Conjure up an image of the stereotypical punk scene. With as much thought as one would give to crumpling a piece of paper, alcohol will surely come to mind — punk isn’t a term often associated with sobriety. When teenagers first crawled out from under their parents’ watchful eyes to flood the streets with anarchy, empty bottles littered the freshly trodden paths toward the Sex Pistols and the Damned. But like the very counterculture revolution that sparked punk, a rebellion against the rebellion began, one that incorporates the rock ’n’ roll, sans the sex and drugs.
“I believe music can be interpreted in many different ways,” said Sabrina Barajas, who recently made a documentary about locals who have adopted the “straight edge” lifestyle that rejects drugs, alcohol and promiscuous sex.
Barajas is a lyricist and drummer for the Oxnard punk band Facing the Fallen, and is the only member claiming to be straight edge, “Everyone has different opinions on how they choose to live their life, and I choose to live mine sober,” said Barajas, who meets a wide variety of musicians and fans as an intern at Camarillo’s Rock City Studios. “It’s not something I’m willing to compromise.”
With its roots planted firmly in the 1980s, the straight-edge movement is almost as old as punk itself, dating back to when the band Minor Threat popularized the ideology in the song “Straight Edge.” For fans of the scene who eschewed the rampant drug use, the straight-edge scene became a natural fit, removing the promiscuity from the music but leaving a variation on the hard-core lifestyle.
When asked to create a short documentary for her anthropology class, Barajas turned for inspiration to the very culture that had welcomed her.
Over a two-month period, Barajas met and interviewed friends she knew to be straight edge and others she had never realized were a part of the lifestyle. The half-hour documentary showcases opinions and experiences shared by more than a dozen of Ventura County’s straight-edge youth, eager to share their stories.
“I was pretty shocked at how many people were straight edge, and how many of them I knew,” Barajas said before taking a short break to aid a visitor at the Gull Wings Children’s Museum in Oxnard, where she is the gift shop manager. “They have their own way of going about it, and it was interesting to learn how they handled the highs and lows of being straight edge.”
Locating straight edge followers in Ventura County is no easy task. With all but a few of the bands having disbanded or moved away, Barajas and her documentary subjects are forced to look to individuals within bands for inspiration and straight-edge messages.
Finding a venue for punk is also part of the problem, but recently Java Joe’s Coffee and Espresso Bar in East Ventura has welcomed punk bands and their fans — straight edge or not — into its open mic nights, booking them alongside the more natural indie and acoustic counterparts on weekdays.
“Anywhere you can find to play a show in Ventura is great,” said Barajas. “I recently saw a show at the Wagon Wheel ice skating rink. It was very cold.”
For followers of the somewhat radical lifestyle within the radical lifestyle, bands like Earth Crisis, Half Heart and Youth of Today help to spread awareness of the cause. Members of Ventura’s own Locked in Silence adhere to the lifestyle as well, playing locally to large, varied crowds, some straight edge, most not.
If being the only straight-edge punk at a show bothers Barajas, she doesn’t let it get to her. Rather, being true to herself is what is most important.
“Being straight edge is not a criteria that I have for friends. I have learned that a lot more people are straight edge than I thought, but I haven’t seen it growing into a larger movement. Just that it’s there is good enough for me.”
To see Sabrina Barajas’ documentary on straight edge culture in Ventura County, visit VCReporter online. For a list of upcoming shows at Java Joe’s, go to myjavajoes.com.