This Is (Another) Punk Show Not A War

Please read first: This Is A Punk Show Not A War

I went back to Death House last night. It started as a joke. My friends were playing a show there and I was wondering if I should go. I said, “It’d be funny if I showed up and read This Is A Punk Show Not A War.” We laughed about it, but really, who was stopping me? My friends talked about it together and invited me to open the show. I’d written the piece about the night I was kicked out of that space, along with a group of friends. We were “too violent,” they said. We stood up to the macho bros in the mosh pit and they didn’t like it. It happens that these macho bros run the space.

I wasn’t sure if they’d remember me. It’s been nearly two years, they’ve thrown countless shows and downed countless drinks and my face had surely become a blur in their memories. I look like a lotta white punks with colourful hair and tattoos, right? I could be anyone. So I showed up early with a black cherry soda in my hand a copy of my zine in my back pocket. I talked to a few friends and they asked if I was nervous. “No, I’m just antsy. I wanna get up and do it and see what happens.”

That’s the thing, I had friends there, so many friends. I was surprised to see how many people had shown up to support me. I’d told a few people about the reading, but didn’t really go out of my way to invite anyone, because Death House is not a space that I feel particularly comfortable or safe in, so I can hardly expect that of anyone else.

La Riposte set up and did a quick soundcheck and then we were ready to go. It was just about ten-thirty. The plan was for me to read and then they would play immediately after, just make a ton of noise (and I’d either stick around to see them and take up space at the front, or get the fuck out, depending on how things went). I got onstage and put my soda down next to my feet, adjusted the mic stand. “Hi, everyone. My name is Amber Dearest and I’m gonna do a quick reading and then La Riposte is gonna play. This is called This Is A Punk Show Not A War.”

Photo by Khristina.

Photo by Khristina.

The two dudes (“the two big dudes, the two big dudes who’d spent the whole night at the front pushing everyone else outta their way and taking up so much space…”) were both there, running the bar (it’s a tiny space, we were like twelve feet apart). They started saying things like, “What the fuck is this shit?” and there was one girl I didn’t know making womp-womp-womp Charlie Brown teacher noises, like I wasn’t saying anything interesting. But it didn’t matter because I had the mic and was louder than everyone else, and my friends kept cheering me on. I was reading with a huge smile on my face, and being continuously heckled by only three people. It was really hilarious reading the parts with descriptions of the dudes, because they were right there. Finally I got to the “and we were banned from Death House” and there was a whole bunch of laughter and cheers. The heckling got louder too, and someone yelled, “Punch her in the face!” When I got to the line, “They were such cliché drunkpunks,” they finally cut the mic. So I yelled the rest of the reading. My smile was gone. I was so loud, yelling over everyone’s voices. And it felt so exhilarating-affirming-powerful-truthful to be screaming the line “I’m-a-big-dude-and-I’m-gonna-talk-over-you-now” and the parts about them calling us bitches and cunts WHILE THEY WERE ACTUALLY DOING IT. When I got to the line, “You’re boring, you’re so fucking boring!” there were other people saying it with me, like we were all singing along together, except we were shouting it in the faces of those dudes. I finished my reading as loud as I could and then got off the stage, ducked into the crowd.

When I got upstairs to where merch was set up (and where I’d stashed my backpack), people were high-fiving me and asking if they could hug me (yes! yes you may!). I didn’t know the other two bands playing but they recognized me because they had seen my twin doing a reading in Kitchener in December. Meanwhile on the main floor, there was a major shouting match going on between a bunch of people, it was impossible to keep track of. But pretty much everyone was on my side, it felt like it was the whole room versus the two dudes who run the space.

I knew I’d get kicked out – but I didn’t know everyone would! The dude who appears clad in skinny white suspenders in my piece flat-out cancelled the show and told everyone to get out of his space. I apologized to the two out-of-town bands for messing with their show, but they were really understanding and said that they wouldn’t have played after hearing my reading anyway. We all got the fuck out and the bands loaded their equipment back into their vehicles. A friend handed me a ginger beer on my way out the door.

