Getting by with Harley Flanagan of the Cro-Mags
In our new series “Getting By,” Lower East Side residents and business owners share, in their own words, how they’re navigating the new normal of pandemic times. In this installment, Harley Flanagan, founder of hardcore punk band Cro-Mags, gives us two cents.
Less than 48 hours before our show with Body Count at Webster Hall, the governor and mayor mandated no public gatherings. That’s how the pandemic started for me. We quickly pivoted and performed a live online concert. As it turns out, we were the first band to do a quarantine show. We set up all our gear and our backdrop and played a concert just as if we were playing to an audience; and what would’ve been a show for maybe 1,500 people wound up being seen by more than 200,000 worldwide that night – so we took a bad situation and turned it into a great one.
This is something I have done my whole life coming from a poor family on the Lower East Side. It’s also in the spirit of punk rock and hard-core– it was total DIY. But we did it very professionally. We had Steve Zing, the bassist for Danzig, mix the show, recorded in a professional studio along with a professional film crew. We managed to pull all that together in just 24 hours.
Then came the lockdown. We were supposed to go on a world tour this summer, but the festivals all over the place got canceled. We instead spent the next few months actually writing music, then tracking. So rather than being on tour I wound up writing two albums worth of material. I didn’t waste any time.
It has been a difficult time for everybody, and I count my blessings. Although I’ve been out of work and my job has been closed down, my wife has been able to work from home. I have used the time as productively as possible. Fortunately we get along really well, so being stuck together was a pleasure. After nearly six months of quarantine together, we are now on vacation.
To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life: the quarantine and then all the protests and the whole political climate … all the craziness that’s going on. I’ve lived in New York pretty much my entire life and I’ve never seen it this way before.
My building alone had at least nine cases of coronavirus. My neighbors on both sides and above me had it. My next-door neighbor died from it. I saw them wheel him out on a stretcher. I saw the fear in his eyes. And I will never forget it. This was a man that I knew; someone that’s been in my apartment. I was in his apartment. He walked my dogs when I was away. I know his kids. It has been intense. We all saw the trucks in front of the funeral parlors and hospitals because they couldn’t store all the bodies. We all know people who died from it. Some of my family members had it, too, but recovered in the hospital. This has been an intense time in so many ways in New York.
Hopefully, we learn how to deal with these types of situations in the future if and when they do happen. I guarantee this won’t be the last pandemic. I’m sure terrorists will use these types of biological threats moving forward, seeing the effectiveness in creating sheer panic and economic mayhem. And with all the issues going on with police, hopefully we, as a society, will learn something. These are crazy times, there’s no question. And on top of it there’s a crazy man in office.
But chaos and world drama is great for creativity and music. So I’m using all of this constructively and productively.
Have a great day, everybody! Stay safe.