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  • Seasoned PunksAn Education in Cast Iron from the South's Greatest Unknown Punk Trio
  • André Gallant (bio)

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Their fridge overflowed with leafy greens, sleeves of bread, and trays of tofu. Flies buzzed around a mason jar full of compost. Well-loved pots hung from hooks in the window trim. Illustrations by Nate Beaty.

[End Page 51]

This Bike is a Pipe Bomb rattled the basement windows of our rental house. High frequencies slipped through masonry cracks into the Athens, Georgia night, as amps fritzed from shorting wires. Guitar strings curled from frontman Rymodee's tuning pegs like rooster sickle feathers. He stood stiff when he sang, a slight figure whose mutton chops grew coiled as a scouring pad. He often hid his bright, kind eyes beneath a worn fedora tilted low, and wrapped his rawboned body in a denim vest. A shoddy microphone pressed to his lips, his voice reverberated against the plumbing and floor framing that crisscrossed overhead.

"This is what I want, black kids and white kids, sharing all the songs / that their grandmama taught them," he screamed in a manner that honored both his love of English anarchists and his Tuscaloosa bloodline. This 2002 plea from the Pensacola, Florida trio found power in a room full of sweaty young punks. Alone, we were weirdos; together, we demanded sing-a-longs. A few crumpled dollar bills bought anyone entry.

The crowd squeezed the band vise-tight, bumping bassist Terry Johnson and Rymodee into Ted Helmick's drumset, which fell away from his foot mid-thump, cymbals spilling onto the dirt floor. Precision didn't matter. We looked forward to the broken strings and miscues that paused songs, when Rymodee's nervous chatter and Terry's ribbing found voice. Most of us loved their music, a sound not quite punk or country (they couldn't pull off either with grace). The Pipe Bomb were the proud and discordant offspring of twang and protest, and the songs raced from choruses to outros with messages of social justice and folk teachings. Even metalheads flocked to their awkward hoedowns, seeking a safe space where beer spilled on clothes was quickly forgiven as the result of a good time.

In the basement, nothing demarcated fan from musician. That continued when Pipe Bomb shows ended. Amps put away, a second performance began. Crates of cookware emerged from deep within the band's Jenga-stacked van. Rymodee unloaded his suitcase of spices. The party would move to the kitchen.

teachable moments with a vegetarian bent

Residents of our house shared demographics with punks in other cities: almost exclusively white, we were the disgruntled, latch-key progeny of broken homes, naïveté dashed by hanging chads and an invasion in Iraq, working in dish pits to afford shared bedrooms. Our politics—not yet fully formed—leaned radical. Youthful and absolutely sure we were right about everything, there was one thing we regularly got wrong: we sucked as cooks.

Survival depended on devouring the unsold pizzas from the restaurants that stoked us with minimum wages. At best, we could prepare gelatinous stews that sat in our stomachs all day like rain-soaked blankets. We downed spoonfuls while holding our noses. [End Page 52]

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Backpacks full of cookware, carrot tops flaring out like bushy tails, Rymodee and friends biked through balmy Pensacola until daybreak set the city's alabaster beaches ablaze.

After the shows, I rode along in the Pipe Bomb's van, sitting on a speaker cabinet, on the hunt for free food. They scoped out dumpsters behind grocery stores for unblemished produce—and they invariably scored. Flashlights illuminating garbage bags, we unearthed boxes of eyed potatoes and flats of blotted squash from underneath leaking bags. To complete the pantry, they walked in the front door and purchased missing ingredients with donations they'd accepted during their sets.

Back at our house, Rymodee quartered potatoes for roasting. We helped by boiling beans in big pots, and chopping collards for stewing. Rymodee ditched recipes. He set the oven for roasting and browned onions. We noted the temperature and technique. Like an alchemist, he...


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