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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Scene Report with Ross Adams

Inferna. Photo by Garett Fisbeck.
Oklahoma City sits roughly five hours southwest of Kansas City and is home to a punk and hardcore scene that often surprises those who encounter it. Ross Adams has been part of that scene since the ‘90s, playing in bands like American Hate, Grasseaters, and Fuckheads among others, creating visual art, and booking Everything Is Not OK, a four-day fest featuring dozens of DIY punk and hardcore bands from around North America, from 2015 to 2019. I figured there was no one better to talk to when it comes to learning about OKC punk and, as evidenced below, I think I was correct. I called Adams via Zoom in April as he was preparing for his move to Atlanta.

Off the top of your head, is there a throwback Oklahoma punk tape or record you’d want to recommend to anyone reading?
I think the obvious is N.O.T.A. Their self-titled LP and the Moscow EP are flawless punk records, in my opinion. And they were kind of a band that put Oklahoma on the map first, you know? That's old stuff, but I guess lesser known stuff, Fensics is late ‘70s kind of like garage-y power pop punk. They had an EP called Tornado Warning that's pretty badass, that’s one of my favorite things.

There's really so much, it's all just kind of obscure. As far as the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, even into the mid ‘80s, the only band that got any notoriety was N.O.T.A. But there were lots of other cool bands going on. It's always been a weird Oklahoma thing to not go on tour [laughs]. … When I was growing up and getting into punk there were a lot of good bands here, but nobody outside of Oklahoma has ever heard of them because they never left here.

What was your first step into Oklahoma's punk scene? Was there one band or one show that really blew your mind and got you interested in the local scene?
Yeah. So I got into punk in the early 90s and I was 13 or 14. I had an older brother, and he's passed away (RIP), but he was into Black Flag and the Misfits and shit like that, so I used to steal records from him and hide them in my room. He was five years older than me, so he would -- I don't know why -- he went to school before I did in the morning. But as soon as he left, I would go into his room and grab a Black Flag shirt or a Sex Pistols shirt and I'd put it on and then I would put on a button-up over it and catch a ride to school and then immediately go to my locker and ditch the button-up so I could be cool and punk. And then I had to sneak it back into his room before he found out and beat my ass [laughs].

So that was my introduction, you know, starter punk Black Flag, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, shit like that. But when I first got into it, I didn't know that it was still a thing. The only person that I knew that liked punk was my older brother. And then I ended up meeting some skaters and punks that I went to school with because one day when I was like 13 years old, I was wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt to school and this crew of skater kids came up to me at my lunch table in the cafeteria and they were like, “Hey, are you going to see the Dead Kennedys when they come here in a week or whenever?” And I was like, “What? They’re playing here? That's awesome. Yeah, I'll go.” And they all just called me a poser and laughed at me because I didn't know they weren't a band anymore [laughs].

Then I pretty much hated all the punks that lived here because they were all mean to me and called me a poser. But I don't know, the first show I went to, the first DIY show I went to was a touring band called Half Empty. It was from the Bay Area, from San Francisco I think. I was just hanging out with my dorky friends on the weekend and we're just playing Magic The Gathering or something on Super Nintendo, just being kids, and I don't know who it was, but one of us, had gotten a flyer for this show. I remember we all kind of sat around debating whether we should go or not because we will all want to but we didn't really fit in with any punks or anything. We were just the dorks that listened to the Descendents too much.

So anyway, we decided to go. One of my friends had a car and it was in the town I grew up in called Edmond, which is a suburb of Oklahoma City. It was at a place called the Sheep Farm, which was an actual sheep farm. It was a house that had a little sheep farm on it. And so we went to it and it was this band Half Empty and then the local bands, I think it was The Real Ones. You know Justin Betterton? The Real Ones was his older brother Josh’s band.


American Hate at The Snake Tank. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.

Yeah, I started coming to shows around the time Josh passed away.
Okay, yeah, so it was Real Ones, The Lunch Bunch, Boxcar Children, and Half Empty. We went to this show, and I mean, it was awesome. It was crazy. Because, you know, it wasn't just the punks from our school that were mean to us. It was punks from all over the city and from other suburbs and from Oklahoma City proper and I ended up making friends and all the kids that lived in the house were all super welcoming. Because we were obviously scared teenagers going into a stranger's house. Like, I'd been to concerts, but I'd never been to a punk show before.

That’s where I bought my first records, from the touring band, all the bands were sick. It was in the garage of the house. It was super crazy. I had a knife pulled on me at that show [laughs], which was pretty wild that at my first punk show somebody pulled a knife on me and look at me now! I'm still doing it [laughs].

