There's a Chris Moore in every town and if there isn't, there should be. Many Washington, DC punk and DIY shows couldn't really happen without him. He books the gigs, he brings the PA, takes the money at the door and most importantly, he gets people out to the show. In fact, Chris and fellow D.O.C. bandmate Nolan operate a vital practice space out of their home in Takoma Park, so you could say he's there from inception. I've heard the same line many times about new bands on a Venomous Ideas bill: "I'd never heard of them before, but Chris obviously liked them enough, so I thought I'd check it out." Chris is dedicated to both maintaining and growing the hardcore scene in DC while creating an environment of inclusivity. His bills are musically eclectic and he even flyered at a Paramore gig at the Fillmore once last fall. I know this because I ran into him on the street in Silver Spring afterwards. Mostly he did it because he won a free ticket, but also why not? There are people at Paramore gigs who'd like to be at a basement show, if only they knew about it.
Chris is also a drummer in at least 70 bands. I'm just kidding, sort of. He's on tour a lot. Our email interview spans a few weeks, while he was on a West Coast USA tour with Coke Bust, and then a European tour with D.O.C.
K: So tell me your name, where you live, how you got into hardcore and punk, and tell me which bands you play in and what else you're doing these days. You're always booking a lot of shows.
C: My name is Chris Moore. I live in Washington D.C. My first introduction to punk was through my mom. She listened to a lot of cool music. The first two tapes she gave me were B-52s "Cosmic Thing" and Madonna "Immaculate Collection".
K:Do you have a favorite Madonna song?
C:It's a toss up between Borderline and Lucky Star.
K:Okay back to biographical stuff.
C: My mom grew up in DC and had some punk friends but was more into new wave and classic rock. I inherited her record collection and amongst them was "Rocket to Russia" by the Ramones. That blew my mind the first time I heard it. I told her I wanted to get more records like this and she took me to Smash Records when it was in Georgetown. I was 13. She said I could pick out two CDs so I grabbed the ones with the covers I thought looked cool: Bad Religion "No Control" and Dead Kennedys' "Bedtime for Democracy". It was all downhill from there. Later that year a teacher of mine came up to me and said "nice Dead Kennedys shirt, I wanna make you a mixtape". A week later he gave me my first mixtape that had a bunch of punk and metal on it. I started my first band when I was 13 or 14 with my best friend Nick Nazdin. Later on our friend David Levin joined. It was called "Munk Petal". You know like "Punk Metal"? It didn't sound like a "punk metal" band. Go figure.
K: You were still in high school when you booked your first show, right? Did I hear correctly that it was in your mom's basement? Your mom seems super chill, by the way.
C: Yeah I was and yeah my mom was very cool and understanding. My high school band "Twin Cheek Assault" was playing the high school drama club "coffee house" and kids were dancing pretty hard. The principal and security guard came and stopped us from playing and told us to leave. So I called my mom and asked if we could do the show at our house. She agreed. Almost immediately a bunch of kids from school walked to my house, we set up, and played. It was awesome. We realized we could start doing this regularly. So I did.
K: What was the climate like around DC in terms of shows and cultural stuff happening around this time? Were lots of other people booking shows too and that's why you started doing it? Or was there just not a lot going on that you were aware of? [This would've been the mid 2000s]
C: I was 15 or 16 and even though at that point I had been going to shows for a few years, I felt super disconnected. It seemed like a ton of shows were happening up until the end of high school. A bunch of my favorite local bands had broken up (Crispus Attucks, Striking Distance, The Goons, De Nada) and a bunch of venues I was going to shows at stopped doing shows (Wilson center, St. Andrews, Maryland Food Co-Op, Nation, and a few short lived houses). There weren't many people handing out flyers at suburban Maryland and DC shows. The website "pheer.com" was a pretty crucial resource for local shows.
At the time I didn't personally know many people who did shows besides Nick Candela who sings in Coke Bust now and this kid Owen Wexler aka "O-Dog". I met Ryan and Wade who were booking most of the Positive Force shows at Wilson Center but didn't really get to know them until a few years later. Soon after I met Nick our bands started playing shows together and he asked me to join his band Griptape. I was doing some shows at the Electric Maid in Takoma Park and sometimes at WMUC in College Park as well. It wasn't until after I went on my first tour with Magrudergrind when I was 16 that I wanted to do more shows. I wanted to help out the bands that helped us out on tour and also just wanted cool bands to come play here. I remember being really bitter about how bands would always skip over DC and play baltimore. That was definitely a big motivator in getting more bands to come to DC.
It was pretty intimidating at times. The older punk and hardcore people weren't always the most inviting. The dudes in Crispus Attucks were super cool though. I loved going to shows at their house, The Crispus Attucks house. It was in the Hyattsville area.
K: It seems like there is a long history of band tour routes skipping over DC. I've heard stories about this dating back to the 80s at least, it makes me wonder if that wasn't a factor in creating hardcore around here in the first place. Meaning, lots of the bands that people wanted to see simply weren't coming to town, so maybe people were making their own bands to make up for it? Or maybe their bands were sounding much more particular and carving out a distinct sound since there wasn't a touring circuit to influence anyone? What do you think about this? Do you think a lack of resource or entertainment can be a good thing sometimes? Like, would you have started doing shows at that point in time if you guys hadn't been kicked out of the coffee house? (that's a great story by the way)
C: Yeah, I believe it. It can be really defeating sometimes. I do think It can be very inspiring though and make you want to really make something cool out of your town or make some fucked up music. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Baltimore. It just made me really bitter when I was younger that all the shows were going there haha! I do remember listening to a Government Issue interview from the 80s and they seemed to hate baltimore. So I guess the bitterness/rivalry is something that's been around for a while.
