Adam Gnade’s latest novella, Locust House, is set in San Diego in 2002. I had been there a year earlier for the first and only time. It was a graduation gift from my parents. We went together. I was severely depressed and didn’t really feel like being there, especially with my parents. But the sun was appreciated, there was good Mexican food, and I went to a show at the Casbah with a San Diego friend. I knew there was a music scene in the city, anchored by bands like the Locust and the record label 31g—screamy, crazy hardcore that would melt your face. White belts, Spock haircuts, and tight jeans. I would never fit in fashion-wise, but could relate to the bursts of energy. I had friends in a similar-sounding band in Indiana, which I called home.
But the Locust was the original. They put out songs with weird titles like “Moth-eaten Deer Head” and “Skin Graft at Seventy-Five Miles Per Hour.” They had a three-inch CD. They wore bug suits when they played live and their sets lasted fifteen minutes, tops. I couldn’t comprehend them, but I knew that was a good thing.
Adam Gnade has written a novella that tells the story of a house show—the last night for the house before the residents are evicted. But this isn’t the story of the members of the house or the Locust. It’s about Agnes’s day as well as the experience leading up to the show of James, Frances, and Tyler. It’s about that moment when we were younger and more intense. House shows were spectacles and often got broken up by the police—before we grew up and got tired and jaded.
The decision to explore punk and what it means to the author through a fictional lens of a house show is insightful and smart, primarily because anyone in punk has been there. And when there is a punk house where the residents are throwing one last party before they leave, it makes it all that much bigger. The fact that Gnade focuses on a show in San Diego featuring the Locust, Blood Brothers, De Facto, and Moving Units makes it even greater. These are bands I was in tune with in 2002, when the story is told. Perhaps cutting out Agnes’s scenes earlier in the day and adding more meat to the immediate period before and after the show (as well as more details of the show) would’ve made this novella even more intense. But I can still dig it. I may not have been in San Diego for any such show, but I most certainly lived this experience. Gnade was in San Diego at the time and overall does a solid job expressing what it was like for us who couldn’t experience this (fictional) moment in time. (Three One G, PO Box 178262, San Diego, CA 92177)