Hunger Pangs

Punk legends Starvation Army mount their return.

The Starvation Army with the Hurricanes and Transfer 18 Grog Shop, 1765 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights 10 p.m. on Sunday, December 31


Tickets available through Ticketmaster (216-241-5555/ 330-945-9400)

Starvation Army: Getting back to being ahead of their - time.
Starvation Army: Getting back to being ahead of their time.
Fuddy-duds in gowns and tuxedos slurping highfalutin champagnes in rented halls may enjoy Dick Clark's "rocking" annum nuevo, but what are your typical disenfranchised Midwest punk-rock celebrators to do? Screw the new millennium and dial back the clock a couple of decades, of course.

"We've got some balls to drop in Cleveland, too, and it's gonna be a party, I'm telling ya," explains Sean Watkins, drummer for Cleveland punk rock artifacts Starvation Army, who will ring in the new year with a reunion show at the Grog Shop. It's been a handful of years since the group last pummeled and stumbled its way onto area stages, and New Year's 2001 seemed as good a time as any to reunite one of the region's most aesthetically punk bands.

Starvation Army has a history that rivals any indie outfit, fraught with murky start-up dates (1981 seems to be a good guess), band fights, a litany of dubious lost singles, albums on cassette tape, a founding member leaving to join the "real" army, and even a stretch of time in which no original members were in the band that continued to call itself Starvation Army.

But throughout it all, there was very little dispute as to who actually constituted the Army: Founders Fraser Sims and Tim Kelly. Both are back, along with Sean Watkins (the band's third drummer and lead vocalist for a time), rounding out what Watkins says is the "classic lineup -- the Ticket to Oblivion lineup!"

"It had been a while, and I guess we'd kind of thought this thing was done," Watkins explains of how the reunion came about. "But Tim and I ran into Fraser at a studio, and we were like 'Dude! You wanna do this thing?' and he was like 'Hell yeah!' And Fraser and Tim are the Starvation Army, you know? So here we go!"

Punk rock reunions are nothing new -- even the Sex Pistols cashed in on the nostalgia-equals-cash vibe. But one done at this scale, with independent local punk soldiers taking up the cause close to a decade after the fact, is evidence of nothing more than a band with a passion for the noises it used to make.

"You know, it's kind of weird, but I'm starting to realize how far ahead of our time we really were with our music," Watkins ruminates. "I mean, it was totally punk, but with a bit of a jazziness. It was unusual in the way we didn't stick to the normal punk rules."

When pressed for the significance of the new year and the rebirth of the band, Watkins laughs. "We just wanted it to be a bash, man. It's a cool gig, it'll be packed, and that'll make us feel good. If it goes well, then who knows?"

At any time, anywhere, the Starvation Army may march again.

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