Arts Desk

The Best New Punk Band in D.C. Hasn’t Hit Puberty

I know what you're thinking: This is just some novelty act where overzealous parents convince their kids to pretend to be punk rockers. You're wrong.

Last night at Fort Reno, I saw more people dancing at a local punk rock show than I've seen in ages. Why? Because the 10- and 12-year-old kids in The Black Sparks are hungry, and they put on a killer punk-rock show. The band is dynamic, clever, and full of all the piss and vinegar this town made its name on.

There's no punk-rock pops behind the scenes calling the shots—10-year-old Andrew Salfi sings about watermelon and things catching on fire because he wants to. Every song is original, and it's all written by the band. Their rock-solid Fort Reno performance—complete with quirky on-stage banter, instrument change-ups, and genuine charisma—won over the crowd as well as any legitimate new punk band I've seen. The kids are alright? No, the kids kick ass.

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  1. #1

    Smell that?

    That's Mr. Little's credibility going up in smoke...

  2. #2

    I disagree w/ Gene's assertion. I've seen the Black Sparks several times and they often get the audience fired up. Enjoy the younger rockers - it's all good.

  3. #3

    I disagree with Gene as well! If you can't appreciate the innocent fun and excitement the band of middle and elementary schoolers created all themselves last night then I feel sorry for you!

  4. #4

    They were the best band at Fort Reno this summer. I was grinning for the entire set.

  5. #5

    I think you'll find the Points are the best punk band in DC.

  6. #6

    Most good "mature" bands were once aspiring pre-pubescent dreamers. They are arguably free of industry and social tainting. Never mind how good they'll be in another ten years... (translation?: good for them).

  7. #7

    I guess Ryan Little hasn't heard or seen any of the other punk bands in the DC area. I go to punk shows and have never even heard of this band. Sorry playing Ft. Reno and 9:30 don't cut it. Now, are they the best new band with members under the age of 12? Yes.

  8. #8

    Are you fucking retarded?

  9. #9

    This is gross.

  10. #10

    Jeez, people, take a breath. He's complimenting a young, talented band of kids. Where's the wrong in that?

  11. #11

    The wrong in that is saying they're the best new punk band in DC when the writer obviously doesn't know anything about the local punk scene.

  12. #12

    "Best" is a figurative term here. I would say these kids get it. I hear more DC roots in their riffs than a LOT of punk bands that came down the pike in this city.

  13. #13

    keep in mind he said best NEW punk band

  14. #14


  15. #15

    “Best” is a figurative term here. I would say these kids get it. I hear more DC roots in their riffs than a LOT of NEW punk bands that came down the pike in this city.

  16. #16

    They're not the best New punk band, either. They're good for being 10 - 12 y/o, perhaps even exceptional. But, nothing more than an oddity, at best...

  17. #17

    Novelty, not oddity. Poor choice of words...

  18. #18

    There's a sucker born every minutes...

  19. #19

    Gene, Were you at the show? It doesn't sound like it. They rocked independent of their age. They just rocked. As I said at the end of the setg,Ï'm glad I don't have to go on next." They rocked and the crowd up front dancing proved it. It wasn't like so many of the DC shows where everybody either stands back arms crossed looking aloof wondering if it's cool to show emotion of not, or a pit of self-indulgent posers moshing so violently they've driven all the females from the front making for a Sha Na Na-like period piece recreation of what people think it was like back in the day. It's rock and roll so just enjoy it and more importtantly don't piss in anybody'd drink to spoil their fun. Just because you don't get it doesn't mean others can't. Their set reminded me of the pre-hardcore punks shows before the whole thing was taken over by jocks in punker uniform. It was refreshing. Waiter, I'll have another round of Black Sparks!

  20. #20

    I don't care what kind of music these guys are, the whole show sounded like saturday morning cartoons overdriven to hell, completely free of that awful pop-punk sound that's taken over the country. Plus, the singer pretended to have an ian curtis-type seizure on stage. They're more than OK in my book!

  21. #21


    Like I said, there's a sucker born every minute - and you're living proof of that, my ignorant friend...

  22. #22

    Oh, I've heard the kiddies in-question, and have been a full time professional musician for 33 years...

  23. #23

    Gene: What do you think are the best new punk bands in DC? We are interested. If they are even better than The Black Sparks they must be incredible

  24. #24

    Here's how it'll play out....

    - Right now, they're cute - a curiosity (a novelty act, despite the author's assertions to the contrary). There is a cabal of heavy-handed adults/parents in the background that are really running the show, living their unfulfilled childhood fantasies through their offspring.

    - In a few years, if they're still at it, they may even learn to play their instruments (which, sadly speaking, would be imcompatible with much of the basic pretense of punk - as would songwriting - but...).

    - If they're still around by the time the eldest is 18, they'll be struggling to perpetuate the "we're so young and extraordinary" brand that got them what ever success they might enjoy at that time, and...

    - In 10 years no one will remember these kids...

    I only hope the experience doesn't screw them up for the rest of their lives.

    The fact is, at 10 or 12 years of age, they don't have the life experiences necessary to be a punk musician. They're only an oddity - naive' kids playing at being musicians, nothing more.

    If y'all want to swoon and gape and throw money at them and further encourage their handlers, knock yourselves out...

    But, if you think for a second that I'm the ill-informed one in this debate, you're fooling yourself...

  25. #25


    You're clueless...

  26. #26

    Hey Gene--someone asked earlier if you were at Fort Reno on Monday. I was, and the band rocked. Answer the question: were you there?

  27. #27

    Nope. Heard them prior.

