“This weekend will be one of the busiest weekends in Positive Force history,” says Mark Andersen, the co-founder of the punk-rock activist group which this year turns 25.
No kidding. Tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Affinity Lab in Adams Morgan, Anderson is showing classic D.C.-punk footage he collected while writing the book Dance of Days. And DJs from Crooked Beat and Smash! Records will be spinning some punk tunes—-the evening free, but donations will benefit the senior-outreach nonprofit Andersen runs, We Are Family.
Then, Positive Force is hosting a number of benefits for We Are Family throughout the weekend. On Friday at St. Stephens Church, Anti-Flag, the Menzingers, the Max Levine Ensemble, and Mischief Brew are performing for $10.
Birds and Wires, Give, Lions of Judah, and Police & Thieves are performing Saturday at La Casa in Mount Pleasant at a $5 book event, where Gabriel Kuhn will the discuss, via a computer monitor, the book he edited, Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge and Radical Politics. Kuhn, who lives in Sweden, is currently on the United States’ No Fly List. Andersen is also speaking, but he’ll actually be in the room.
The same night, at St. Stephens, P-Force is staging another benefit show featuring Stripmall Ballads, Mobius Strip, the Andalusians, and the Wax Standard. This one’s $7.
All of this has to do with Positive Force’s big two-five, but it’s also the busiest weekend in what’s proved to be Positive Force’s biggest year in quite some time. The group’s history runs parallel to D.C. punk’s, but in recent years it has been less visible—-or at the very least, it’s been staging fewer shows.
There are several reasons why. The most obvious, Andersen says, is simply turnover: “There’s an ebb and a flow to the arts and music scene as there are to activist groups, so I think it’s an organic process that we’re part of,” he says. The group has new blood now, he says, who are eager to organize events.
Another cause of the group’s resurgence: Since 2009, Positive Force and We Are Family have had a permanent home at St. Stephens Church. There, the group is hoping to create the kind of community center—-an open art and performance space—-it had envisioned would exist at the Flemming Center, the senior center and bundle of nonprofits in Shaw operated by Emmaus Services for the Aging. Positive Force played a key role in the center’s creation last decade, but its relationship with Emmaus dissolved beginning in 2004. “A lot of what we’d hoped to do is now coming to fruition at St. Stephens,” Andersen says. “The hope was to do DIY events that wouldn’t have to make a lot of money, and hopefully open it up to a lot of people who can start using it.”
A key component of that, as it has been through P-Force’s history, are the punk benefits, which are all-ages and don’t serve alcohol. “Obviously clubs are clubs and have to make their bottom line, and house shows are nice to do and can be a very powerful adjunct but it’ also just terribly limited. It’s very hard to keep a space going,” Andersen says. “We always wanted to do something … that kind of refuted rock ‘n’ roll as usual and was open to a broad group of people.”