene.