The world has changed a lot since Reagan Youth was formed. The Cold War is over, the president of the United States isn't a conservative ex-movie star, and punk rock isn't an insidious influence on impressionable teens.
But Reagan Youth's lone original member, Paul Bakija, believes otherwise. Even though the faces and situations are different, he insists we're still facing the same mess we did 30 years ago. And the world still needs punk.
It was New York City in 1980 when Bakija linked up with original Reagan Youth frontman Dave Insurgent. Bakija had been taking guitar lessons at the local music shop, and Insurgent told him: "Don't go to that loser store. Get yourself some punk records and learn from them."
Reagan Youth: With Big City Bombers, Enough!, To Be Hated, Nobody's Hero, Guerrilleros de Nadie, Unit 6, the 707s, Danger US, and No Brainer. 9 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com.
Tragically, Insurgent committed suicide in 1993 after his girlfriend was murdered and his mother was accidentally run over by his father. And today, when Bakija speaks of his late partner in arms, there's both fondness and sadness in his voice: "What Dave really wanted was for people to embrace their individuality."
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When Insurgent died, the band had already been broken up for three years and there was no plan to reunite. That is, until a persistent friend and fan told Bakija that he had booked a Reagan Youth show. "Who's going to sing?" Bakija asked. "My singer's dead." The fan said he would sing, adding he had a bassist and a drummer lined up. So Bakija decided to play along: "You know, it was going to be my last hurrah."
But then people started giving Bakija shit about reviving the band without its original members. "I'd ask them: 'Well, who are the original members?' They'd go, 'I don't know. But this isn't it,'" he remembers. "If it's so important, how come they don't know the names? If they would've just shut up, I would've played only that one gig. That would've been it."
Now, decades later, Reagan Youth is still gigging. And the band's June 4 stop at Churchill's Pub marks its first Florida appearance. "I wish I could get to Florida, stay for two months, and just play shows there," Bakija gruffly muses. "I'd like to go to a venue to see white people, black people, Hispanic people. They're all into punk rock. They're all united. They don't wanna look like each other. They wanna hang with each other."
Sounds like he'll love Churchill's. And we love punk rock.