Whenever I need a sure shot of inspiration, I can always count on the music of my formative years, the punk rock of the 80s. There are several reasons why this particular genre and era of music speak to me so intensely. First and foremost, the music resonated with the anger that was my constant state of emotion in my adolescence, and continues to resonate with the frustration I feel about society today. Punk also upended the notion that one had to be a competent musician to make music. The bands I listened to in those days had varying degrees of talent, but they all tapped into a kind of primal feeling that as a teen I was rarely able to articulate but knew when I felt it. It was akin to that heady rush one gets after a few beers where you feel the percolating prospect of something momentous happening, but you’re never quite sure what it is. Most times that feeling fails to materialize into anything, but that never stopped me from chasing it, because that feeling was potential at a time in my life when there seemed to be anything but. Seeing and listening to this music convinced me that any time I wanted, I could pick up an instrument and start playing. (That didn’t happen in actuality until much later, and by then it wasn’t realistic to become a real touring musician.) Ultimately, the bands that were making incredible music and giving my life purpose were made up of people just like me. We were kindred spirits through our perceived “outsider” status, and while my favorite bands were actually living the rock and roll dream, I was content (mostly) to experience their way of life and the music that came from it vicariously. It’s astonishing how great new music brings that feeling instantly back, and it has been rekindled anew by reading the super fun oral history of notorious Trenton, NJ music club City Gardens in the book City Gardens: No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes.