Monday, July 4, 2011

Borscht - Pearl River, N.Y. (1981 to 1984)

BORSCHT – Pearl River, N.Y. (1981 to 1984)

Hardcore Punk in 1981 was still a relatively new phenomenon in the underground music scenes. After the initial explosion of Punk Rock in the late 1970’s……Punk Rock, by 1981 had morphed into hundreds of different sub-divisions and genres…each unique and interesting, yet quite different from the original stripped down, proletarian, 3 chord, 2 minute, exercises in rock and roll purity that were the original intention. Yet, quite a few bands in England and America decided that Punk Rock in it’s original form was pure, but left them wanting more…….more speed, more anger, more community, less bullshit, and set out on their own to create a hyper aggro version of Punk which later became known as Hardcore!

It is safe to say that Hardcore is a completely unique American invention in which the ethos of the entire scene was based around the inherent despair of suburban teens, and their bleak outlook at the failed American Dream. It came from the burbs……and it reflected the burbs, the fucked up kids of America, armed with guitars, and nothing to lose….created a shockwave of radical music that is still reverberating to this day!

NYC had a small, but burgeoning Hardcore scene in 1981, but was not nearly as big and well documented as cities such as Los Angeles or Washington D.C. This nascent scene in NYC spread fast though…..burning through the suburbs like an out of control brush fire, and it wouldn’t be long until the anger and ferocity of Hardcore Punk hit Rockland County. Ladies and Gentlemen…….I give you Borscht, Rockland County’s first hardcore punk band!

Formed in 1982, in the small, blue-collar town of Pearl River, N.Y. by guitarist / vocalist Steve Veraja……Borscht was suburban punk personified! Young, angry, snotty, wiseass kids…unwilling to conform, yet willing to try something new, and in the process….fuck with everyone along the way! The early line up of Borscht contained not only Steve Veraja, but Mike Oswald on lead guitar, Connie Simaikas on bass, and Joe Walsh on drums. This line up of Borscht was raw, fast, and impressive as hell! Yet, as the backwards Rockland County slowly warmed to the generic New Wave of the day, and began hosting “New Wave Nights” at various crappy bars around the county, Borscht and their hardcore sound had a hard time finding places to play in Rockland, and 9 times out of 10 wound up playing with some half ass “new wave” band at a rock bar. A few places in Rockland did warm to the idea of hosting Hardcore, and some memorable shows took place at The Office in Nyack (now called The Old Village Inn) w/ such bands as Kraut and Adrenalin O.D. gracing their tiny stage w/ Borscht, and also Clarkstown South High School hosting The Undead to the bemusement of hundreds of preppy kids who showed up for a “rock concert”.

Borscht began leaving the confines of Rockland, and started playing such legendary punk clubs such as CBGB’s, A7, The Anthrax (in Connecticut), and their fanbase grew. After a hastily assembled demo got played on WNYU’s hardcore punk radio show “Noise the Show”, Borscht’s became quite a popular, and recognizable band.

Borscht soon lost their rhythm section of Joe and Connie, and was quickly replaced with Phil Franklin on drums, and Adam Nodelman on bass. In this author’s humble opinion…this became the best and most prolific version of Borscht. This line up recorded the legendary demo “Primitive Borscht”, and honed their sound to a razor sharp growl that became a template for future Rockland County hardcore bands.

Borscht continued on through 1982 and 1983 playing numerous shows, and building a strong and committed following. Phil Franklin hosted many a party at his home in Pearl River, with numerous bands, and skaters coming from far and wide to use Rockland County’s first half pipe skate ramp ( also giving birth to Rockland’s early skate punk movement), and many new Rockland punk / hardcore bands such as Chappaquiddick + 5, The Doughboys, Geek Attack, formed from the inspiration and acumen of Borscht. Borscht’s national exposure came in the form of tracks on two of hardcore’s most legendary compilation albums……..the track “Suburbia” (the namesake of this blog) appears on the album “Flipside Vinyl Fanzine Vol 1” and the tracks “Enemy” and “Bye-Bye” appear on Thrasher Magazine’s “Skaterock 2 – Blazing Wheels and Barking Trucks”.

As hardcore morphed into crossover metal, and interest in the scene waned…..Borscht eventually called it quits in 1984, but not after solidifying their status as not only the legends of Rockland County punk / hardcore, but as a legendary band in the history of American hardcore period!

Sadly… a former member of Borscht has since passed on….bassist Adam Nodelman passed away in 2009, after spending many years playing with avant – noise experimentalists Borbetomagus.

Borscht recently played a one off reunion show in 2008 at the Knitting Factory in NYC for a tribute show to the legendary NYC punk club A7 w/ such luminary bands as Urban Waste and Antidote. From all in attendance……the set was amazing, and as vibrant as 25 years beforehand.

Borscht were a band who deserve much more respect, remembrance, and adulation than they currently receive. All the contributors to this blog hope that in some small way we are helping to keep the memory of Borscht alive and respected! Bye Bye!

Chris Skelly.

Download ... Borscht - Primitive Borscht Demo Tape

Enemy (Demo) ... Loud Master

No Morality (Demo) ... Loud Master