By Zoë Bones Villegas
It was the Summer of 2009 when I first met a group of young punks who came to Detroit and forged a Raw Punk community by converting a shoebox apartment into a venue called The Gulag above the C.A.I.D on Rosa Parks.
There was a spirit of D.I.Y. that had long been missing in Detroit; it was idealistic and bright-eyed. There was a philosophy that was once again circulating that represented more faith in action as a means for change than retreating into one’s immediate environment and disassociating from struggle. The connection between ideology and music was mended ; an anarchist vision was present at the time that had long gone un-filled in Detroit
Joe Biondo, frontman for local D-Beat band SCUM (dbeatrawscum.blogspot.com) who resided at The Gulag, was a vital character in re-injecting Detroit with the ideology of D.I.Y. punk and straining the nihilism and stagnance out of the landscape.
I met Joe at a show just as all his friends were moving into their apartment above the CAID. Joe and his friends, who together equaled bands Live to Kill, SCUM, Cloud Rat, the Gulags and about a million more unnamed here, were: Kyle, Dave, Ryan and Madison. At that time we decided to start up Food Not Bombs and we were in a bind to gather food, supplies and volunteers to set up on the corner of Trumbull and Grand River to feed passersby. Joe was the first person we contacted. He didn’t hesitate to wrangle in his tight knit group of friends who were always happy to lend a hand and hoist the Food Not Bombs flag back up into Detroit’s D.I.Y. punk community.
These are some of my fondest memories in Detroit. But on Thursday, November 19 of this year, Joe Biondo was tragically hit by a car while he was walking and killed. Although it’s a daunting task and I feel I could never do him justice, I want to pay Joe tribute. His impact on Detroit is indisputable and the restoration of my faith in young people could not have occurred without Joe.
Joe was one of the very first people to offer help when the Legal Defense for Jesse Waters needed to coordinate a fundraiser when we had a snowball’s chance in hell to battle the State.
Joe was an avid supporter of Detroit’s punk community and an audiophile who had such a pure love and obsession for Detroit-based bands that he won over all he encountered.
Joe Biondo was an organic intellectual who used every medium — mythology, the occult, music, ideology and physical technique to search for the meaning of existence. He entrenched himself with pure devotion in all that inspired him. Those who knew Joe are better for having known him and came away smarter because he always imparted the knowledge that he had so frantically searched for.
Joe Biondo, you will be missed at every show, at every opportunity we have to stand up and resist, at every new discovery that comes with the search for truth. You were taken from us much too soon, at age 25, but we learned so much from you.
It is with a heavy heart that I offer my deepest condolences to Detroit’s punk community, to Live To Kill, SCUM, Cabbageheads, The Gulags and especially to Joe’s beloved partner, Shelby Essenmacher.
Rest In Power, Joe Scum
Zoë Bones Villegas is a Detroit writer.
Photo credit: Criminal Behavior Fanzine