If you spent your teen years “going to shows” (not the movies), kicking it in combat boots (before you could buy them at Nordstrom), and finding out about bands from Maximum Rock-n-Roll and Flipside (not MTV), then you’re likely of that age when your metabolism is s-l-o-o-o-o-w-i-n-g down. And probably the last place you’d ever want to set foot in—though your beer-logged midsection pleads otherwise—is a fuck!-I-feel-like-I’m-back-in-high-school Crunch-style gym. Thankfully, Punk Rock Aerobics has arrived to make your freak self feel safe and understood.
“Come on, guys!” playfully shouted Maura Jasper, as she led the class with partner Hilken Mancini last Mother’s Day at Luxx. “We know you were up all night drinking and doing lines—sweat it out!” It was obvious the instructors understood their audience: I was too hungover to participate.
As I watched the hour-long class, I couldn’t help thinking that some of the moves were first created about, oh, say 15 years ago in the girls’ bedroom mirror—hairbrush-microphone and air guitar in tow. Many of them mix traditional aerobic maneuvers with manic alone-in-your-room dancing: jumping, kicking, pogoing, punching, skanking, and random free-for-all moshpit runarounds.
The whole thing started out last year as a tongue-in-cheek idea by then unemployed Boston artist-musicians Jasper and Mancini. As a symbolic gesture, they put the class on only in rock clubs.
“I had a blaaast,” drawled Leslie Miller, a cute redhead attendee. She couldn’t get over all the great songs by the likes of the Undertones, the Ramones, the Buzzcocks, the Fall, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., the Misfits, the Descendents, the Wipers, X-Ray Spex, and on and on.
The co-ed participants looked more like they were on location for a Sleater-Kinney video shoot (sportin’ indie-rock thrift-store gymwear) than an aerobics class, where the typical gear is so plastic and status-conscious. I was curious: Were the guys on board for the novelty, the exercise, or just to meet some chicks?
I was originally quite skeptical, and not because I’m clinging to the empty “never sell out” slogan of whored-out punk counterculture. C’mon, two cute girls capitalizing on the novelty of a punk aerobics class? How “alternative,” how “cutesy.” But after I saw the disenfranchised rockers (maybe not punks, but definitely not citizens of the Gap, Pottery Barn, and Applebee’s nation) sweat out last night’s chemical debauchery with shit-eating grins, the cynic in me wilted. Sure, it may sound cheesy and a little Risky Business, but what better way to get your burn on than to some of your adolescent anthems, and all in a group-dork, unselfconscious setting?
Celebrity musician-DJs have been one of the keys to the classes’ instant popularity; past sessions have featured Mike Watt (Firehose, Minutemen), J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), and Evan Dando (Lemonheads), who apparently got a little too punk when he threw one of the exercise bricks (DIY handweights) into a nearby ghetto blaster.
To their disbelief, Jasper and Mancini have become certified aerobics instructors, though they openly admit they hate aerobics and anything associated with yuppie gym culture. After all: This is New York, not L.A.