Photo by Joseph Kohl: Reptile House
A not-quite-tender tender moment of band-audience communion in Baltimore’s hardcore punk scene, this shot by Joseph Kohl was taken during a rowdy (but apparently democratic) set by the local group Reptile House.
The vocalist is Daniel Higgs (credited in Reptile House as Daniel V. Strasser), who went on to sing with the band Lungfish and has recorded over a dozen albums as a solo artist. His impromptu backup singer is Anthony “Toad” Brennan. The practice of sharing the microphone, as Higgs can be seen doing here, was characteristic of hardcore punk’s dissolving of the boundary between band and audience. Standing between Higgs and Brennan, in the background with mouth agape, is Reptile House guitarist Joe Goldsborough.
The venue appears to be The New Loft, at the intersection of Mulberry and Eutaw Streets. The New Loft, according to the writer Stewart Dean Ebersole, was “a dark, dingy, smelly place” that played host to scores of loud, fast bands in the mid-80s, including Samhain and Slayer.
An October 1984 edition of The Greyhound, Loyola University Maryland’s student newspaper, suggests this photo may have been taken on November 2, 1984, at a show that also featured the Washington, D.C. band Grey Matter. Reptile House’s first release, the I Stumble As the Crow Flies EP, was released in November 1985 by the D.C.-based Dischord Records.
Skizz Cyzyk recalls Kohl’s photo appearing in The Baltimore Sun, making it a rare piece of mainstream publicity for one of the 1980s’ most confrontational and maligned youth subcultures.
“That photo was a big deal,” according to Cyzyk. “The whole [Baltimore] hardcore scene couldn’t believe the Sun devoted a full front page to Dan and Reptile House. Everyone picked up the paper that Sunday.” (Andy Holter)
Untitled. Anthony “Toad” Brennan (left), Joe Goldsborough (center), and Daniel Higgs (right of Reptile House). Joseph Kohl, c. 1984. PP284 Box 30, Group 2, Print 5. MdHS.