One might ask how straight edge found its way to a 16-year-old in Kansas. The answer is simple, a badass sister! I was never fond of alcohol, I thought cigarettes were gross and didn’t like the light-headed feel. Due to mine abstaining from such things my sister would refer to me as straight edge. I had no idea what that meant. These were the days before Wikipedia and Google. This was the early 90’s so, of course, I asked her multiple times what the phrase was and what it meant.
I had already been listing to some punk music, social distortion and 7 seconds were a staple in my rotation. I had no idea there was a whole philosophy dedicated to the lifestyle I had unknowingly chosen within the subculture I was becoming a part of. I could spend chapters about how much my sister influenced my musical and fashion choices but that is another story, this is the story about how she sparked my journey of sobriety, drug-free and straight edge!
To that point, I had tried a cigarette a time or two and had a few sips of alcohol. I think I had about a beverage and a half at best. Didn’t like it, didn’t like the taste. Most of my friends smoked pot, occasionally acid and mushrooms. None of those things interested me. Not a surprise to me my friends were very supportive of my choice to abstain. Never pressuring me and always having the utmost respect, it’s why we are friends. During this time my taste for music was insatiable, punk, metal, alternative, and electronic. It was the punk world that would lead me to hardcore. This is when I would really find where straight edge came from and why.
Kansas City had a quality scene with several clubs with local and large bands traveling through. I can’t even recall how many shows and who I have seen. I know that 7 Seconds was my first show and it was life-changing. I would later see the likes of Madball, Social Distortion, AFI, the Dropkick Murphys, and The Bouncing Souls. The list is massive, nearly every weekend. I would slowly find a home with the hardcore scene in Lawrence Kansas.
Lawrence is famous for a few things one of which the legendary outhouse. If you aren’t familiar with its history give a look. That’s where I would see Sick Of It All, Good Riddance, and one of my all-time favorites Ensign. During my nearly 4 years in Lawrence, I would be part of a straight-edge bowling team, find people like me, become friends with musicians and bands, work as a bouncer and find out just how big the edge culture really was. Some of that was good and some bad. The likes of Earth Crisis, walls of Jericho, Good Riddance, Ensign, AFI, and Stretch Armstrong would pass through and I realized how diverse the culture really was.
To me, edge transcended the confines of the punk world. I was lucky to be a part of an open-minded culture. Sure I was young and looks the part but it built the foundation that is still standing strong 26+ years later. I was lucky not having a coast or a specific scene, Kansas City and Lawrence blended all of that and made me who I am.
Sadly that scene started dying out over the last 15 years. With bands spending time overseas or disbanding altogether. There is still a hand full of us scattered through the city. That makes me sad for straight edge and punk rock. I feel there are still up and coming bands carrying the touch. Perhaps I don’t see it as much as I get old and the scene/community went more underground. Perhaps people aged out of their mindset, were over it, or decided they wanted to try new things. I feel like the old guard still caring for the banner, just not as loud. I loved growing up edge in Kansas from then to now. All the bands and all the people. I have found other things to focus my life on due to my drug-free lifestyle but that is for another time. For now a big thanks to my sister who probably doesn’t even know this is her doing. Thanks for the path you sent me down even when it wasn’t yours.
Wade tozier, just a guy from kansas