Stories from… Jess Wisloski

Stories from… Jess Wisloski

As a teen I was an obsessive journal-keeper, so when I began this project I was hoping that people would send in journal entries about 242 Main. Jess Wisloski made my day by generously sharing from her own journals and transcribing the piece below from one entry. Now working as the editor for the Williston Observer, Jess says that 242 was a transformational space for her.  – Martha

Name: Jess Wisloski
Age: 37
Hometown: Essex Junction, VT
Currently lives in: Essex Junction, VT
Started going to 242 Main: 1995
First 242 show: Burlingtonitus, I think in April 1995. Yum Yum Tree and Huffy played.
Most memorable 242 show: Avail, which this story is about, though seeing Death at the closing show was epic as hell.

Jess writes,This was written about a show featuring a then-favorite band of mine, Avail, at 242. I was 17 at the time and had been living in an apartment with some friends that summer, after a bad fight with my parents earlier in the year. My freedom then knew no bounds. It was insanely crowded, and mid-summer sweltering hot (if you dig up the right show poster, you’ll see when it was, but I think it was July). It also references a kid I was crushing on at the time; his last name, by introduction, was his band’s name. Now he’s some street artist who’s now got a gallery in Brooklyn hanging street art…whatever that means. I became a journalist.”  

And the Mass…

Sweat was pouring down my back, beads of it surfaced on my forehead and trickled hastily onto the ledge of my cheeks.

The salty drips found their way to my lips, at the taste of which I would take as a signal to swipe my face with my tee shirt, doing away with the thick sweat. And to no avail, for it would only find its way there again. The loud fast rhythm of the music pounded and pulsed through the stage, found its way to the floor and through my feet entered and consumed my body as a whole.

Head bobbing, feet pushing away the ground, arms flailing to push away the mass, pull in the music, I nearly wept for the thrill and pure sanctity of the moment. The skinny blonde boyish man who stood next to me kept grabbing my shoulder, laddering me for an anticipated stage dive. His thin body mounted the stage, like a climber whose destination had finally been reached, and his body would surrender to the sounds and fall haplessly, into the awaiting arms of the mass. I found myself pushed and pulled through the crowd. I was surrounded by strangers, enemies, then friends, although even my friends grouping had strangers intermingled with it.

Among these “friends of a friend” was a child-boy, flushed completely and relying on surrounding people for support. Obviously intoxicated, this creature grasped onto my shirt, and his flailing arm came to rest on my shoulder. Only catching a glance, I looked at him and took in his physical attributes. Pleased with the sweat-drenched mop of curly auburn hair and clear, yet unfocused blue eyes, I smiled broader than before and continued to roll and swagger with the mass. And with him. Contentedly I knew him, as if I could see him in my past and my future both at the same time, to create a catastrophic presence, that he held in me then.

And the mass moves around me.



Below are more of Jess’s journal pages as well as some flyers from 242 events.

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Stories from… Eric Sherman

Stories from… Eric Sherman

Eric Sherman truly grew up at 242 Main. He started attending shows at age 14 and within two years, he was working at 242 and involved in various art projects there.  He would go on to play drums in a half-dozen Burlington bands, racking up over a hundred performances on the 242 stage. (As we all know, good drummers are in high demand in Burlington!) In 1998 Eric moved to Florida, but as he shares below, those 12 years spent attending 242 Main had a big impact on his life.    -Martha

Name: Eric Sherman
Age: 44
Hometown: Rochester, VT
Currently lives in: Ocala, FL
Started going to 242 Main: age 14 / 1986
First 242 show: Screaming Broccoli
Played drums in: ColorBlind, 12 Times Over, ISO, Portrait of a Bastard, Dysfunkshun
Most memorable 242 show: Leeway

Was there a certain person who got you into underground music, or someone who brought you to your first show?

eric-punk-croppedMy friend Joya was attending the art program set up by the Mayor’s Youth Office, and told me about this great place where bands can play, and people can hang out. The art program was at 242, and I went there to see what it was all about. As I began to hang out more, I met Dana Shepard, Jr., and others. I started listening to a lot more punk, and really got into hardcore music because of Dana and Jr. in 1985 / 1986. Dana and Jr. were like my “punk-rock big brothers,” and took us all under their wings.

What was your favorite thing about 242 Main? What kept you coming back, kept you involved?