    Go ahead and lap up yet another fawning pseudo-review of the latest kiddie band. Meanwhile, I'm going to go listen to some Bad Brains and get the slime of this whole, perverted kiddie-loving scene off of me...

  28. #28

    Drummer's meter was a joke, Stall - Oh King Of What Rocks (Not)...

  29. #29

    I see, you weren't at the show, yet you're qualified to dismiss it.

  30. #30

    Another measure of great bands is how fast the common troll comes out of the woodwork...didn't take too long here. ;)

  31. #31

    Having read all the above, it sounds like Gene is a over-the-hill musician wannabe who is jealous of anyone who seems to be popular - give it up Gene - no one cares about you or your opinion - god what a sour apple!!!!!

  32. #32

    One more thing - a real musician would ENCOURAGE young bands - not be jealous of them

  33. #33

    Yer right - my issue is with the critic here, not the kids. Any critic worth their salt would understand the basic history of the genre(s) in which they wish to insert themselves as "experts."

    The terms "10 ans 12 year-old kids" and "killer punk rock show" are one of two things: mutually exclusive or pure tongue-in-cheek satire.

    Perhaps this basic principle has lost its traction today, I don't know. I know that I don't believe you can put on a "killer punk-rock show" and then get up the next morning, eat your fruitloops, and the head off to catch the schoolbus...

    But, again - my initial comment was focused on the credibility of the critic here, and I don't want to continue a crticism of the kids. That's the last I want to do.

    After all, "imitation is the highest form of flattery." And I'm glad to see young kids interested in the punk music tradition.

    But, at least at this age, it remains - at least to some degree - imitation.

    Sorry to have started any attack on the kids....

  34. #34

    And finally (promise)...

    My this article is as much a commentary on the current state of the DC punk scene?

    Just askin'...

  35. #35

    Nevermind. I changed my mind and I like them now. And the author. And I like to eat poopies.

  36. #36

    first and foremost its obvious the writer is out of touch. but as are most writers who write about "local music".

    secondly, these kids are 11 years old! i wish my band when i was 11 sounded this good. also ook at their myspace, their influences are blink 182, green day, fugazi, and mission of burma... shit i wish my taste of music was that good when i was 11.

    third, im going to book these kids hah!

  37. #37

    Knock yerself out, venoumousideas...

    You obvisouly don't have a liquor license to worry about...

  38. #38

    venomousideas, you should book Gene's band. He's been a professional musician for 33 years. Which is why he's trolling on the Washington City Paper site instead of out playing shows.

  39. #39

    Wait. So if you weren't at the show, you haven't heard their most recent performance? Your information could be dated?

  40. #40

    Speaking of "dated," if Gene declares musicians aged 10 or 12 "a novelty" or "imitation," and he has been a professional for 33 years, maybe "TRU PUNX" should provide a definition of "trolling." We could be dealing with a major old-timer.

  41. #41

    Ok, Gene, so I was legitmately asking: who do YOU think are the BEST punk bands in DC? I truly wanted advice (since you profess to be an expert), because I would like to see more "real" bands in "real" venues. And I will admit, my underlying motivation was to check to see if you are capable of making a positive (not negative) comment.

  42. #42

    It seem that, in pointing out Mr. Little's lack of credibility, I've only highlighted the painfully obvious.

    Point made. Class dismissed.

  43. #43


    Again, as you continue to struggle with basic English: My issue here is with the critic, not the kids.

    Got that?

    Good. Have a nice day.

  44. #44

    If you weren't at the show, it's your credibility that is in question.

  45. #45

    Nice try, douche.

  46. #46

    Yo Steve,

    Was I talking to you?

    No, didn't think so.

    Now, STFU and piss off, dumbass.

  47. #47

    Hahaha. Somehow I don't think you're a professional musician.

  48. #48

    I could not give a fuck less what you think, douchebag.

  49. #49

    Perhaps Ryan was a bit off when he annointed The Black Sparks as "punk", engendering some unnecessary criticism (really, they are too young to be truly "punk".) However, his writing is snappy and does get attention! Give him credit -- he avoided the obvious cliche "The Black Sparks IGNITE the Stage at Fort Reno".

  50. #50

    True dat!

  51. #51

    *I could not give less of a fuck what you think, douchebag. Learn grammar before you insult writing.

  52. #52


  53. #53

    I LOVE the taste of fresh cock in the morning! How about you?

  54. #54

    Shut up Gene, you're just a downer

  55. #55

    Shut up, Andy, you're just an asshole.

  56. #56

    Just what I expect to see at a punk rock show - a herd of overfed soccer moms in beach wear...

  57. #57

    I've read everyone of these comments and I am convinced Gene is correct and that everyone that opposes him is a parent of these kids. Scam revealed and the band sucks balls. Grow some pubic hair first and then call yourself a punk band!

  58. #58

    Oh yeah, can you say Bach 2 Rock? No punk band would ever be caught dead in a puppy mill like that.

  59. #59

    Come catch The Black Sparks this Saturday, September 18th at The Black Cat Back Stage (1811 14th St. NW WDC 20009) featuring Gist. Tickets are $8.

  60. #60

    Will a herd of cows in over-stretched polyester be there?

  61. #61

    First of all, I personally know these kids. They are not people who spend every minute of their lives working on their music. They do this because they like it, and they are really great at what they do. So, you don't need to criticize them. In another 20 years, do I see them as famous? Maybe, maybe not. But they do what they do a lot better than most people, and thats good enough for me.

  62. #62


    Wasn't critizing band, was criticizing the author of this article.......

    Ya might wanna read the string before you get your feelings hurt.


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