Writing a book is hard. Writing a book on something that happened thirty years ago when you’re half way across the world is harder. But for Bob Medina, finding a way to archive and share the Denver punk scene of the '80s while spending most of his time teaching in Ethiopia wasn’t so much a challenge as it was a much needed passion project.
Titled Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks, the forthcoming book will feature stories, flyers, art, and more from a decade-plus of punk in the mile high city.
“Denver is in the middle of nowhere,” Medina says. “It isn't cosmopolitan, especially in the early '80s. When punk came down the pike, I think people in Denver had their own take on it. I think people in Denver really embraced the DIY spirit of it. There is a nice fusion of art, experimentation, old and young hanging out. It was very raw and unpretentious.”
Medina was a major player in that scene, booking shows, playing music and even founding his own short-lived record label, Donut Crew Records. Punk was hugely influential to Medina and others, so he wanted to find a way to share what was happening then.
“The book covers the end of punk/post punk in the early '80s and really begins at hardcore/thrash with young kids playing with little to no idea about playing music or putting on shows,” Medina says. “Larry from Trash Is Truth and I were talking recently about the movie: Decline of the Western Civilization, he has a theory that a bunch of kids saw that movie and it really lit them. They saw bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks doing it, and the kids in Denver thought they should be starting bands.”
The book, instead of just relying on photographs and stories from those days, also incorporates art and artifacts. Medina took a bunch of photos and turned them into paintings and drawings. He also called around to other Denverites and dug up old zines, flyers and shirts from the bands that mattered then. Considering how underground the scene was, it’s impressive the artifacts have survived.
“People were seeing shows in art galleries, makeshift spaces like a converted auto garage, basements, rundown movie theaters, anyplace that a promoter could swindle,” Medina says. “It was quite underground. You had to go to Wax Trax to find a flier or it would be word of mouth. You had to search for it. That was part of the fun.”
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Now all of that history can escape from the basements and warehouses into the public. Medina has a kickstarter page for the book, to help fund it and is planning a September release, with a coinciding art exhibit. He’ll be returning to Africa soon, finishing the book when not teaching at a school in Egypt, and is planning to return stateside for the release.
For now, any punks interested in backing the project, or just snagging a copy when it gets released in September, can check out Medina’s blog, where everything he’s gathered and created thus far is archived. Of course, this project doesnt just belong to Medina. Without the thriving punk scene and all the people committed to helping him document it, Denverites would maybe never have known what went down in the sweaty, loud basements of the ‘80’s.
“Without everyone involved this project wouldn't exist,” Medina says. “I'm just the person who is talking to people and putting the puzzle together.”