The atmosphere was a DIY, creative, and supportive setting that I don’t recall finding in a club since. Kids of all races, ages, and styles were there working together in unison — it was powerful to witness. We ran the club, painted the walls, helped arrange the decorations, and even made the food for sale at the café bar. I kept going for the next 12 years daily, weekly, and monthly because it was a great place to be myself, and to be with like-minded people. I loved the fact we were all involved, and 242 was what we made it. The adult staff would ask our input, and allow us to help with everything. I felt I was a major part of the atmosphere, and culture as a whole. It kept me coming back, again, and again.

Were there any people, or a group of people, who had a particular influence on you? 

Jr., Buck,& Dana Shepard, Jim Reynolds, Beano, Jeff Lamoureux, Dave Lamoureux, Dave Fishell, Shawn Thayer, AKA Gandhi, and the Screaming Broccoli crew.

What did your parents and/or other friends think about you hanging out at 242 Main?

They thought it was positive for me, and supported me going to 242.

What was your least favorite thing about 242 Main? Did you run into any problems or issues with the space or community?eric-mohawk

The local “rednecks” called it “house of the shaved heads” and gave us problems from time to time. Also, the threats of cutting programs always looming from the city of Burlington, even though it was very important as an outlet for the punk-rock community and kept us out of trouble.

Tell me a bit about your life beyond 242 Main. What do you do for a living? Did your experience at 242 Main affect other areas of your life?

242 helped me grow as a manager, and I work in the print / media field managing print production for medical and pharmaceutical marketing companies. 242 helped me learn to communicate with different kinds of people from different backgrounds, and helped me to understand social issues and free thought.

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Eric Sherman and Jason Us, heading out to a show in 1986.

What else do you want to share about your experience at 242 Main and in the Vermont underground music scene?

I first went to 242 Main in the summer of 1986, when I was 14 years old. I was a young punk-rocker with aspirations of gaining a following for my band which myself, and three of my life-long friends started that same summer under the name Better off Dead. When I first walked in the doors of 242 Main, I was home. 242 Main oozed a creative, united, and free-thinking spirit – we had the right place to be ourselves, while having direction and support from the adult staff. I felt a sense of purpose; felt like I was contributing to something, and looking back I have to say it was very important to my development and who I am today.

All of my friends started hanging out at 242 Main – it was our new home away from home. Kathy Lawrence and Clark Russell had programs for arts and music set up that were a great way for us to keep out of trouble, and to be social – having a safe place for us to hang out during the long summer days and nights. There were local bands that started to play there such as: Miss Bliss, Screaming Broccoli, and Hollywood Indians, to name a few. That winter, or early the next spring my band started to play more often and we started to get a local following as well. It was a great place to have safe music concerts and we always had a blast playing and supporting 242 Main over the years. During the late ’80s and early ’90s, The Champions and my band under our new name ColorBlind played all the time and it was a great time for the scene and for 242 Main as well.

I moved to Florida in 1998, but for the 12 years I visited 242 Main regularly I attended hundreds of shows, and played at least a hundred shows as well in bands which I was the drummer for such as: ColorBlind, 12 Times Over, ISO, Portrait of a Bastard, and Dysfunkshun.

242 Main has had its ups and downs over the years with funding and possible cuts to its operations, but it always has weathered the storm so to speak. I hope it remains open, and if the building itself must be demolished, I hope the City of Burlington and the Mayor’s Youth Office find a new spot to keep this culture alive.

 

Stories from… Joe Paul Slaby

Stories from… Joe Paul Slaby

I’m thrilled that the first entry on this blog comes from someone who was there at the very beginning: Joe Paul Slaby, drummer for Screaming Broccoli.  Joe went on to work on tours for a plethora of artists (Jane’s Addiction, Tool, Sting, Nine Inch Nails, Jack White, Norah Jones, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Natalie Merchant, A Perfect Circle, Rage Against the Machine, Primus, The Mars Volta, and many others), acting in a variety of roles from drum tech to stage manager. He still plays music – you can check out some of his current projects here and here.    -Martha

Name: Joe Paul Slaby
Age: 52
Currently lives in: Seattle, WA
Started going to 242 Main: age 20 / 1986 
Played drums in: Screaming Broccoli, The Champions

Was there a certain person who got you into underground music, or someone who brought you to your first show?

