South Bound 95 Is The Richmond Punk Photo Show To See


Punk is thriving in Richmond, as punk tends to do anytime the country feels in turmoil, and disarray, a tightly wound spring of frustration and discontent just itching to burst forth. Punk is that outlet. To many of our readership, punk is THE truth. Punk is what originally put Richmond culture on the music map for the first time. Most of popular Richmond music up until the 2000s came from our city’s punk roots back in the early 1980s in some shape or form. Look it up.

That said, along with the music comes the photographers. There are a number of outstanding photographers out there right now, doing their thing and doing it well.

In the heart of Richmond’s vibrant punk scene, photographer and publisher Michael Thorn has carved out a unique space for himself as the founder of Richmond’s underground punk zine, Razorblades & Aspirin. This 40-something, who has been in the scene – here and before that in Oakland – for over 20 years, is both a former musician and now a documentarian. The zine is exceptionally tight; you should definitely check it out. While we’ll delve deeper into him and his zine in a subsequent article, our current discussion is focused on his latest project.

Currently, he is preparing for the South Bound 95 punk photo show at our friendly neighborhood underground mecca of good tunes, Vinyl Conflict. Curated along with another underground punk zine legend, Chris Boarts Larson of Slug & Lettuce, it showcases the blistering punk photography of Cindy Hicks, Erik Phillips, Jonah Livingston, and Charlotte Mooney, spanning 40 years. The show is scheduled from July 28th to July 30th and only for that weekend only, my friends, so get out there!

We sent a few questions out to the photographers participating, and this is what we got back.

Photographer and curator Chris Boarts Larson:
Punk rock and photography go hand in hand for me. I picked up a camera right around the time I started going to punk shows. I love the do-it-yourself ethics of punk rock, and early on, I wanted to do my part and contribute. So, I started taking photos and doing a zine to document the scene around me.

Almost forty years later, I have an archive that documents the scene I’ve been a part of. Scrolling or flipping through photos helps me remember where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and continues to remind me why I do what I do. I strive to capture that decisive moment: the action, the emotion, the energy. I want to feel the music through the photos. It’s like bringing order to chaos or saving a moment and making it last forever. I want my photos to take me back to a moment in time. I want to hear the music and feel that moment, and to feel like I am there again. I love photographing bands and I need to be up close to see the band and feel the music in order to really experience it. I still see moments whether or not I have a camera in hand, and if I can’t snap that shutter, it’s actually painful. Taking photos is like breathing.

When I see someone at a show taking photos, I always want to see their images and what they capture. As a visual artist, I’m always curious about different perspectives and points of view. It’s amazing how two people standing next to each other can see totally different things. The punk scene is also so diverse. There are many sub-genres and perspectives and it’s fascinating to see those different points of view come together in this show.

The Over The James Fest weekend is the perfect time to bring everyone together to focus on what is rad about Richmond. Richmond has always had a great punk scene, but it’s definitely at a hotspot right now. There are so many great bands and people are just stoked! It’s exciting to see such a diverse group of photographers come together to share their photographic vision in a photo show that is all about Richmond Punk Rock!

Photographer Erik Phillips:
The primary reason I take photos at punk shows, or anywhere else, is because I like having a visual record of what my life has been like, and music is a pretty significant part of my life. Of course, it’s cool to take part in documenting such a dynamic and vibrant subculture too, but I only take photos in the first place because I feel like I have a personal stake in the photos themselves.

I hope people see, if they somehow haven’t already, how much cool stuff is going on in Richmond right now. The past is interesting and worth reflecting on, but pay attention to what’s happening now while we still have it.

If you decide to take photos at shows or start a band or do anything else involved with punk or music or art in general, do it for its own sake. Money and/or popularity are not the goal here.

Photographer Jonah Livingston:
For me, having wild experiences isn’t enough. I want to be able to go back later and remember the heat of a show, the freedom and joy and anger in the crowd, the recklessness of the band… I want to be able to put myself back in the moment, and I want to be able to share it all with people that weren’t there.

