I packed our gear Saturday after playing a two-hour set at Java J’s in downtown Bristol and realized that tonight’s musical journey was a solo adventure. With that in mind, I considered the new Bristol scene – the country stop at Rockin’ Horse, or the DJ vibe at the State Line Bar and Grill — but neither of those could lure me like the den at 7th Street Saloon and Café.

This small club located on a side street in Bristol has been home to cutting-edge music for years. Although it’s changed hands over the years, the ghost of the electric underground still runs the place in spirit, because if you like your music untamed then this small, dank bar should be first on your list this weekend.

One of the intriguing things about punk music is the fact that what players usually lack in technical prowess, they make up for with arrogant sincerity and raw energy. It’s not about the money; it’s about the music, fashion and a language of attitude.

Four bands were on the board that night at the 7th Street Saloon — The Emergencies, Bad Habit, Allergic to BS and The Dead Sea Surfers.

Punk reels on the edge of chaos as the songs are fast, loud and short. When I walked in the dark door, past the bouncer with the cool hat, The Emergencies were wrapping up their set. By the stage, a small crowd was gathered and the band from Bluefield, Va., was thrashing through an original set that was boiling the adrenaline in the little room.

Set changes are quick on a small stage. Bands grab their gear, slide it out the door into the parking lot and make way for the next band. Next up: Bad Habit from Duffield, Va.

Under the blue lights and smoke, this young band electrified the room with raw distortion and a tempest of energy during their original song, “The Americans Are Coming.”

The punk dance floor can be dangerous. This past week, a tragedy at a party in Blacksburg claimed the life of a young college student — police say the student fell out a window after slamdancers bumped into the listening crowd. Like sports, this cultural thirst is risky, but despite the danger of diving from a stage, or bolting into other people on the dance floor, everybody at 7th Street was watching out for each other.

The two tallest guys in the room had matching Black Flag T-Shirts, and as it turns out they were brothers in the next band, Allergic to BS. Tom Greer (voice) and his brother Andy (bass) perform with Patrick Scardo (drums) and Josh Lawson (guitar) and together they share a chemistry as one of the most honest, naïve musical misfits that I’ve heard in the Tri-Cities.

On a night like this, you pack light and move quickly, so when Allergic had their amps plugged in and the small drum kit assembled, they never gave up their fury. Their songs were intense and physical. The two brothers were charismatic, and my favorite songs were “Cocktail Party,” “Little Red Cadillac” and a version of the Black Flag classic, “Police Story.”

I walked back out into the Bristol city streets during the break and right around the corner to the State Street Bar and Grill. The place had a good crowd for a UT football night. Usually it has a live band, but tonight, a DJ had the girls dancing and that’s plenty of reason to attract a crowd as the traffic passes by on State Street.

As small as it is, Bristol has what could become a vibrant nightlife. The two cities share good parking and great old buildings. There are plenty of bands ready to perform in this region and supporting this local culture is a step in the right direction for our economy.

I decided that I wanted to catch the final band at the 7th Street Saloon. The Dead Sea Surfers are a Bristol band that features Aleister Cat on vocals and guitar. He’s the owner of the venue, and the Surfers rehearse regularly during the weeknights and host the melee on the week ends.

Al plays a mint-green hollow body guitar swung low on his leather pants and with the band’s gothic flair, it reminds me of The Cure, The Cult, The Ramones and a number of ’90s English punk/glam bands.

Not everyone can understand the punk scene, but growing up, or for that matter growing older, is a tough by-product of life and frustration is a natural part of being human. It’s inevitable for this expression to make its way in to the music.

Johnny Rotten is one of the granddaddies of punk. The leader singer of the Sex Pistols and was once quoted to say, “Sometimes the most positive thing you can be in a boring society is absolutely negative.” That may seem like an odd quote, but it’s poetic just the same.

There are only a few places where this part of Tri-Cities culture is on display. Visit downtown Bristol and enjoy the curators of the punk underground and hardcore abstraction at the 7th Street Salon and Café.

From the Buzz this week:

  • Best Bet This Weekend:

Blue Mother Tupelo. GoTriCities presents an incredible blues duo in Downtown Rogersville. Music starts at 6.30 p.m.

  • Conversations about the Blacksburg tragedy.
  • More Midnight Rambler paraphernalia is showing up.
  • A lot of new bands are getting ready to play the circuit. See details online about Never Before, Horace, Non Prophet and Johnny Rock Star.Relevant links:

    gotricities.com/thebuzz
    theemergencies.com
    deadseasurfers.com
    geocities.com/rocknroll7thst cafe/

    ***


    David Cate is new media director for the GoTriCities Network. E-mail music news or tips for The Buzz to dcate@gotricities.net.