While the following insubordinate clause may read like a platitude, we might still remind ourselves that buildings are built by individuals, and those individuals have stories. And once built, those buildings take on owner after owner, tenant after tenant, and this brings additional stories into the fold.
In the case of 824 Main Avenue in Fargo, North Dakota, the Fargo-based punk band Les Dirty Frenchmen has for some years rented a space in the basement. They use it for practice, that perpetual process that can easily go unnoticed by anyone not in a band.
To provide a bit of historical context to the origins of punk, it’s necessary to acknowledge it as both a cultural and political movement. In Samuel Johnson’s 18th century distilled book of Insults, a punk is defined as “A whore; a common prostitute; a strumpet.” The Tory Johnson did not
mince words. He was pretty much a jerk. Hilarious? In a cynical vein, yes, and even more so at a distance. And a jerk to be sure.
By the 1970s, much of punk rock (whether conscious or not that it was in a labor or labor light vein) would easily interpret humanity as getting ground down by advanced industrialization and ineffective political leaders to the point where it was only appropriate to, well, appropriate the term punk. Every one is grist for the mill, so you might as well pick up an instrument and give it a go. From that chaos emerged a pattern intrinsic to punk (no more than three chords, please), and rockers that are regularly played on the iRadio, such as the Ramones, Green Day, Rancid, and so on.
The architectural style (arguably a brick commercial style) of this Fargo building strongly suggests it was originally built as a creamery, or a creamery co-op (this style is associated with the creameries throughout the upper Mid-West): once again, potential rural and agrarian labor unifying to optimize output in order to compete with larger industrial urban giants. Further research will draw this out (there are only so many hours in a day, folks).
In the meantime, though, here is some on-the-ground YouTube video of a Les Dirty Frenchmen practice from the evening of March 1, 2012. They are practicing the original tune, “All Blowed Up,” another video of that here. In addition to that, guitarist Troy Reisenauer explains the dynamic of the practice space.
Long live punk, intellectual history, early twentieth-century creamery co-ops, and historic preservation.