When I moved to Burlington to go to UVM, I met lots of people who were into new and exciting music, both on and off campus. DJs at WRUV got me excited about all kinds of genres, especially Dave Lamoureux’s punk and hardcore show. In the 80’s, punk hadn’t yet been “commodified”. It was a large umbrella, under which were welcome all the outsiders: mohawked rebels, straight edge skaters, ska purists, New Wave fashionistas, dour goths, etc. Especially in the relatively small town of Burlington. The singer for the local hardcore band Nation of Hate (N.O.H.) Wayne “Jr.” Shepard, had a mohawk and could remove his front teeth. As a young college kid, he intimidated me, until I talked to him at a party and learned he was just the most genuine guy. He dared to walk around town with his freak flag flying, and in those days to be punk was to live in fear of some drunk redneck picking a fight with you. The first generation of punks, from the late 70’s, were really brave.

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Flyer for the first show at 242 Main, 1986. (courtesy of Spencer Crispe)

Do you remember what your first show was?

In high school, my identity was my record collection. I saw all kinds of amazing bands, from the Ramones to X. A band I played drums in, Screaming Broccoli, played the 242 opening. At that point it was known as simply the Teen Center. We got membership cards!

What was your most memorable show or event at 242 Main?

Too many to pick just one, but a Vermont club metal band called Run 21 played there. They had over the top costumes and wireless guitars and put on this incredible show with a big drum solo, during which someone rolled their skateboard across the floor and the drummer played on it. They were metal but had a sense of humor and could shred and won all us punk rockers over. Locally I was always really into the young bands playing their first show, there is a really special energy about that. An all female band called Ice 9 were just so cool. I forget the name of the person, but there was one kid who would get up on that stage and sort of sing/talk these poems, it was just like the artsiest bravest thing you ever saw, and everyone supported that. After attending a high school where conformity was the rule, I knew 242 was a special place if this kid was given the space to express their own unique voice. I’ve always admired that kind of person, like the first one on the dance floor, or the one who crosses that empty space between the band and the kids.

What was your favorite thing about 242 Main? What kept you coming back, kept you involved?

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The  Screaming Broccoli 7″  (courtesy of Isaac Butcher)

I loved the vibe there: super creative and non-judgmental.  I really dug that there was a music scene there not focused around alcohol consumption, which kept me coming back for years. There is a song by the legendary DC band Dag Nasty called “All Ages Show.” One night in the 90’s, checking out a band of some younger friends, I looked around and thought, “Am I the oldest person here?” and that lyric “how old is old?” hit me because I realized it was about... me! One’s relationship to a scene like that changes as you age, but I think there is a lot to be gained by having friendships that span a diversity of age. There’s a kind of special energy from a kid getting up there for the first time learning the ropes,
and a kind of pride of mentorship to see the next generation kicking ass. There can be this unconscious competitiveness among musicians, like when you are watching a band, you silently critique them, but for the most part I always felt, at least early on, that the vibe at 242 was generally supportive and inclusive. If you look at the credits on the back of the first Broc 7″, we thanked all the bands we played with.

Were there any people, or a group of people, who had a particular influence on you?

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Mary Gallagher, Kathy Lawrence, and Jane Driscoll (Sanders) at 242 Main. (photo by Joe Paul Slaby)

I had great respect for Kathy Lawrence and Jane Driscoll (now Jane Sanders) who were the “grown-ups” that worked hard to make that place happen. Bernie’s Mayor’s Youth Office was very cool. They had a youth-run newspaper called the Queen City Special, the first publication to interview our band. In retrospect, I realize I met a lot of young women from hanging out at 242, many younger than I, who were feminists (before I really identified what that was) and learned from them. I’ve stayed friends with them, and over the years, many have come to be leaders, activists and change-makers.  I met brave people, artists, nonconformists, “weirdos”, all the best kinds of people. As a local musician, in a band that had toured and slept on a lot of floors, I often invited visiting bands to crash at my various Burlington apartments. I’d make ’em pancakes. You learn about karma and the importance of community that way.

What did your parents and/or other friends think about you hanging out at 242 Main?

Because of the all-ages thing, Broc made friends with people younger than us. Really great, independent, awesome people. Some in bands, some making zines, some into skate culture, a lot of people really into punk, metal and other sub-genres. Ever see that scene from the hardcore doc Another State of Mind where the punk guy talks about the rules of the mosh pit?

It’s an apt metaphor for the punk scene in general: people look out for each other. If someone falls down while slam dancing, everyone is gonna pick them up. It was camaraderie. When they showed the film Suburbia at UVM (the punk one, with Flea in the cast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DAhIHu7mYE) a huge contingent of punks descended on the campus, surprising the campus jocks – like it was a band coming to town. These are all the people I still see on the Vermont Hardcore/Punk Rock group on Facebook.

What was your least favorite thing about 242 Main? Did you run into any problems or issues with the space or community?

