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Young punks groan when anybody mentions the e-mail listserve for straight-edgers that is wired from American University. They say it’s all about gossip, rant about how addicting it can be, and warn you not to sign on. But few people, apparently, have heeded the advice. Since school started a couple of weeks ago, subscriberssome as far away as Australia and Singaporeare getting up to 300 messages a day. The electronic forum is the closest thing D.C.’s music scene has to a stream of consciousness. Or, as the listserve’s founder, Graham Forbes, says, it’s the best all-ages show in town.
The daily flow of e-mail is one of the few venues beyond ‘zines offering punks a place to yak about scene politics and render their intramural criticisms. Some of the chat is rather grave: Over the past two years, band members accused of sexual harassment or rape have been outed and debated, and correspondents have devoted serious e-time to talking about violence and skinhead aggression at rock shows.
Fanning through the messages, says Forbes, 20, has taught him a lot about women’s attitudes and about networking in the scene. “It reminds me of when I first started going to shows,” Forbes says, “just because people are sort of niceat least to me. People get ideas.”
Some of the “ideas” are positively goofy. Two weeks ago, the listserve floated around a message from one punk who wanted to know if caring for his poinsettia made him an honorary vegan. Other messages dished about a show where kids distributed stolen phone books as gifts and reported on one East Coast emo band breaking and entering at a club just to get on stage. “How punk is that?” somebody asked.
Ironically, Forbes, who founded the listserve in June ’96, says he’s too busy to keep up with the volume of e-mail it generates, what with school; his band, Amalgamation; and running his record label, Ricecontrol, and a record distribution company. Forbes says he’s going to sign off as a subscriber, though he will stay on at the controls behind the screen. “I couldn’t read all the mail between classes,” Forbes admits. “It’s a pain in the ass. It just takes timesomething that I don’t have.”Jason Cherkis