'OLD CRUSTY PUNKS' The Lost Ones.
To many, Newport, Rhode Island is known only for its obscenities of wealth, from the Gilded Age mansions to the tony shops along Thames Street to the private boats lulling in the harbor. But amidst the toys of the one percent, a culture of poverty and restlessness has long simmered. This disconnect helped create and sustain not only some of America’s most influential underground cultures — namely surfing, skateboarding, and hardcore punk rock — but also one of the country’s longest-running “skate rock” bands, the Loud Ones.
With a new album, Time to Skate (Beer City Records), and a slate of shows lined up, the band met with me in December at the Salvation Café, a funky bar and restaurant in Newport. In the private dining room upstairs, holiday music pumped out of the ceiling speakers as the band settled in. A case of Natty Ice appeared and was promptly torn open, while the sounds of “Hallelujah” rained down.
The band members span a generation and care nothing for their image. Guitarist Metal Man has a long gray beard, oversized flannel shirt, and thoughtful television-grandpa eyes that glisten when he speaks. The equally bearded Michael — the band’s soft-spoken lead guitarist — hid under a brown hoodie and cupped his hands at the fingertips like a quiet mystic. Two younger members, drummer DKnow and singer Boog, are outspoken and intelligent. They handle the business side of the band and its social media presence.
And holding court just outside of the table was the founder of the Loud Ones, bass player and skateboarder Fred Smith. Leaning back with a Miller High Life in hand and a nest of reddish locks pouring out from underneath an old Water Brothers Surf Shop trucker hat, Smith barked out memories above his friends’ voices. Gruff, with a brutally dry sense of humor, Smith is an underground celebrity in Newport. At 49, “Freddy” is seen as an unlikely father figure to a generation of East Coast punks and skaters, but he waves off any hints of deference from his band mates.
Smith founded the Loud Ones in Dighton, Massachusetts as a high school student in 1983 (he relocated to Newport in the early ’90s). Currently in its third incarnation, the band is ready to take the stage once again. “When [singer] Boog and I came in, the chemistry was undeniable,” DKnow said. “We had to do it now. The timing will never be better. You rarely find the third incarnation of a band this hungry.”
Newport has produced some of the most potent and lasting hardcore bands of the past three decades — including the FU’s, Vicious Circle, and Verbal Assault — and the Loud Ones’ Time to Skate is destined to become a regional classic. The record’s 28 tracks include new recordings, older demos, and live tracks from the early 1980s. Boog’s snotty vocals are straight out of 1970s England. In the snarling guitars, you hear a mix of classic Bay Area surf-jangle punk, combined with the crushing wall of sound from ’80s East Coast hardcore. The guitar leads are metal-inflected and the lyrics are deliciously juvenile, mostly covering women, skateboarding, and parties. This is raw music. You can almost smell the skateboard half-pipe laminate and Mad Dog 20/20.