Reading a history about a time and place you experienced first-hand can make your emotions waffle. On the one hand, you’re proud as hell someone cared enough to take on the battle of writing about an era you lived and loved. On the other, you’re scared as hell the writer might miss the mark. Matthew Walker doesn’t miss a thing with Gainesville Punk: A History of Bands and Music. (Arcadia Publishing and The History Press--Available on Amazon HERE.) The book is an all-killer-no-filler telling of how Gainesville, Florida’s thriving punk scene grew up and evolved to national prominence over the course of three decades from the early 1980s to the present. Fans of punk and indie-rock music—who’ve never been to Gainesville, but spent their formative years as far away from mainstream top-40 radio as humanly possible—will cherish this book as a guide to help delve online and discover what they’ve missed. Fans who know what it smells like to be in a mosh pit at the Hardback Cafe will taste the sweat and stale beer like they were back in the 90s.
Walker maintains a pace and style that reads like a Gainesville punk band’s live set: fast, emotional, intelligent, and (most of all) inclusive. Gainesville Punk paints a picture of a music scene coming of age. We also hear first-person perspective from the people who were there, and in several cases still are. Along the way, we meet the bands, the fans, the venues, the fanzines, the record labels the record stores—everything that makes a bonafide music scene complete. True to Gainesville punk ethos, Walker often diverts the attention from his own work to that of others in the scene who share his devoutness. He keeps the narrative rolling and perpetually relates the deeper dive interested fans can take if they let the internet do the searching. To that end, Gainesville Punk is the ultimate primer for those unfamiliar with the scene punk aficionados nationwide attest to be one of the truest around. The book also has plenty of surprising anecdotes for seasoned Gainesvillians who spent many a night making the pre-2am run from Common Grounds to Gator Beverage to a non-air conditioned house somewhere in the student ghetto for an after-hours show. Gainesville Punk is a book that, like so much of the music it covers, likely won’t find big-time mainstream success. It won’t speak to the 98% of the population who prefers their art to be pre-approved by corporate gatekeepers. But the people that discover and love this book (as I do) will share it like a cherished mixtape from yesteryear (or burned CD if you’re younger than me, or a custom playlist if you’re much younger). Eventually, Gainesville Punk will find an audience. Work born from sweat and emotion usually lands on kindred spirits. Someday, some kid will read this book, listen to the bands of Gainesville’s past and say, “I wanna do that. I can do that!” That’s the point of Gainesville Punk. And its brilliance.
Other media stories on Gainesville Punk and its author, Matt Walker:
Vice article: What Makes Gainesville So Punk?
Fred Smith lived in Gainesville from 1995-2004. He saw his first show at The Hardback in '95 (The Lexingtons) and played drums in Kitchens of Soul from 1998-2003. These days, Fred is an author and filmmaker living in Tampa, Florida. You can check out some of his work on this site. Stick around, have a few on the house. Then, you know...buy something.