We were out in the snow for a bit, and honestly, I wanted to cry because people were being so nice to me. They were saying extremely nice things, like that it was the best punk show they’d ever seen, and calling me Amber Bravest. “Your hands were shaking, but your voice stayed strong.” I still feel high from all of the intensity.

The show moved right down the street to a sweet and dingy basement, the night stretched a little longer than planned, but everyone still got to play. It was a great show. And I hate on punk all of the time – the uniformity, the way we recreate all of the bullshit dynamics of the the mainstream world. But there are times when it means a lot to me. I will acknowledge that I have a lot of privilege in this scene, in this world, too. I am white, cis, able-bodied. Like the singer from Two Crosses said, “Just because I can be oppressed, doesn’t mean that I cannot also oppress people.” I don’t wanna get into a “what is punk” thing, but when punks continue to perpetuate all of the oppressions that exist within mainstream society, and they/we are uncritical about it, well, that’s not very punk to me. That’s just a bunch of jerks with silly haircuts makin’ a lotta noise about nothing.

Thank you to all of my friends (and some strangers!) for having my back last night, and thank you to La Riposte, Dervish, and Two Crosses for putting up with me and playing a bunch of cool songs and trading zines and tapes with me. Thank you also for reminding me of why I write, and why I run a distro. I am amazed at what a dream my life is sometimes. Oh, and thank you to Death House for proving my point.

Further reading: Bros Fall Back by The Secret Society Of Femmes (Philly).


This Is A Punk Show Not A War

I originally wrote this in the summer of 2012 as a middle-of-the-night rant. It’s since undergone several edits and has appeared in The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes #3 (which is available via Fight Boredom Distro). I’ve read it aloud at zine readings and punk shows in various cities – to laughter and cheers and high-fives, and awkward silence and heckles and threats of violence. I’m making it available online (again) because sharing is fun and because I believe this shit is important.

For the record, this happened at Death House in Montréal (not to be confused with Deathchurch).

This Is A Punk Show Not A War

Someone approached me and asked me to step to the front. They said, “The feminist revolution is happening right here!” It was decided that the dudes were no longer going to take up space. For once, we were going to dance in front of the stage. We’d been stuck at the back of the room all night, smoke being blown in our faces. One guy put his hand around my left hip in order to pass me – why do they always do that? Why can’t they just tap me on the shoulder or something? They’ve always gotta touch my hips, my ass, the small of my back. They always want to remind me that I am a girl. They always want to touch me.

The band set up and we formed a row at the front. They played, and we danced. The dudes, the two big dudes, the two big dudes who’d spent the whole night at the front pushing everyone else outta their way and taking up so much space, they didn’t like it. We watched them, watching us, and we continued to dance. They pushed their way through – well, the tried. One of them was exactly one foot taller than me; I know this because he offered me his stats later on, then added, “I’m skinny, I’m a small guy, how can I be taking up space?” He’d inch closer toward us, plotting his next move, then try to get between my friends and I, but we weren’t gonna let it happen. We linked arms and we vowed to stick together. We blocked him. We blocked him over and over again. Somehow I always found myself at the front, he just couldn’t get past me – save for one brief moment. It was a concerted effort on his part. He couldn’t stand to my left or to my right, he had to stand directly in front of me to bang his head and chug his beer – because he’d seen how we intentionally moved from the back of the room to the front. I wasn’t having it. I moved up next to him and danced hard, I shook my pink hair around and I forced him outta that space. He was behind us yet again.

Then his friend came in from the left. He made his way along the line of us, trying to bust on through, and we stood our ground. Dude wouldn’t let up and I thought: Fuck it, you want a mosh pit, I will give you a mosh pit. I jumped up and down, I pushed him around, and finally I dug my elbows right into him. I never let him reach the stage for a second. My friends pulled on his fucking skinny white suspenders and we danced circles around him. We were a team.

Tall dude tried to talk to me. He said, “This is a punk show, not a war.” Funny that – when we take up space, it is seen as a declaration of war, yet when men do the exact same thing, it’s just a punk show. I told him to stop talking to me. I said, “I’ve heard enough, you’re boring me now.” And I danced some more.