Music scenes can tend to get dominated by guys, which is a bummer. And for me, as “hardcore” became more narrowly defined, it meant less to me. Also, no one needs a Marshall stack in a club the size of 242. Ever.

Did you stop going to 242 Main at a certain point, or go less often?

My tastes mellowed as I got older. It’s kind of like public transport, though: you might finally save enough money to buy a car, but if you’ve ever ridden the bus, you’re always happy it’s there for the people who need it. I was amazed to see the Wards played the final gig there. That band was there before anyone, so perfect they outlasted everyone.

Tell me a bit about your life beyond 242 Main. Did your experience at 242 Main affect other areas of your life?

After touring with Broc, I took a job as a roadie and I’m still in the music biz almost 30 years later. But of everything I’ve seen in the big world of corporate rock, I still think I learned more driving around in a beat up-van playing all-ages shows and making actual connections with folks: it was community. For sure, to quote “History Lesson Part ll” by Minutemen: “punk rock changed our lives.” A lot of punk music that spoke to me was about politics, either overtly – like the Clash educating me about Sandinistas – or indirectly, by allowing us to simply reject the status quo. The members of the hardcore band Joined at the Head and their friends were inspired by punks in other cities to start a Vermont chapter of Positive Force, and had shows where you got in by bringing a canned good for a food drive. In this recent election cycle, I felt like I’d known Bernie my whole life.

What else do you want to share about your experience at 242 Main and in the Vermont underground music scene?

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“Sing along. I snapped this from behind the drum kit.” (photo by Joe Paul Slaby)

Random memories: having a 6-foot Slim Jim eating contest while we played on the stage, having a Snickers toss when we ran out of stickers, singing along with bands like Seven Seconds or Fugazi when they came through town, being surprised by the band of the kid who you always saw quietly beside the stage, who you realized was just gathering the energy for the lift off of their own trajectory, who you realized was a genius, (like Eugene Hutz and others). The excitement of carrying drums in the back door, knowing you get to play a show, or waiting in line on a cold Vermont night, to be welcomed into the warmth of bodies close to the stage. Broc covered this one tune from the 60’s called “Little Black Egg” and it had a kind of “ba ba ba” chorus, and all the “kids” would get up on stage and sing along. I remember one time pretty much everyone crammed up there, yelling into the mics, all around me even behind the drums. That’s about the coolest thing that can happen to a band. This video isn’t from 242 but you get the idea:

 

An Introduction

Hello everyone! Apparently some folks are wondering who is behind this project, so I think some introductions are in order. I’m Martha Pullen, and I’ll be creating this book. I’m also pleased to say that Bobby Hackney has signed on to be the main layout/design person, and several other people have been helping out with advice and resources behind the scenes. This book (and blog) is an independent project and is not affiliated with any organization.

For those of you who don’t know me, a point of reference: I started going to shows in Burlington in 1996 at the age of 15, and was most active in the scene between 1996 and 2006. I played in several local bands, volunteered at 242, and served as a youth member of the advisory board. I’m thrilled to be working on this project and look forward to collecting and sharing stories from all decades of 242’s history!

I’ll talk more about what inspired me to create a book about 242 Main another time, but for now I want to let you know that we’ve already received a few entries, and the first blog post will be going up by this weekend at the latest. I think you’re going to enjoy it. (Hint: This person was around when 242 Main opened.)

Don’t forget: YOU are the heart and soul of this project. Fill out the online interview, send me your photos, and above all, help spread the word to other 242 kids!

– Martha

Welcome

Welcome

Welcome to 242 Main Stories!

This blog is a place to collect and share information, stories, photos, memories, artwork, and more to assist in creating a print book about 242 Main. My goal is not only to create a beautiful book that we will all enjoy, but to tell the story of 242 Main so that others may learn from it’s successes and failures, and understand why it is important to support similar spaces for youth everywhere. This blog will allow us to enjoy some of that material while the book is being created.

Here’s how it works:

Click “Tell Your Story” and fill out the interview form. You can fill out this form out more than once if you wish, and you do not have to answer every question, only those marked “required.”  You can also email additional content – photos, artwork, show posters, poetry, essays, etc. directly to me at 242mainstories@gmail.com.

The blog will be a curated selection of the stories and photos that you submit. This means that while not everything submitted will be published, it will all help to inform me and help me create a better book.

I want to hear from as many 242 kids as possible, so spread the word! Together, I think we can create something truly incredible.

– Martha

Photo: Graham Robinson