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COMMENTARY

Soundbites: Celebrating the Continental, a Buffalo-style model of tolerance and acceptance

At 8 p.m. on April 20, the Town Ballroom will welcome the fourth annual Continental Reunion, a multifaceted celebration of the legendary, sorely missed Franklin Street club.

This yearly bacchanal is always packed. But what are all these people celebrating? After all, the Continental was just another rock club, right? What’s the big deal?

“It was always about acceptance,” said Bud Redding, musician, iconic DJ at the club and mastermind behind the Continental Reunion shows. “It didn't matter how you were dressed, what genre of ‘new’ music you liked more, what part of town you were from. If you went to the Continental, you were accepted.”

Yes. This squares with my own memories of the club. No one was judging anyone else. Whether you were dressed like a Bauhaus-era Peter Murphy doppelganger or were wearing a Bills T-shirt and a pair of stone-washed jeans or adorned yourself in guyliner, you were welcome. No one batted an eye.

“And it was the same in terms of musical acceptance,” Redding said. “We would regularly have live music bills that included punk, new-wave, metal and electronic acts all mixed together on the same night. Then, if you headed upstairs to the dance floor, it was the same blend of music, the same level of acceptance. Punk, industrial, goth, early techno, even some house and hip-hop. Everyone enjoyed the new music the DJs would bring, and everyone danced together.”

Redding said that people who weren’t yet born when the Continental was the preeminent music club in town are now showing up to get a taste. “I would say it is a mix of age groups – many punk and new-wave people that used to hang at the club back in the '80s, the more metal and industrial folks from the '90s and the younger folks coming to see the history.” Some fully grown ravers are now showing up with their kids. But what of the club’s legacy? Is it an enduring one? Or are we simply celebrating an ethic that is no longer in evidence within our scene? Part of what made the Continental so cool was the way that DJ culture, rock culture, punk culture and industrial/electronic culture all melded together in one space. Does Redding think that’s a thing of the past?

“I do feel, unfortunately, that it is a thing of the past,” he said. “Everything seems too compartmentalized these days. Nights where there’s only one genre of music, the same beats-per-minute all night long, seem so boring to me. There doesn't seem to be too much melding – although I have seen some recent shows with younger artists, where live metal and electronic acts were mixed together. So maybe there is hope for the future.”

This year, the bands (Pauline & the Perils, Monkey Wrench, Evil Rufus K, the Enemies, Orations, Painkillers, Iron Fist, Johnny Revolting, Irving Klaws, Virus X, 53 Days) will perform in the Leopard Lounge in the front of the club, while DJs (Jeffrey Naughton, David Hall, Curtis “Soma” Kuczkowski, Adrian Levesque, Jeff Allen, Aaron Andrews, Oldskool, Bill Page, DJ Bud) will preside over the main stage in the rear.

Ani DiFranco sitting in with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the 2012 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. DiFranco will publish her memoir in May. (Getty Images)

Catching up with Ani

Viking will publish the highly anticipated Ani DiFranco memoir “No Walls and the Recurring Dream” on May 7. DiFranco will be hitting the road for a summer tour that includes an 11-date book tour-within-a-tour, and stops for prestigious gigs like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival in Colorado. At present, there's no Buffalo date. However, DiFranco is making her self-compiled mixtape of songs relevant to the memoir available in digital form beginning May 9. I’m reading the book now, and am hoping to catch up with DiFranco soon, so stay tuned.

 

 

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