Garrett Wadford makes no bones about the fact that he’s trying to rekindle his youth. In some sense, that’s what all his recent business ventures (his globally streamed podcast, his punk label, Bird Attack Records, his recently opened vinyl pressing plant) are about.
“I remember when I was 18 years old and everybody at the beach [who] surfed and skated were listening to punk rock in the mid-‘90s, [going] down to the Milk Bar, raging, and it was just a really fun time,” he reminisced radiantly. “I didn’t know if I could get it going again around here, but I know I needed an outlet for it.”
Wadford, now in his late 30s, with a can of Red Bull in hand, speaks about this mission with so much exuberance that it’s difficult to believe he’s lost even an iota of affection for the style of skate punk he and his Jax Beach surfer buds grew up with, which he still promotes today.
“Fast, somewhat technical – as long as the drums are ripping I’m pretty amped on it,” he said.
He’s a true believer — a skate punk evangelist with an eagerly accepted calling to spread the word … the raging, noisy word. But he readily acknowledges that, since he founded Bird Attack in 2012, accomplishing that goal to his satisfaction has often been a struggle.
“My driving force was to get music that I loved back out there,” he said. “Because everybody that used to do it wasn’t.”
Having lived in Jacksonville Beach since childhood, Wadford owned a local roofing company before selling it and getting into the music business. He originated Bird Attack as a podcast that he still records and mixes in his home studio. His format takes cues as much from traditional FM radio as it does from modern-day podcasting. It alternates interviews with members of skate punk bands, both established and up-and-coming, with an extended block of Wadford spinning whatever new and old cuts he might happen be excited about at the moment and offering hyped-out between song banter, applying a persona that he himself describes as, “basically me being an idiot.”
It’s his raw passion that sold the music he was playing, so he said he quickly enough, “got over trying to edit it. I can burp or fart or my cat can come in. I kinda just go with it.”
Bird Attack’s expansion into a record label came only after positive reaction to what Wadford played on the podcast drove him to find an even more effective means of getting unknown bands heard. The impact on the skate punk scene, on a global scale, has been swift – Bird Attack now boasts a broad slate of international bands, originating everywhere from Calgary to Belgium.
Attracting those bands wasn’t easy for a tiny label from Jax Beach at first, but after Wadford began signing skate punk luminaries like Guttermouth, it got easier.
“I think at first,” he admitted, “they were like, ‘who the hell is Bird Attack Records?’ But we’ve kind of built a reputation.”
This international success, ironically, has only barely begun help turn the Jacksonville area back into the skate punk Mecca that Wadford remembers and envisions. Venues are closing, and the punk promotion infrastructure that does exist seems to expend all its energy on bringing already established acts to town rather than supporting the up-and-comers who could end up defining the scene’s future. Even Wadford’s old friends (the old Milk Bar ragers) don’t seem to be listening to much punk anymore.
But Wadford remains undaunted, and wisely takes a generational view of the cyclical nature of culture and music.
“It’s up to the kids to blow the genre back up,” he said, adding it’s also up to the parents for coming to grips with the fact that times have changed and punk can be a family affair. “You don’t have to go to a show and get hammered like you were 18 to enjoy some really good punk. I mean, I’m wearing a collared shirt right now.”
With that in mind, Wadford is taking inspiration from Danny Wimmer (the former Milk Bar owner and founder of Welcome to Rockville) for his latest crusade — trying to start a Jacksonville punk festival.
“It doesn’t have to be 80,000 people. Maybe it’s 5,000,” he said. “I want my friends to be able to ride their bikes out to a festival that we have in the middle of a Saturday, and they can bring their kids.”