The day was blistering. Not from heat, not exhaustion, but from the emotions that ran high with political conscience throughout the crowd. The year was 1983. The place, Central Park. And theme, “Rock Against Reagan.”
It was during a time of political unrest, where young activists and revolutionaries came together to collectively voice their distress with the Reagan administration. Their voices- their cries- rang high through the crowd. They wanted to be heard and they wanted a change.
At the forefront of this day was the Dicks, an early 80s hardcore band from Austin, TX, who, like those in the crowd, had something to say about those in charge. And, from the heights of the stage, they blasted their tunes and their beliefs, with slew of other discontented bands. But what was meant to be a entertaining concert that expressed social concern soon turned into protest. The police were there to shut it down and that’s exactly what they did.
This was the last time that the Dicks would play New York. Until now.
The Dicks, whose anthem “Hate the Police” was made famous by Seattle grunge act Mudhoney, are returning to New York for the fourth annual DOT DASH festival, slated to run from Thursday, July 27 to Saturday, July 29. Their show is the first in three nights of rock n roll pleasantries set to rock the stages of emerging Park Slope music venue Southpaw.
For punk rock aficionados and 60s primitive garage rock junkies, this year’s chapter of the DOT DASH weekend festivals, DOT DASH IV, should be a satisfying shock to the system. Along with the Dicks, who are set to play Thursday night, 60s primitive garage band the Alarm Clocks, and the much anticipated reunion of 70s pre-punk band Rocket from the Tombs will also take the stage.
DOT DASH IV is the latest chapter in the annual three-day rock fest that celebrates the success of Tom Hyland’s successful booking agency, named DOT DASH, respectively. And as an extra cherry on top, a BBQ party will be held during the day at Brooklyn bar Magnetic Field on the Saturday of the festival with free hot dogs and music.
But what’s expected to garner the most attention during the festival is the performance Cleveland innovators Rocket from the Tombs, billed to play Saturday night. One of the first punk outfits out of Cleveland, Rocket from the Tombs has had a definitive influence on Mid-Western bands. After their demise in the mid-70s, members from the Tombs went on to form other important punk rock acts, such as trash-extraordinaires the Dead Boys, and art inclined Pere Ubu. Now back, after so many years, original members Cheetah Chrome and David Thomas will take the stage with Richard Lloyd from Television playing along.
“It’s probably the biggest show,” said Hyland, founder of DOT DASH. “They are one of the most renowned pre-punk bands before the Ramones and Sex Pistols.”
The first installment of the three-day fest was held in July 2003, at the Lower East Side club Sin-E, as a way to celebrate the anniversary of the first show booked under the DOT DASH umbrella. And, Hyland admits, because he “selfishly wanted” to see the bands. But with self-interest aside, Southpaw, located at 125 Fifth Avenue, is now home to the festival since 2004 because, according to Hyland, the spacious spot is the “perfect place” for such a rocking weekend.
“[Southpaw] is one of my favorite venues in New York,” said the 37-year-old Allentown, PA native. “You can fill it up and get a lot of people in. It’s the right size and it has a great sound. The stage, the vibe, the staff is the best.”
Also know as Tom Dash, Hyland, who helps run the festival with the team at Southpaw, also praises the Brooklyn venue for its “very cool” staff. Without naming names, Hyland claims that while working at other venues during a show, the club’s staff would treat him like an outsider- “another guy at the bar.” But, he goes on to say, with Southpaw, the staff and owners there are “incredibly supportive.”
Hyland started DOT DASH in the summer of 2002 after witnessing the failed attempts of a punk-garage band to impress their audience. According to Hyland, the band, who he was interested in, were playing to the “wrong kinda crowd”- a crowd who could care less about the musicians on stage. So, in a take charge effort to get a scene together, Hyland began his quest and booked his first show in July 2002 to help the local New York punk, garage, rock n roll underground come together. “I wanted to get like-minded bands together because [a lot of bands] were being underrepresented,” he said.
And thus, DOT DASH was born. In its first year of existence, Hyland, whose roster of bands include the Black Lips, Seattle band the Spits, Awesome Color, and the Little Killers, had successfully booked shows with local and national acts, reaching out to bands that would not normally play in or be asked to come to New York. But Hyland is more than a man who wants to generate exposure for bands- his involvement also extends to visual aspect of his company- from the websites to the posters to the overall look and feel. According to Hyland, a friend of his from college helped create a sort of do-it-yourself 70s “punk-new wave-robot-futuristic” graphic imaging for DOT DASH. But, on the whole, DOT DASH is Hyland’s baby.
“[DOT DASH] is a one-person operation. I would make it more of a business but it’s sort of a one-man thing,” Hyland said. “Email blasts, publicity, door at the show- I control basically all the aspects of it. Occasionally, though, I will get volunteers to help.”
As for the big bash itself, Hyland makes sure that each year is special. He does this by either booking a reunion band, such as the ones playing DOT DASH IV, or a band that normally doesn’t headline to headline, all while mixing it with current acts, who are influenced by the big leaguers. He also sees to it that each overall festival has a similar vibe and that each band has a similar sound. The reason for this, he says, is the same reason that drove him to start DOT DASH in the first place- to create a space where bands are welcomed and the audience likes what they’re hearing.
Most of all, the DOT DASH festival is a way “to share respect for these bands.” “I want to try to bring that every year- a show people never forget,” he said.
And it’s of no surprise that what Hyland wants, he gets. Through his confident networking techniques and unabashed honesty, Hyland has courted the most difficult of bands to headline his festival, past and present. And among this impressive bill of artists, the one-man operator organized a bolt from the blue reunion with long-defunct Japanese garage band Teen Generate for last year’s festival. According to Hyland, audiences were flabbergasted with their appearance at DOT DASH III, not to mention their performance. “It was a big thing,” he said. “People are still talking about it.”
But how can just one man conquer an extraordinary feat such as reuniting bands like Teen Generate and this year’s Saturday headliner Rocket from the Tombs? “I don’t want to give away my secret,” said Hyland with a laugh. “It takes a lot of perseverance and confidence. When contacting bands, you should explain everything you do and be upfront. When dealing with the entertainment industry, bands are usually a bit more cautious, but if you’re upfront, bands are a little more trusting.”
“You have to genuinely like the band, respect the band, and want people to see them,” he added.
It is because of this candid interest in the bands he books that Hyland and his DOT DASH operation is growing in popularity. So much that its, and Hyland’s, reputation goes beyond the scope of just local knowledge- it’s recognized nationally, too. As for expanding DOT DASH into something more, Hyland won’t deny the possibility.
“It’s a hobby that I wish was a career,” said Hyland. “I’d like to make it something more but right now it’s just about supporting bands.”
Hyland hopes that, in the future, he can turn DOT DASH into a publicity company, where he would act as an A&R representative for record labels and a supervisor for agencies and film companies. Right now, however, aside from running DOT DASH, Hyland hosts his own online radio show, appropriately titled “DOT DASH RADIO,” every Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. as part of East Village Radio (eastvillageradio.com).
“I heard [East Village Radio] was starting up so I made a demo of what I would do,” said Hyland, who began his radio career in college and community radio. “They got back to me a few months later and I have been doing it for almost two years.”
As for now, Hyland is focused on making the festival a “bigger deal than just a weekend show.”
“I have the most fun and the most stress doing the festival,” said Hyland.
All shows are 18+. Tickets for the festival costs $17, with a $20 cost for Saturday night. For more information on DOT DASH IV, check out the DOT DASH Myspace site- www.myspace.com/dotdashnyc. To join the mailing list for everything DOT DASH, send an email to email@example.com.