Columbus punk rock legend Screaming Urge reunites for 42nd anniversary show
Myke Rock and Michael Ravage discuss the early days of their punk rock trio and the forthcoming gig at Ace of Cups on Saturday, Sept. 25
In September of 2016, Columbus bassist Myke Rock toured Europe with Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers, performing in Italy, France, the Netherlands and three gigs in Belgium, where Rock grew close with a woman he met. She began visiting him in Columbus, and he flew to see her, too.
“I thought, you know what? Next time I come to Belgium, I'm moving,” said Rock, who did just that, gigging in Europe and going through the long, painstaking process of ironing out the legalities of living in Belgium. Then, after two-and-a-half years overseas, the pandemic hit. “It killed my relationship and my music,” Rock said.
By the end of April 2020, Rock, whose legal name is Michael Nixon, lost 60 paid gigs — his main source of income. With concerts dried up, he moved back to Ohio in June of 2020 and got a temporary job with Columbus Public Health, then began an anxious wait as unemployment benefits took months to come through (as chronicled by the Dispatch).
But Rock had something else in the works, too. He’d remained in contact with former bandmates Michael Ravage (guitar) and Dave Manic (drums) of Screaming Urge, one of the city’s first punk bands that formed in 1978. It had been about six years since the trio’s last reunion show, and they were itching to play again. A 2021 concert would mark Screaming Urge’s 42nd anniversary, but the bandmates weren’t sure if they’d be able to mark the occasion amid COVID-related shutdowns.
Finally, after months of work, Screaming Urge nailed down a date and a venue: Saturday, Sept. 25, at Ace of Cups, featuring Rock, Ravage and Manic, who will travel from his home in Erie, Pennsylvania. (Proof of vaccination is required for entry.)
“Every time we do the reunion, it seems like the audience is very surprised,” Ravage said in a recent phone call with Rock. “We're playing all our original music from the records we put out in the ’70s and early ’80s, and everybody seems to be surprised when they hear what real punk from back then sounded like. That's always a thrill for me when I see the crowd and the looks on their faces, and then they all surge forward to the stage.”
The scene gives Rock and Ravage flashbacks to earlier shows, like the 1979 Rock Against Racism concert on the OSU Oval with Black Panther Bobby Seale. Other times the Screaming Urge bandmates, who played at a time when punk rock acts weren’t initially welcome at Columbus venues, would ask if they could plug in at local pizza joints, then perform outdoors on the sidewalk until the police made them stop.
Screaming Urge didn’t just stick to Columbus, though. The three friends toured the country playing shows at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB in New York (where a microphone repeatedly shocked Ravage so badly he nearly blacked out) and Emerald City in New Jersey. Rock joined the band at age 15, so Ravage had to carry a note from Rock’s mother giving the guitarist permission to be her son’s guardian on tour.
“We worked very hard at it for five years, constantly. We slept in the van, with condensation dripping off the ceiling,” Ravage said. “We went on these very long, grueling tours. It was really the punk rock life.”
One of the most memorable gigs was a hometown show at the Agora (now the Newport) opening for the Ramones, who asked to switch dressing rooms with Screaming Urge after covering their own backstage space with cake and ice cream while celebrating Johnny Ramone’s birthday. After the show, Rock said drummer Marky Ramone met a woman in Columbus, and even though the band was in the middle of its tour for the 1981 album Pleasant Dreams, Marky stayed back, forcing the band to cancel a string of dates.
While Marky hung out in Columbus, Rock caught up with him at a house party on Indianola Avenue. “There were drums set up, and I got to play a couple Ramones songs with Marky Ramone,” Rock said. “That's one of my very strong memories. It was fun to hang out with him and talk for a few hours.”
Since the band called it quits in 1983, the legend of Screaming Urge has grown, and these days it’s not rare to see the 1980 Musicol-pressed “Homework b/w Runaway” 45 selling for more than $100 on eBay. Next year, HoZac Records will reissue the band’s Blue album on vinyl, expanded with the addition of "Homework" and "Runaway."
With Ravage and Manic in their 60s and Rock now 58, it’s possible this Ace of Cups reunion show will be the band’s last. “I don't know that six years from now I can do it justice,” said Rock, who mostly sticks to blues gigs these days.
“But we’ve learned to never say never again,” Ravage said.
For Rock, the show is a cathartic culmination of a tumultuous few years and a homecoming after his time overseas. Plus, it allows him to be a punk again. But there’s one additional reason he’s looking forward to this Screaming Urge show. “Today I'm in the best shape of my life – mentally, physically, emotionally, all that stuff,” he said. “And if this is our last one, I want to have some videos where I don't go, 'Damn, I was fat.'"