The set ended and my friends and I exchanged hugs and high-fives. We were all smiles and sweat and adrenaline. But these two dudes just couldn’t let it go. First they tried the sad-puppy act, the come-on-we’re-just-trying-to-have-fun and then it was you’re-violent-you-hurt-us-you-gotta-calm-down and finally it was you-bitches-you-cunts-go-the-fuck-home and we were banned from Death House.

The entitlement. We stood in front of the stage for one set at one show and they couldn’t accept it. They had to reclaim that space, they had to push us and shove us and block our view and call us names. I shouted at them a bit but that was the worst part. They were such cliché drunkpunks, they were never gonna get it. They didn’t seem to realize the macho show they were putting on, the I’m-a-big-dude-and-I’m-gonna-talk-over-you-now, as if it wasn’t already a part of our daily lives, as if they hadn’t won the battles at every other show. I couldn’t even argue with them, I just said, “You’re boring, you’re so fucking boring!” and they were.

And my friends and I, we ran away into the night, laughing and patting each other on the back and saying, “That was beautiful!” over and over again. And for me, maybe it’s not a war, but it is never just a punk show.

Further reading: This Is (Another) Punk Show Not A War

FEBRUARY: Order 5 Zines, Get 1 Free!

SALE SALE SALE. For the month of February, for every FIVE zines that you order, you’ll get ONE for free. You can tell me what free one(s) you want, otherwise I’ll surprise you. Because I want you to get through the rest of the winter, and because I wanna send you some zines before Canada Post’s rates go up in March, and because I wanna round up some funds for new distro stock when I go to the Chicago Zine Fest. How To Order.

Fight Boredom Distro News: I added some more zine descriptions today (one day I swear they will all be up), including Anarchism & Hope, Birthday Party #1, Sour Puss #10, and Tongueswell #1.

Also, hey! I’ve been doing all kindsa non-zine things these days, too. One of them is co-organizing Fun-A-Day with a few friends. I wrote a bit about it here (and here last year!). We’re having a 5 à 7 this Friday if you wanna come hang out and eat snacks and look at art and maybe even display your own project.


Okay this other thing I did was PLAY IN A BAND FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. We formed a Pixies cover band for the cover band show at Squalor. I guess I’ve been obsessed with karaoke long enough that I may as well sing with a live band? For me, it was another way of pushing myself to do something that intimidates me, and to build my self-confidence. Here is a video of us playing Where Is My Mind:

Alright! Happy winter everyone!

Happy New Year! It’s Time Again For Fun-A-Day!

It’s 2014 and it has been for about ten hours now (where I’m from). I celebrated quietly because I’m way more into cozy times than parties and isn’t that what wintertime is all about anyway? My resolutions this year are to make more room for femmes and sober people in my life (I’m a sober femme y’know!), to improve my French, and to continue building my self-confidence. I wrote a lot about my efforts to build self-confidence in The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes #3, a lot of it has to do with putting myself out there and doing “embarrassing” things like karaoke, and also learning how to be alone, which I think I’ve gotten really good at. But now I wanna work on it in new ways, like being more honest about my feelings, allowing myself to be vulnerable, going to the gym and getting tough, and also DRAWING. Which may seem so simple, but whatever. I think it’s kinda funny that so much of my life is focused on (reading and creating) perzines, because I think in images more often than words. I’ve never allowed myself to draw very much, because my pages never turn out the way I imagined them and I’m easily discouraged. So I’m giving myself a chance to draw, to find my style, and to share these pages with people. I want to draw more often and have confidence in what I’ve created.

So this is where Fun-A-Day comes in! Fun-A-Day was started nearly a decade ago by Artclash in Philly and has expanded to cities all over the world – that means you can organize your own, too! The premise is simple: pick a project, do it every day in January, then show your work in a big group show. Stay inspired and beat the winter blues! I’m doing a drawing a day. My first one is posted below. In February, we’ll do a group gallery show where people can display their projects and talk about ’em.