Did you mosh into someone or something? How did that happen?
No, I was actually standing in the kitchen, as you do at parties, and I was talking to this girl. This dude came up to me and threatened me for talking to this girl. He was like, “Hey, don't talk to her,” you know, just being a man about it. I think I was either 13 or 14. I truly wasn't hitting on this girl. That was like a whole other world. You know what I mean? Like, I just had the courage to go to a punk show, soI wasn't trying to do anything, I was just trying to meet people that weren't the mean skaters at my school.

So he tells me not to talk to her, and I don't know why, but I talked back to him. So we had some words and then he pulled out a knife and threatened me. That was pretty funny. He said something and then he said he was going to cut off my thumb. This is what I remember. Because this is, fuck, almost 30 years ago. He was like, “Watch your mouth or I'll cut your thumb off.” And I thought that was a really weird threat. So I just held out my thumb to the guy. I was like, “Alright, go ahead, cut it off,” and he put his knife away and walked away. At that point, everybody was watching this situation. But pretty wild. But yeah, so that was my first gig. And then I was at every show after that. I don’t even know how many shows I’ve been to.

You were like, “I really want to lose this thumb.”
I was like, “I'm gonna see if this guy is gonna threaten me again. Fuck it.” [Laughs] That guy, a couple weeks or months after that, he actually did end up getting arrested for stabbing someone. And I like to think that I was the catalyst. Like, I think I called him on it and then the next person he pulled the knife on called him on it, and he wasn't gonna back down [laughs]. That's just in mind. You know what I mean? I don't know. But he did stab somebody like 15 or 16 times.

I hope that person is all right. Hopefully not dead?
Yeah, so do I. I don’t think they died, ‘cause he got out when we were still teenagers.

Speaking of the Bettertons, I hadn’t thought about this show in a while, but I have a poster of it in my room at my parents’ house. One of my first DIY shows was The Men with Dark Ages and No Class and, it says it on the poster, your band Grasseaters was supposed to play it.
Yeah, we were supposed to play that show, but we broke up instead. Yeah, it’s super annoying. I saw that poster once and it made me really mad.

Yeah, I either hadn’t listened to Grasseaters until recently or it’d been a very long time, but you guys would’ve been a great fit on that, because it's all the same kind of moody, anxious Midwest hardcore.
I loved being in that band, but it was a trip. We were at each other's throats all the time. I've never been in a band with such a rigorous practice schedule. We practiced four or five times a week, but we were just always at each other's throats. We were all in a weird place in our lives at the same time. We were all really mean and we were really mean to each other and that made for a really good band, but it made for a short-lived band for sure.


Amenaza. Photo by Garett Fisbeck.

Yeah, because it says on the Bandcamp page two of those releases never came out physically, right?
Yeah, we released one tape. Well, we released two tapes -- we released a demo recording. And we did one tour and for that tour we did a live tape where we just recorded our set in our living room, but we had mic’d everything and that was our tour tape. We were supposed to do a seven-inch on Not Normal. This is actually how I met Ralph [Rivera] because we were supposed to do a seven-inch and on that tour that was the show we were supposed to play in Kansas City with Dark Ages and The Men. The whole reason for that tour was we were going to Chicago to record a seven-inch But yeah, we had a handful of recordings that never actually got released because we all got mad at each other and broke up [laughs].

Have you talked in any interviews about Brain Smasher before? I love that it’s kind of this tongue-in-cheek oi thing. Yeah. And it’s funny because I saw Lumpy & The Dumpers at FOKL one time and I'm pretty sure they covered a Cock Sparrer song. So you and Marty both have this kind of goofy appreciation of oi.

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I like oil. But it's like a guilty pleasure almost, or like a goofy thing. I don't take it seriously. I grew up really, really hating skinheads. There were a lot of skinheads in Oklahoma, if you can believe that. Most of them were also racist as fuck, if you can believe that. So I grew up kind of hating them and I couldn't really be open about liking oi because I hated skinheads because I had really bad experiences with them. But then as I got older, I was like, fuck it. I've thought enough of them. I'm gonna listen to this music. It's fun. And it's funny, but it's also really funny to goof on, I think and that was kind of that band.

Actually, I'll give you a quick rundown on it. I think maybe American Hate was going on a little tour or something. I think it was me and Taylor from American Hate, the night before we left, we went to eat at Cici’s Pizza -- which is another hilarious thing -- and I was sitting there in the booth and this guy who's cleaning the tables, he walks by us and he’s like, “Oh, man, you look like Brain Smasher.” And I was like, “What? Alright, dude, cool.” Come to find out, it's an Andrew Dice Clay movie. So I look like Andrew Dice Clay’s character from this movie at that time, I guess, which is, I don't know. I'll take it just as is. I don't think it was a compliment.