Our music scene isn’t anything without our community, and show photos seem like they’ve always been a key piece – whether being used for flyers or zines or Instagram or whatever. Wild photos help promote newer bands, bring new people in, and show people what they’re missing when they stay home.

Music photography also shows where the high-water marks are – you can look at show photos from different cities in different years and see the exact moments in time when everything came together. The Richmond punk, metal, hardcore, DIY freak scene has been super active and exciting since I moved here 10 years ago, and it definitely feels like something special is happening in this town. I’m stoked to be a part of this loose community of people trying to document it.

Photographer Cindy Hicks:
When you took these photos, did you think they would still be relevant 40 years later? I am not sure. When I was 14 or 15, I did internships at Richmond Newspapers. I worked with some really great photojournalists, like (Pulitzer Prize finalist) Don Rypka, so documenting moments in time seemed relevant.

Benny Walbauer, who owned Benny’s, was and is a good friend, so I was there a lot. I was more intrigued by the crowd than the bands; the energy, the intensity, the interaction was virtually seamless. The stages at Benny’s, Going Bananas, The 538 Club were all low to the floor, maybe 2 or 3 feet, so the crowd and the band were somewhat one and the same. The crowd would sing into the mics along with the band.

Unlike now, with high stages, fences, and security, I guess this was before kids were bubble-wrapped and liability when your head gets cracked open. It was fun. To be honest, the music was secondary, until I saw Bad Brains at Casablanca, pre-Metro when it had 2 sides. It felt free, you could be however you wanted to be. I later did a series of 4×5 film portraits of people I knew who all wore leather jackets, and how personal they were. I digress.

In the early 80s, by then, I was working part-time at Richmond Newspapers. I did all the band stuff or anything really. I have negatives from Punk Rock night at a place in Shockoe Slip, maybe the Warehouse. They did a story on how alternative it was in 1981, I think. Hilarious.

I also volunteered for Throttle Magazine. Sorry, I ramble. I dropped out of VCU in ’80, went back for my degree a few years later, worked at the Copa (old Cary St. Cafe), they also owned Casablanca. I gave them photos, got into all the shows. I went to every show I could. (Wish I could have shot the Clash at W&M hall in Sept. ’82), the crowds were amazing. There are people I knew from then who are still good friends. Too many are gone already.

I think the fact that people embraced the influences from the UK, Ramones, Sex Pistols, etc., and how Richmond made it their own, is a testament to the city’s vibrant music scene. Clubs like Benny’s, people like Mike Rodriguez, Richard ‘Crispy’ Cranmer, bands like Beex, White Cross, Red Cross – all have contributed to defining what Richmond’s punk scene is. Richmond was a city where bands knew they would draw a crowd. C.O.C., Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Richard Hell, Iggy at the Mosque – it was an influential city in the scene.

Through my 35mm lens and Thurston Howes’ larger format, amazing portraits, we’ve collectively contributed a significant part of Richmond’s music history.

The number of highly creative, influential bands that emerged from this city all started with these musicians, the Punk Rock nights (perhaps on a Tuesday or Wednesday). It was the VCU art school; it’s history, our history. I’m glad I was one of those with a camera. This has brought up so many fun memories, including the shoe-shaped bruise from Tom Gillespie’s Chuck Taylors!

ed. note: You can read an interview we did with Cindy back in 2017 HERE

Also, we should mention that July 27th marks the 2nd annual Over The James show featuring hometown legends AVAIL on Brown’s Island. Given its massive success last year, it’s now an annual event. So, for those with punk running in their blood, you have a double dose of looking back and looking forward happening — and that’s pretty cool. See you out there.

Give Razorblades & Aspirin a follow HERE


Chris Boarts Larson

Cindy Hicks

Erik Phillips

Jonah Livingston

Charlotte Mooney

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work:

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