Winter survival strategies are so important to me. It’s too easy to stay curled up in bed to avoid the cold, get up at noon, then the sun goes down at four and suddenly you’ve missed the whole day and you’re in darkness, falling into a depression. I made a goal to be awake for most of the daylight hours of the winter, and so far, so good. The thing that’s been most important to me is my membership at the Y. I joined the gym because I wanted to have some sort of physical activity to make up for a season without my bike, but it turns out that it covers so many winter survival bases – most importantly, happy endorphins! It’s also good for boosting self-confidence, first in challenging myself to go to fitness classes alone (and soon, to learn to use the fancy gym equipment and maybe start lifting weights), and then, getting tough and feeling more and more confident in what my body is capable of. For the record, if you have proof of your low income, you can get up to a 50% discount on a membership at the Y (I’m paying $30.00 a month).

Fun-A-Day of course is a part of my winter survival strategy. That, and keeping myself busy with projects, eating well (by which I mean, I dumpstered eighty bucks worth of sushi the other night), writing, giving myself plans to look forward to (like going to see Godspeed in a couple of weeks!), making tea dates with friends, co-ordinating the winter workshop series at the Ste-Émilie Skillshare, and well, snuggling. I hope wintertime is being good to you too, dear readers. Take care and stay cozy!

Fight Boredom Distro News: There are a bunch of new zines in stock, including Anarchism & Hope; Scoopin’ Times #2; Telegram #31; Birthday Party #1; Psych Girl #1: Stories From A Clinical Psychologist; Sinvergüenza #1-#2; Long Walk Back To Broadway; Imaginary Windows #6; Sour Puss #8-#10; Zine Crush #3; Tongueswell #1; and Finale 95 #2. Also, I booked my table at the Chicago Zine Fest – see you in March!

See You In Toronto!


I’ll be tabling at the Toronto Anarchist Fair this weekend – Sunday, December 15th from 10am-7pm. Please come say hello and check out some zines! There are all kindsa rad events going on over the course of the next few days, like workshops and panels and even a bus going to Lindsay to demonstrate against the indefinite detention of migrants; check out the full list on the Facebook event.

After that, I’ll be sticking around Ontario for a bit to visit my family, work on some projects, and relax. The distro will be on hiatus for a few weeks, but I’ll be back late-December. Take care and stay cozy!

It’s A Very Busy Week For Zines In Montréal!

zine party flier

Just a quick reminder to all my local readers – this weekend is going to be so hectic and so wonderful! First thing in the morning, I’ll be hopping onto my bike with an overflowing backpack and basket full of zines and tabling at Expozine (5035 Saint-Dominique, 12-6pm on Saturday and Sunday). Come say hello and check out all the new zines I’ve got in stock! Later in the evening, there’s a zine reading and show at La Époque in Verdun. Tabling again on Sunday, and then off to see Jeff Miller and Aaron Cometbus at Drawn & Quarterly. AND THEN on Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be reading at A Zine Show & Tell Tea Party, hosted by the Sidetracks Screenprinting Team (with whom I’ve been volunteering for three years). See you there!

Fuck the 27 Club, Let’s Read Zines!

Today is my 28th birthday and my two-year sober-versary and I feel like celebrating. So – TODAY ONLY – all distro orders come with a free copy of The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes #3, my newest zine. It’s a zine about soda and karaoke, which is to say sobriety and self-confidence (and a summer tour in the US). All orders will be posted first thing in the morning (before I hop on a bus to the Toronto Queer Zine Fair). Click on How To Order if you have any questions.

Fight Boredom Distro News: I finally made a new banner for the website! Trying to embrace my childish illustration skills. I also added a bunch of new zines to the catalogue, including Imaginary Windows #6; The Reverse Cougar Years #5; Sour Puss #8-#10; Cheaptoys #13; Zine Crush #3; Tongueswell #1; Finale 95 #1 and It’s Down To This: Reflections, Stories, Experiences, Critiques and Ideas on Community and Collective Response to Sexual Violence, Abuse, and Accountability. Order ’em online, come and see me at the Toronto Queer Zine Fair on October 19th, or hold out for Expozine in Montréal on November 16th and 17th.

Being that it’s my sober-versary, here are some of the zines I distro that touch on alcohol and addiction: Alex #3; Breakfast For Dinner #1; Filling The Void: Interviews About Quitting Drinking & Using; Pansy #8; Sub Rosa #7 and The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes #1 and #3. Happy reading!