Arguably, the world has changed a lot since Reagan Youth was formed in 1980.
The cold war is over, the President of the United States of America isn't a conservative 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 have changed, we're still facing the same exact mess that we were 30 years ago.
The New York City where Bakija grew up has "disappeared," he says. "It's become Disney-fied." But it was in NYC in 1980 that he 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."
Tragically, Insurgent committed suicide in 1993 after his girlfriend was murdered and his mother was accidentally run over by his father. 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." He really just wants to carry the torch and honor his good friend's memory.
The band was already broken up for three years when Insurgent died, and there was no plan to reunite. That is, until a persistent street buddy told him he had booked a Reagan Youth show. Bakija asked him, "Who's going to sing? My singer's dead." The guy said he would sing and that he had a bassist and a drummer lined up. Bakija decided to play along: "You know, it was going to be my last hurrah."
They had two weeks to get it together, and people started giving him shit that he was reforming the band without the original members. "I'd ask them, 'Well, who are the original members?' They go 'I don't know. But this isn't it,'" he remembers. "If it's so important, how come they don't know their names? If they would've just shut up, I would've played only that one gig. That would've been it."
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Now decades later, Reagan Youth's June 4 show at Churchill's Pub marks the band's 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."
It sounds like he's going to love Churchill's.
Reagan Youth with Big City Bombers, Enough!, To Be Hated, Nobody's Hero, Guerilleros de Nadie, Unit 6, the 707s, Danger US and No Brainer. Saturday, June 4. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.