MANY THINGS ARE happening on any given Friday on East Fremont, but zoom in on 11th Street Records on a particular mid-December night in 2022, and you’ll find a couple teenage boys walking through the door wearing wrinkled white shirts and black ties. They dig through the record crates aimlessly, as though to not make eye contact with anyone they don’t know. They seem nervous and out of place, especially with most everyone else rocking leather jackets and T-shirts.
The boys are here to see punk band Pure Sport. Pure Sport only formed in March of 2022, but this will mark the band’s 20th and final performance of the year. Gage Joseph Walker, the drummer, quickly spots the shy youngsters and whispers to guitarist Justin Tejeda, “Are these guys in ‘company attire’?” Justin nods. Gage quickly walks up to them, giving them a warm smile and handshake. He bestows upon them each a “Hello my name is” sticker that states, “I am an employee of Pure Sport LLC.”
“Bands are really a business at the end of the day,” lead singer and bassist Jared Scott explains. “We’re playing with that fact.”
Pure Sport sounds like Queens of the Stone Age, IDLES, Viagra Boys and Dead Kennedys put into a blender. So what gives with all the corporate cosplay? They perform in ill-fitting suits that clash with their long hair and canvas shoes. They print their set lists on business stationery. Aggressive jams like “Better Than The Rest” are written from the perspective of the entitled braggarts who make life, especially in an office, unbearable. It’s a type of costuming that Gage likens to wearing the armor or pelt of a conquered enemy. “We take it on to tear it down.”
With the constant churn of climate disasters, worsening income inequality and other problems fueled by corporate greed, it makes sense that Pure Sport’s message resonates, especially with young listeners who likely haven’t even set foot in an office yet. “Being able to at least laugh and get angry at the corporate world, it’s fun,” says Jared. “And I think it’s captivating.”
AS FOR FANS also donning the mantle of “The Man” in the form of ties and button-up shirts, that was spontaneous. “There was never a post, never any sort of prompt that indicated we said people should show up in uniform,” Gage says. It’s made spotting their fans at shows pretty easy. I asked a group wearing “company attire” outside 11th Street Records what they liked the most about Pure Sport. “They’re super interactive,” one of them told me. “When I first saw them, I didn’t know who they were and just posted a video of their set on my Instagram. They found it and messaged me without even tagging them.” Personal warmth and connection: decidedly un-corporate.
Lead singer Jared manages Pure Sport’s social media presence. Balancing it with a full-time job and the responsibilities of the band itself, he often finds himself up at 2 in the morning responding to the mass of DMs that accumulate in their inbox. “It’s exhausting,” he said. “I’ve had nightmares where I’ve disappointed fans.” Still, it’s all in service of showing gratitude to a fanbase no one in the trio ever had before. And to make sure everyone feels included: Pure Sport asserts in clear language that they have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, racism, or any other behavior that would make fans feel unsafe or unwelcome. It makes wearing a white shirt and tie mean more than a mere jab at the white-collar world.
“A lot of people are awkward and shy,” Justin says. “With us, coming in the suits is almost like a sense of community. You can come and release whatever emotions you have and still feel welcome.”
“If you show up in Pure Sport attire,” Jared says, “(you’re saying) ‘This is who I fucking agree with.’”
During Pure Sport’s last song on this evening at 11th Street, members of the crowd link arms. They’re not quite moshing or thrashing around, but creating a mass in perfect sync with the music. Call it group catharsis. Call it community. But don’t call it a concert. Jared shouts between breaths, “These aren’t just concerts, they’re meetings!”
Pure Sport performs 6:30p Feb. 3 at The Space with White Noise. They can be found on Instagram at @puresportmusic.
Photo: Tarah Tackett