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One man’s story story of Baltimore punk rock in 5 artifacts

With its working-class character, fiercely independent arts scenes and underdog mentality, Baltimore practically embodies the punk rock ethos. Despite these qualities, Baltimore’s own punk rock history remains dwarfed by other cities’ – especially down the Beltway, where 1980s bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat established the nation’s capital as an epicenter for innovative and socially engaged heavy music. Tony Pence knew that this history ran deeper than what most punk rock fans, including those in Baltimore, ever realized. After growing up as a metalhead (an important distinction 30 years ago) in the county, he began attending shows by Gut Instinct and other locally beloved bands towards the end of the ‘80s. The 46-year-old musician and owner of Celebrated Summer Records, who sports tattoo sleeves and understood that this legacy mattered — and should matter — beyond the circle of people who slamdanced (and sometimes clobbered white supremacist skinheads) during the scene’s late-‘70s and ‘80s heyday. “I love the city like no other,” Pence told The Baltimore Sun in mid-July, standing near his Hampden shop’s front door. “I’ve lived my whole life here. And so that time period, being overshadowed by Washington D.C. and New York and stuff, it’s always irked me.” And so, in the mid-‘00s, Pence began collecting flyers, photographs, records, tour merch and other artifacts from Baltimore’s punk and derivative subcultures. He will present the results of this archival work at “Killed by Charm: Raw & Rare Punk Ephemera from the Baltimore Underground ’77-’89,” a new exhibit at the Metro Gallery in Station North that also coincides with Celebrated Summer’s 13th anniversary. With almost two weeks to go until the opening reception on August 3 – which also features live sets from Dark Thoughts, Ammo and Pence’s own Glue Traps – Pence spoke to The Sun about five selections from “Killed by Charm.”

Sameer Rao
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