Punk rock politics

The Baltimore Sun

Political activism should be supplemented by heavy doses of alcohol and hardcore punk.

That's the mentality of the Rolla, Mo.-based trio Bent Left.

What originally started as a casual engagement, the outfit's purpose has evolved, much like the interpretation of the band name.

Since recording 2005's full-length Skeletons in Your Closet and last year's EP Premeditated Insanity, Bent Left takes its energetic, booze-drenched performances as seriously as it can, using them as a platform to promote the band's liberal social and political philosophies and to distribute information for Music for America and Punk Voter.

While some might see Bent Left's debauchery as counterproductive to facilitating change, lead singer and bassist Will Malott, drummer Josh Nelson and guitarist Jeff "Poof" Speak don't see it as an issue.

"It was never really the plan to be outward about what we do, it just made sense to us," says Speak. "There's no point in living with a veil in front of you."

The band members say they wanted to be in the forefront of social reform by emitting a positive message.

The band, now backed by Stay Vocal, an organization that encourages people to voice ideas to influence social change, just embarked on the eight-month Stay Vocal or Shut Up (The Proverbial Knowledge vs. Your Mouth Tour), which will come to the Sidebar Tavern on Wednesday.

A partnership with Stay Vocal has also allowed the band opportunities to express its social message. It has designed a reusable, insulated mug, and because of the length of their tour, attracted a diesel conversion company that in March will convert its tour van so it can be powered with vegetable oil.

The weeks leading up to the tour were somewhat of a transition phase for the band.

Upon Nelson and Malott's recent graduation from the University of Missouri, Kansas City and Speak's hiatus from higher education, the three recently vacated their Kansas City apartment and moved back to their hometown, where the band started.

"We're kind of homeless now," says Speak. "We've just been bumming around for a week and a half."

But the punk trio doesn't seem too worried about the possible hardships they might face while out on the biggest tour of their lives.

Actually, Malott, 21, Nelson, 22, and Speak, 21, had their share of awkward and testing moments on two previous tours.

Their sleeping quarters were a constant, night-by-night question. They slept at truck stops in 27-degree weather, various campsites and even outside a nuclear power plant near Detroit.

But there have also been times that the band has had more upscale arrangements.

"Sometimes we stay with a friend's mom from college who feeds us chocolate-chip cookies and puts us to bed at 10 p.m.," says Nelson. "Then other mornings, you wake up and wonder how you got where you did."


Bent Left will perform at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Sidebar Tavern, 218 E. Lexington St. Tickets are $7 and $9 for those younger than 21. For more information, go to sidebartavern.com or call 410-659-4130.

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