Our first show that tour was in St. Louis and so that had just happened. So we were dying laughing about it and that's when I was hanging out with Marty and we just decided right then, let's start the band Brain Smasher. So he recorded the tracks and sent them to me and I recorded the vocals and then I think we played three shows. Yeah, we played St. Louis with Rixe, that French oi band.

Were they entertained?
Yeah, yeah, they liked it. It was really funny. We practiced right before the show. I just drove there to play that show. So we went to practice and then loaded the gear and went and played the show. And then we played in Oklahoma City at The Shop and that breakfast show at the fest.

What do you think makes Oklahoma City different from other punk scenes around America?
I think on a base level, everyone here is kind of just goofy and there's a really strong sense of community that's not based in punk, but coexists with the punk scene. If you go to shows here, I think probably like 75% of the crowd doesn't look punk, as far as the look goes, or whatever. Everybody just kind of is a freak.

But I guess I don't know, because I've only experienced other shows in other cities on a nightly basis. So it is hard to say, but punk is such a big umbrella in Oklahoma City, like any weirdo kind of falls underneath it. So yeah, I don't know. Everybody's just kind of a weirdo. in their own way.

The Freak City.

Yeah, Freak City. Exactly.

Could you tell me about a few active Oklahoma bands that you're excited about and a brief description of each of them?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, obviously, Inferna was the band that I play in here, which is like a crust band. And we're still doing stuff -- we're recording a video to stream on YouTube or whatever, like a live set. And we had just recorded right before the pandemic last year. So we still have technically a new recording because we've never played those songs live.

So I’ll get my bands out of the way first. Druj is still a band, but Azeta lives in Minneapolis. So we did a live stream in July and that was pretty sick. And then bands I'm not in: Primal Brain is a band that pretty much started in the pandemic. Their first show was supposed to be March 17 of last year or something, but it was canceled. I don't know, it's pretty gnarly hardcore with a really good rock-n-roll edge to it, which is something that I don't think a lot of bands can pull off, honestly, combining those two sounds. But yeah, that band is cool. They dropped a demo, I think, middle or end of the summer and they're actually, I think, about to do another one. So they're gonna have two releases out at least before they get to even play live. But it's really cool.

Amenaza is really good. They’re some weird blend of psychedelic crust and Motorhead. But you've probably seen them. They played the fest a couple times. But they're super good. They're recording for a full-length. So that's another band that I've always been excited about.

Shaka is a younger band and this is the crew that needs to be looked out for, honestly, in Oklahoma City, because their band is badass. All younger kids. I don't even know how old they are. Honestly, at a certain point, I don't know how old or young people are ‘cause I'm too fucking old [laughs]. But they're teenagers, for sure. They were in high school last year I think, so they're teenagers. It's just really raw American hardcore. That band is really good. And I don't know the names of their other bands, but I know they've all started offshoots throughout the pandemic. So Shaka is a band to look out for and then any band that contains members of that band, definitely worth a shot.

There was another band called The Throwaways that started. They were also supposed to play their first show in March of last year. Them and Primal Brain were both playing their first show together that got canceled. That band is kind of like a pogo punk band, but pretty cool. Real snotty vocals, pretty fun sounding band. But I've never seen them.

I read an interview of yours where you talked about starting EINOK because you didn’t have the money to travel to fests in other cities. You also talked a bit about the history and tradition of punk in OKC. I was kinda curious about what kind of impact you think the fest has had on your scene and how that impact may or may not live on.

I don't know what the future holds, but I definitely know that it did impact it quite a bit. It definitely had a huge impact. It gave people here something to be excited about I think and also a way to introduce people to a lot of those bands they wouldn't have gone to another state to see, but since it was here, they did get to see it. If you look at the lineups, you'll notice that every year, there's more local bands playing it and that's literally because every year there were more local bands.

The first year we did it -- obviously there's other bands and there's other weird facets of punk that I'm not necessarily heavily involved with or involved with at all -- but, in our scene, in our circle or whatever, there were like four or five bands maybe. And then after the first year, bands just started popping up, people started bands and everybody kind of had something to be excited about. And then the idea of getting to play this big thing, that was kind of a cool thing.

And I think it's probably like this in other cities too, where there's fests, but a lot of these bands wouldn't have the opportunity to play a festival that size or that magnitude in other cities because no one's heard of [these new bands]. They're from Oklahoma. They haven't toured, they don’t have a record out, but since it was here and I was doing it, they got to play. So that was cool. The best part of that fest for me always was just seeing people have a good time. That's my love language.

You had the fest several years, but is there any one moment that kind of sticks out to you as really special or funny?
Yeah, absolutely. The Dumpers/Coneheads alley gig when Martin announced to the crowd that my penis was shaped like a marshmallow. Probably one of the funniest moments in my life, because that neighborhood that show was in was where I worked as a bartender, and so not only did I know probably most of the crowd there for the show, but also all the bystanders, all the people who are just in the neighborhood and wanting to see what was going on, I was those people's bartender [laughs]. So to have this person just announce that I have a marshmallow, it was very funny. And just being able to pull that show off, honestly, it was just sick.

