Story and Photos by Meredith Goldberg
Noah Corona just needed to find a place to eat within a block or two of his home in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park, IL. It was the first day of the Covid lockdown. Lacking groceries and concerned that driving to get food might lead to him being arrested, he walked around the corner from his home and came upon Cemitas Poblanas. The restaurant offered a $9.00 burrito meal, so it instantly became Corona’s daily spot during the pandemic. It also led to friendships with the staff and owners, “Mauro and Jennifer, a couple who had come from NYC in November ‘19 to start their new business. They are both originally from Puebla, Mexico, and spent 18 years in NYC, and worked in restaurants for a lot of that time,” says Corona (whose surname surely caused a few of his friends to tease him in 2020).
Cemitas Poblanas also has a small stage, which planted the seeds in Corona’s mind, of an idea he would work to fruition over the following year. Thus, was born “Punk Rock Tacos,” a monthly Friday nights DIY (do it yourself) event.
Corona’s DIY ethos was inspired by the late Mark “Monk” Hubbard. The visionary Seattleite Hubbard created the famous Burnside Skatepark Project in Portland, OR. Hubbard also founded Grindline, a company which designed over 400 skatepark across the United States and elsewhere. Corona met Hubbard, a DIY inspiration to many across the world, one month prior to Hubbard’s June 2018 death. Hubbard’s band Grindline, named after his company, was playing in Oakland, CA at a skateboarding event, the P-Stone Invitational. Corona says that during Grindline’s set “He [Hubbard] stared so intensely into my soul as he performed 5 ft in front of me.”
It was a life-changing moment for Corona and would lead directly to his passion project: Punk Rock Tacos (PRT). This is the first of many ideas Corona has for PRT. One he hopes to tackle next is building skateboarding bowl behind the restaurant.
The first PRT Sunday edition led to some patrons being disgruntled by the rowdy punk rock music, so these special showcases take place in a small exterior area behind the restaurant.
Looking forward to the Fourth of July this year, Corona organized an event to take place on the Sunday the 3rd. As a nod to Independence Day, the 13-band showcase featured two American flags adorned to the back of an old Army flatbed truck. Said truck, which Corona purchased for the event, also served as the stage.
Although this was a Fourth of July event, it was hardly a day for shouting “Murica” and chanting USA USA USA.
Instead, there was a strong diversity of band and crowd members, more than a few Anti-Fascist and Anti-Nazi patches on clothing, call-outs for change and fighting back by the musicians, Pride t-shirts spotted, in addition to feminist statements made. One singer received roaring applause to his declaration that men who lay hands (violently) on women are trash. In many ways, Punk Rock Tacos Fourth on the Third represented what should be the ideals of this experiment in democracy. Oh, and rocking the pit harder than anyone else in attendance were a four-year-old named Lucas and an Australian cattle dog named Max.
Of course, the main reason for the event wasn’t to focus on the disturbing events of the last several years, and especially the past few months.
For Punk Rock Tacos founder Noah Corona, this was event was not about politics or division. Rather, it was about release and people having an out outlet to express themselves. Corona reflected on the event a day after the Highland Park mass shooting. He has also been shaken by a fatal motorcycle accident just blocks away from the event which Corona informed me occurred “while we were partying.” Per Corona, “Life is too shitty to not have a good time, and if people don’t have their outlets a whole lot more death would be upon us.”
No Dead Heroes’ mission statement is, “We’re here to fuck shit up.” Shit did not actually get fucked up but the band tore through its 30-minute set much to the delight of the attendees. Those in lawn chairs and car seats removed from their vehicles to be used as lawn chairs, as well as those who stood both near and away from the stage. Frank Lombardo propelled the band both in voice and on the drums. Whether it was the heat of the bright afternoon or his physical efforts, Lombardo’s reddened face painted a portrait of punk rock intensity.
Milwaukee’s The Rustix don’t consider themselves a political band according to its social media. However, per a Facebook post from June 25, 2022, “Rustix and the Midwest Hardcore Punx scene stand in solidarity with people that have uteruses. If you don’t, don’t come to our shows, you aren’t welcome.” For the band members some issues transcend politics and The Rustix brought a set that was as tight and strong as that message.
WAYDSB states on its website: “We want to share our perspectives with you, and maybe our music will help you understand and feel what it is we’re expressing.” The band demonstrated this motto during its banger of a set. Drummer Liam Cavanaugh was clad in a (LGBQT+) “Pride” shirt and rainbow tie dye style cap, while guitarist James McFadden wore a t-shirt sporting the name of satirical 2016 U.S. Presidential candidate Deez Nutz.
Quantum, out of Crystal Lake, brought the fun. With a combo multi-bongo and just enough cowbells set up, how could it not? There was Bass player Shawn Belletynee draped in an American flag as a cape, a brand-new song entitled Planet B.S., and blood. Well, blood on the bongos at least. Lead singer Zac Dawson decided it was a good sign and queried “Blood on the bongos, isn’t that a Bob Dylan album?”
Noah Corona’s own band, The Throwaways, elicited loud cheers and clapping for both the music and for his creation of Punk Rock Tacos and this event. It was obvious by his constant smile throughout the day, how grateful Corona was for that appreciation and the joy his hard work has brought him. The Throwaways, as a band, honored his hard work with its rollicking set. Immediately after the set Corona was back on the ground making sure the rest of the evening went off without a hitch.
Ah Shitizen. With all due respect to, and respect is most definitely owed to them, Josh on drums, Elliot on bass, and Jerm on guitar, it is lead singer Claudia Guajardo who steals the most focus at every Shitizen show. With her hyperkinetic energy and charisma, she is the very definition a band’s front person. As is the case at every Shitizen show, Guajardo refused to stick only to the stage. But this being on the back of a truck, she did accept an assist from her boyfriend Adam Kreutzer (lead singer for Kreutzer and the newly joined drummer for Knoxious.) who helped her in and out of the high up flatbed stage. She scaled the truck herself before the set and after, but Kreutzer’s help allowed her the continuity of singing, microphone in hand. It’s a blast to watch Guajardo in frenzied action. The band is also a model of DIY as they finished up making their band shirts and merch themselves the morning of the event.
Metro Chicago’s Real Bad Real Fast was formed in 5 or 6 years ago. They invited friends and family to this event on Facebook with a sentiment presently shared by a good portion of the USA: “Come celebrate Freedom (cough)” adding “At least freedom enough for us to rock your socks off!!” As the gloaming set in, lights were installed on the already too confined stage before knocking off of socks began.
Corona described the event as epic and credited his second in command organizer Matthew “Cactus Matt” Durica and sound engineer Steve Anthony for much of the success of the event and PRT, and told everyone involved that he was “proud of all of us.”
A few days after the event Corona stated, “I am happier than shit right now, and all I can think is, what’s next?”
More Photos from The Fourth on the Third below!