Coolest cops ever

To hear Henry Rollins tell it, the early days of American punk were filled with violence. Clashes between local police officers and angry punks were commonplace, essentially making live-music shows into a social and political war where disaffected kids in chic, safety-pinned clothes were brought face to face with the snarling pigs of corporate America. Or something like that.

Of course, times have changed, although no one could have predicted the extent of that change. Case in point: Tera Melos and Sex Tape Scandal found out that their gig at the Java Cafe and Brew Pub in Fair Oaks had been unceremoniously canceled. (The booker had been fired and apparently forgot to tell anyone at the venue that he had shows on the calendar.) So, the bands did what any group of self-respecting young musicians would do. They set up their gear on the far side of the parking lot and rocked it under the Bon Voyage Travel sign.

Tera Melos, a superb instrumental band from Roseville, set off the building’s alarm during their second song. The assembled collection of 30 or so teenagers who had clambered out of their polished suburban lives to hear the music all knew that a squad car would appear at some point. Still, Tera Melos continued to rock, its intricate music waffling (and waffling well) between the sketchy tremble of late-era Fugazi and the hard, slow crunch of Neurosis.

It wasn’t until Sex Tape Scandal was about to launch into its first number that that sheriff’s department arrived on the scene. I was hoping for a crazed rumble between kids and cops. I found myself pondering how many of these doe-eyed teens could actually get up the nerve to jump into the battlefield for their beloved music and, conversely, how many of these 14-year-old kids the two middle-aged law-enforcement officers could actually take on.

“Do you have a permit for this?” one officer asked, sauntering up to the lead singer.

Sex Tape Scandal’s members—one of whom sported a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “cunt”—crowded around the officers, looking every bit the nervous teenagers they were. “We were supposed to play at the coffee shop,” one said, gesturing across the parking lot, “but it got canceled. So, we thought we’d just play here because …” His voice trailed off and then he added weakly, “It’s punk rock.”

“I hear ya,” the officer said. Then he gave a couple of quick warnings about not damaging the building, breaking windows, etc. I braced myself for a confrontation: peace officers at war with disillusioned suburban youth, teeth bared, fists shaking, billy clubs swinging. But something entirely unexpected happened. The Placer County Sheriff’s Department officers ended their warning and then let the show go on.

“Coolest fucking cops ever!” shouted Sex Tape Scandal’s lead singer into the microphone. The audience let out a resounding round of applause. The band launched into its second song, its third and its fourth. Since there was no stage from which to dive, two members dove headfirst into some hedges, hence forming what may one day be the younger punk generation’s new credo: “If we can’t fight cops, then we’ll fight hedges.”

Thanks to the Placer County Sheriff’s Department for understanding that kids having fun are just kids having fun, and thanks to Tera Melos and Sex Tape Scandal for taking it to the streets.