As I hurried through the back door of Raunch Records, I was surrounded by the lyrics of Lars Frederickson’s “To Have and To Have Not” reverberating off of the walls. I continued through the poster-covered hallway and turned the corner to see Marky Terror sporting his Gretsch Hollow Body electric guitar, while him and everyone in the shop were mouthing the lyrics, “Just because you’re better than me doesn’t mean I’m lazy. Just because you’re going forward doesn’t mean I’m going backward.” Now that he had everyone’s attention after opening up with a street punk classic, he continued with originals like “Salt Lake City,” “Dirty Little Slut” and “Woke Up Drunk” as well as a cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “I Don’t Want To Change the World.” Then Regan Ashton took over the mic with his self-proclaimed “sad-boy jams.” Kind of the opposite of what he is used to (having a band behind him), but Ashton managed to hold over the crowd with intense, emotionally-powered songs including a cover of his friend T.K. Vanderbuilt’s “Junkyard Parakeet.”

After all the attendees were warmed up sufficiently by the locals, the room was then taken over by the presence of Greg Bennick and his spoken word presentation respectfully titled “The Medium is the Message.” He started off his cohesive rant with a shout out to Raunch Records, stating how the store has changed the lives of so many SLC kids in the punk/hardcore scene for decades—surviving every possible challenge that could have shut it down, it’s managed to hold on to its values. He backed his statement with a story of when he first stepped foot in a record store in his hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut. Going off how awesome he thought the titles and album covers were as he flipped through the rows of records, he narrowed his choices down to Sick of it All’s self-titled 7” and a cassette of Guns and Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. Long story, short—he bought GnR cassette, listened to it, hated it, took it back and swapped it for the Sick of it All 7”. He listened to that 7” and was blown away, claiming that it changed his life—backing his claim of how record stores like Raunch create who we (punk and hardcore kids) are today.

Bennick told a lot of genuinely entertaining and thought-provoking stories, each one more enticing than the last. Of all the stories that he told there was one that stuck out more than any of the others—when he was tour with his band Between Earth and Sky in Zagreb, Croatia. They played in a squat in the middle of the city and after the show a man walked up to Bennick until his chest was touching his shoulder. Bennick turned to the man and asked what he wanted and he responed, “You are Greg of Trial? May I pinch your ass?” Bewildered, Bennick decided that it’d be best if he let the man pinch him (though it wasn’t so much a pinch as much as it was scooping a handful of ass). The man explained his actions, stating that his brother was addicted to heroin and that when he discovered Trial, the lyrics of being drug-free and Straight Edge encouraged him to quit using. He told his brother he was going to see Bennick perform that night and that he would meet him and pinch his ass. Why? He explained that he wanted to prove to his brother that Greg Bennick was just a normal individual who just happened to write some lyrics he really liked, and what better way to make that point than by grabbing his nether region?

Bennick closed his commentary with, appropriately enough, a story about Kevin Seconds. He started off his story with when he saw 7 Seconds for the first time back in 1987 and that during the song “99 Red Balloons” Kevin Seconds stuck the mic into the crowd and Bennick was the one who reached for it to scream the lyrics into it. Fast forward 30 years later to the Rain Fest in Seattle where Trial and 7 Seconds are both performing and the same thing happens again: 7 Seconds play “99 Red Balloons,” Seconds sticks the mic into the crowd, Bennick grabs the mic and shouts the exact same lyrics, basking in the surrealism of the moment. After the show, Bennick went to meet Seconds and he told him about the show 30 years prior and how the exact same thing happened this night. Seconds responded by recognizing Bennick from Trial and that he was bummed out that he missed their set. Bennick realized that Kevin Seconds, a man he looked up to since youth, wanted to be at his show and be a part of what he had to offer. As Bennick put it, it was the great equalizer moment—the realization that we are all equal in punk rock, whether it’s the singer of an iconic band or someone who loves their music and lyrics, there is no hierarchy.

Soon enough, Kevin Seconds took his respective spot in front of the microphone, thanked everybody for showing up and talked about how inspired he felt after Bennick’s performance. He told a quick story on his brief yet failed attempt at spoken word and that he just stuck with music. Though he claimed that spoken word was not his forte, he did have an interesting story for every other song about how they were written. He told the story of two teens who were regular customers in a coffee shop he used to own. From afar, he watched them go from being complete strangers to meeting for the first time and eventually falling in love. Feeling indirectly responsible for their communion became the inspiration for the song “New and Beautiful.” Another fun story he told was when he went to Career Day for his son’s class. He continued on how he was nervous, and that he didn’t know what to say, and that he had to resort to Google to find answers on what to talk about at such an event. What stuck out most of his story was when he was asked by one of his son’s classmates if he knew Justin Timberlake. The audience laughed with Seconds at such an innocent situation and the fact that he answered yes to the question.

Seconds continued on with short songs like “Listen To Radio A Lot” and “Bank All Extra Money” and said that his goal this year was to write 500 new songs which is why a lot of the songs his songs barely reached the one minute mark. He would have another story or statement for his longer songs like “Sunday Afternoon Bicycle Polo”—how it started off as an anger-fueled song about being cynical that turned into a love song. He even managed to work in a 7 Seconds song, “Soul to Keep,” and attached to that was a story of how Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio played it better than Seconds ever hoped he could. However, right before he played his last song, he began talking about how amazing the audience and previous performers were that night. He especially loved the fact that older punk rockers out there still do shows and still make music and the fact that younger people still go to these shows. With that said, he started to play his final song of the evening, “Forever Try.” While it was playing, I zeroed in on this one boy, no more than five years old, sitting on the floor and bobbing his head to the rhythm. I couldn’t help but think back about what Greg Bennick said earlier about the importance of record stores—that it is how a lot of people get affiliated with their local scene and independent music and art altogether. I realized that if these kids continue to show the type of enthusiasm for music that this one little boy does, the future of the punk rock scene should be in good hands.