The Prodigal Punk

Visiting a Chinese club revitalizes a jaded scenester

| Utne Reader September / October 2007

It's been more than a decade. I've been addicted to punk rock since I was 15 years old, constantly on the prowl for my next auditory fix, trying to recapture the intense high of discovering a new band.

It's like a first kiss. Your heart beats impossibly fast, your skin tingles, and you step lightly, like you've grown wings. Everything glows as if life has been dipped in a radioactive haze.

The more time you spend chasing this intoxicating euphoria, the easier it is to fall into the trap of cynicism, and I was worried that I was crawling down that path. Eventually the same power chords and songs about girls just didn't cut it. Everything sounded the same. I was spoiled on music.

Then I found myself in a developing rural Chinese town.

Folks still haul buckets hanging from a sloping pole across their shoulders, like the old man who comes by every morning hollering, 'Toe-fah!' He sells tofu out of two small dangling wooden shelves. His deep and scruffy voice carries in between the buildings and up into my third-story window, toe-fah, and it's the only live music I hear daily.

Daniel called.