Ritual of War singer Tony Nelson growls into the microphone in tight quarters with the audience at Musichead. - Jim Craven

A home for hardcore

They stood, some with their arms folded, others ferociously bobbing their heads to the beat, in front of a small wooden stage in a darkened Medford music store on a weekday night. The fans at the Southern Oregon Hardcore concert were so locked onto the music emanating from the guitar, drums and basses that they looked as if they were in a trance.

"It's never been about money," said Stacy Schrag, 36, one half of the wife-and-husband duo who helps operate the promotional company known as SOHC. "We all love the music. We were just lucky because other people that like it gravitate to us."

SOHC focuses on keeping the punk scene alive by lining up concerts for out-of-town and local bands. Since its creation 20 years ago, the organization has seen its share of ups and downs.

Popularity boomed in the mid-1980s, before losing steam about 10 years later. When interest started to pick back up, promoters had a difficult time finding a place for bands to play. But thanks to Schrag and his wife, Kimbo, as well as their friends Trinity and Jason Beck, concerts are returning to Medford.

Tuesday night's show was performed in front of an audience of about 50 people at Musichead on Riverside Avenue. The crowd stood shoulder to shoulder on a 10-by-15-foot area of concrete.

It was one of several performances SOHC has lined up for the summer months.

Musichead was the location of all SOHC shows until the Medford fire marshal closed them down a few years ago because the area was too small. Shows moved into a shed at the Schrags' home for the past two years, but that was not meant to be a long-term solution. Neither is the current arrangement with Musichead.

A couple of weeks prior to each concert at the music retailer, SOHC must obtain signatures allowing a one-night exemption from the Medford police and fire department.

Eric von Radics, Musichead's owner, said he couldn't make the alterations necessary for his store to become a permanent venue for SOHC's shows.

"The requirements that they would make — I can't do it," he said.

Tickets for shows are typically about $5, while extra money is welcomed because it helps SOHC provide food, gas and a place to sleep for visiting bands. The Becks cooked dinner for the bands after Tuesday night's concert.

Local bands rarely get paid, and the Schrags often end up shelling out their own cash to make shows happen.

"We used to just give the bands $40," Stacy Schrag said. "But now, a band with gear and five people and $3 a gallon for gas — $40 doesn't get them too far."

When Book of Black Earth, one of the bands for Tuesday's lineup, called to tell Stacy Schrag its van broke down in Redding, Calif., he tried to secure extra money to help get the members back on the road — even though they would not be able to perform.

"If you can give us $6 it will help that band get home," Stacy Schrag told audience members before allowing them to enter the building.

Sacha Dunable, a guitar player for Tuesday's headliner, Intronaut, also emphasized that money isn't important. The group made Medford one of its stops on a tour stretching the Interstate 5 corridor from Los Angeles to Seattle.

"We love to perform," Dunable said. "It's certainly not for the glitz and glamour."

SOHC has looked into other buildings to hold shows, but the rent would cost far more than the concerts bring in. Owners of other establishments may also be concerned about the type of audience stereotypically associated with punk music.

Stacy Schrag said he dresses in the type of apparel often associated with punk fans. On Tuesday night he wore a black shirt, dark grey shorts and large earrings, and he has tattoos that cover parts of his arms and legs — including an SOHC tattoo on his neck.

That, however, is where the stereotypes end.

Schrag and the majority of his audience, he said, do not take part in alcohol or drug use or rowdy behavior at the performances.

"Show Rules" are outlined on the SOHC Web site and certain types of behavior are prohibited. During past concerts, underage drinkers have been kicked out and permanently banned.

"It won't fly," Schrag told the audience before he introduced the opening band, Ritual of War, from Ashland. "Come here for the music. That's why we're here."

Von Radics said one of the reasons he's allowed the concerts to take place in his store is because things have gone smoothly.

"I like a lot of the kids, especially the people that put on the shows," von Radics said. "They're doing it for admirable reasons."

Kimbo Schrag said the work done by SOHC is a testament to the fans and the community.

"It's the support from our family, friends, local and touring bands and musicians, and their desire to keep music alive," she said of the group's success.

SOHC and Pyrate Punx, another local promoter, have shows booked at Musichead through the end of August. As long as they follow the rules, Stacy Schrag said, fans of all ages are welcome to come and enjoy the music.

"We could probably have the concerts in a bar somewhere," he said. "But we don't want that. We're trying to find a place for young people to go and hang out without being bored and getting into trouble."

For more information, see www.southernoregonhardcore.com or www.myspace.com/medfordpyratepunx online.

Reach intern Bob Albrecht at 776-8791 or e-mail intern1@mailtribune.com.

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