I do think that if we didn't get kicked out of that coffee house it's possible I wouldn't of done shows at my mom's. I also wouldn't of met some people that I ended up becoming good friends with. For example, the guys from shitstorm and torche had two bands that played my house when i was 15/16 and I've been good friends with them ever since.
I really feel more for people from small towns though because it's so much harder there. Finding places to do shows, bands to play the shows, kids to come out, and dealing with local authorities all seem to be pretty core issues. Even DC and suburban Maryland at it's worst, I know I had/have it pretty good. Some of my favorite places to play are in smaller towns. Some of the best shows I have ever played were in the Midwest of the U.S, Eastern Europe, Brazil and Southeast Asia. I think kids are way more appreciative of bands coming through, seemingly less jaded, and more wild. You also get a sense that punk is more important to them. Like it's more of a life force and therapy than just a passing phase.
K: How did Damaged City go this year? This is the second year, right? How did you first conceive of doing this festival, did it just seem like a natural extension of booking punk shows at large places like St.Stephen's?
C: It was awesome! It was even bigger and better than last year. This was the second year doing it and with the occasional hiccup it ran pretty smoothly. The vibe was great. Much like last year it didn't really have a "fest vibe". It just felt like a big show. The bands were great and people seemed to of had a really good time.
Nick Candela who sings for Coke Bust and I came up with the idea for the fest on an overnight drive while we were on tour in Europe. We had played a bunch of festivals on that tour and were thinking about the pros and cons of them including the ones we had played back home. That's when we decided that we were going to try and do one in DC but on a much smaller scale. Our main goal was really to just have a bunch of bands come to DC that don't normally come here and to show everyone all the awesome bands that come from our area.
Nick and I have been putting on punk shows in the area for a while now and for years we had talked about doing a small fest in DC. Do you remember Pointless Fest in Philly? Greg Daly and Tony from Rambo put it on. It was just a really rad punk fest with bands from all over the world. I remember thinking to myself after the first one I went to "I wish there was something like this in DC". As cheesy as it sounds, fests like these really bring people together in the local scene where it takes place. That was also a big factor as to why we wanted to do it.
I really like both of the venues that the fest happens at. The main shows take part at St. Stephens church which as you know has been a staple of the DC punk community since the 80s. It's one of my favorite places to see a punk show in the city. The other is the Pinch which is a small bar down the street from the church. The pinch offers a much more intimate show space. We had no idea this year was going to sell out so far in advance. From one standpoint it's kind of cool that it did but sucks that a bunch of people weren't able to see the show. So depending on the lineup for next year we might have to move it to a bigger space.
K: Let's talk about touring! As a person who is constantly on the road you must have good tips for traveling. Anything you absolutely MUST do, or anything you like to avoid? Do you pack light or heavy? Do much record shopping?
C: Some tips hrmm....I always try and bring a decent pillow. I feel like I can sleep anywhere with a good pillow. I kind of have to now especially after last summer. Coke Bust was hanging out with our friends Chris and Jen in Miami. They had a swimming pool in their apartment complex and we did some "chicken fighting". You know where two sets up people get onto each others shoulders and wrestle? Well earlier on Nick started this trend of sticking his fingers into the nose of his partner therefor launching him forward. So I did that same thing to my partner Biff (our friend who was driving us on this tour) who then launched me forward right into Jubert's (bass player of CB) head. It shattered the bridge of my nose and herniated a disc in my spine. There is a pretty gnarly picture James took right as this happened. I thought I broke my neck. It was pretty scary. I'd broken my nose a few times before so that was nothing too crazy. I ended up going to the hospital and we still played that night. It was pretty painful.
I also bring a small inflatable camping mat so you never have to wrestle for a spot to sleep. Outside, in the kitchen, under a table , dirt floor is always comfortable with one. If you're a drummer from the U.S. Don't wait until you get to Europe to buy drumsticks. They are really expensive. I spent over $15 on a pair in Germany on our last tour. That totally sucks when you break one every other show. I always try and pack as light as possible but I usually end up bringing more than I need. For example this tour was a month and I brought 6 shirts but I've only worn two for the last two and a half weeks. Oh well. If you are flying you can get away with bringing more than you should on to the plane for free if you hide it under the counter when you get your tickets. It's worked almost every time. If they say it's too much when you get to the gate they usually will gate check It for free. This can save you a ton of money.
If you tour in Europe you might notice that you have to pay for the bathroom at a lot of gas stations. I absolutely refuse to pay for them. I know it sounds stupid, really stubborn or disrespectful but paying to take a crap?? No way. Fuck that. If I run into this turnstile/pay-to-shit system I usually just hop the turnstile, go through the little kid entrance or you can turn the turnstile back a little and sneak by. I've been caught once or twice but honestly id rather go outside than have to pay for one of those things.
As far as record shopping on tour goes, I try to keep it to a minimum these days. It's really dangerous on tour, so many great record shops and records, it really adds up. If I'm trying to save money the only exception to this I'll make is buying a record from a band that we play with. One of my favorite things about tour is eating and trying new vegan food. I'll definitely splurge on some awesome food especially if it's a place that I won't have another chance to go to in the foreseeable future.