Also all of the Red Cup shows were super special to me, because that's a place that I've been going my whole life to get coffee, to get food, whatever, just to hang out and I've never seen another band play there. It wasn't something that they did. It was something that the owner kind of opened up for me to be able to do and so that was super cool. And super cool just to see that that business that I've always kind of supported and they've supported me in my art, to see them get that bump of business one weekend a year, was super sick.

The scariest moment was probably the first year, because the first year none of the after-shows were planned beforehand. It was kind of just on a whim. We had access to The Shop, so everybody was kind of like, “Hey, let's do this.” And I was just like, “Alright,” and that Wiccans after-show the first year was probably the scariest moment for me, because there were so many people packed in The Shop and it was 2 A.M. and I remember I was just standing by the door, like, I didn't watch the show at all. I stood by the door and was just going over in my head what I would be able to say to the cops, for them to let everyone go and maybe just take me if they showed up.  I was literally just running over the scenarios in my head just waiting for the cops to show up. And they never did. That was sick. So my biggest relief was that moment.

I was also wondering how you see the legacy of the Q boat show a few years after the fact.
For me personally, in retrospect, I think it's hilarious. You know, at the moment, it fucked me up. I was really upset, like I had told them explicitly no fires, you know, it was like something that I had actually said to them, so when they did that, I was pretty mad. And you know, we thought we were gonna get in a lot of trouble. I had to talk to the fire marshal that day. And then yeah, it kind of like, I don't know, it definitely put a dark shadow over the fest for a little bit, you know, and there's definitely people who are still mad about it and who will never let it go and honestly that's fine. I understand. You know?


Shaka. Photo by Garett Fisbeck.

But watching that video on YouTube for me is hilarious and also really anytime after that when some normie asked me about a punk show or tried to figure out what it is that I do, that was always the show, the video that I just pulled that up and be like, “Yeah, this is like every show that we do,” and freak people out. But yeah, I don't know. I'm still friends with all of them, you know, I love Austin. I love all those guys. So there's no hard feelings in the end. In the moment, though, it was a little different.

Do you feel like your involvement with DIY music or the dynamics of DIY music in general will be different after the pandemic?
I think yes. I think everyone's will, except for people who don't care and have still been having shows. I'm gonna keep playing in bands. I've already talked to some people, some friends in Atlanta about starting some bands there. I probably won't book shows, because, I think there's people there that do that and I don't know anything about booking shows in Atlanta. But that's kind of exciting for me, because I've been booking shows -- I think the first show I booked in Oklahoma was probably in ‘95 or ‘96 and I've been booking shows ever since. And if I didn't book the show, I was helping promote it or running the door, or just trying to be a responsible person at the show, in case something happens.

So I think the difference is, should things be able to pop off again, I'm really looking forward to just standing in the back and watching bands and not having any responsibility; paying the cover and that's it (if I'm not playing). I'm paying my five or 10 bucks and I'm just enjoying a show without having to work, because it is a lot of work and I know you know that, but some people kind of that for granted. Not necessarily just here, but everywhere. It's like, the people do work, you know? I've put like 25 years into working on punk, making flyers, booking bands, housing bands, all that shit, and I'm doing this fest, which is like that compounded and multiplied by a million because doing 70 bands in four days is pretty insane.

So yeah, I guess my difference is all that. I feel like I get to go into it fresh again, kind of like a teenager as far as I just get to go to gigs and pay and watch bands. And that's another thing -- actually watching bands is something that I love doing, but like nine times out of 10 at a show, I don't get to watch a whole band’s set because I gotta go deal with something or I'm at the door or whatever it is. There's just always some responsibility that pops up. Which is like, you know, I put myself in that position. So I'm not complaining at all. I love everything that I've done in punk. But I am excited about the idea of chilling and watching a band and watching people go off.

Well be prepared when I hit you up in five or 10 years and ask you how to book a DIY fest.

[Laughs] Don't do it. Or do it. I can tell you how to do it right now. It's honestly really easy. Just expect for everything to go wrong. Just literally prepare yourself for everything that can go wrong and you'll do okay. And then you might get surprised with a boat fire.

See Adams’ visual art at

[This article first appeared in Issue 2 of Shuttlecock's free monthly print edition. Click here to read more about the issue and find your copy.]    


  1. I'd never let it go either if I was arrested after that Q show like some people were. Don't act like there wasn't a lack of repercussions for your poor management.

  2. Also be careful, one of the members of Amenaza is an abuser

    1. Be careful spreading bullshit rumors that could actually affect the people in that band.


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