We are all fans of something; however, the passion that goes with being a fan can create a barrier between the individual and the object of that passion. Anyone who’s awkwardly approached a celebrity or creator at a convention has felt this strange barrier, and some avoid meeting people they admire because of it. Liz Mason, hero, gives no fucks, and in 2013, approached and joined the ranks of a group she loved: the Blue Ribbon Glee Club (BRGC), an a capella group that covers classic punk rock songs. Punk Rock Glee Club #1 is a fun, engaging fanzine that lets readers feel like they’re part of this unique clique.
Punk Rock Glee Club covers different aspects of Mason’s experience singing with BRGC, ranging from the challenge of adapting songs heavy with instrumentals and electronics, to BRGC’s community dynamics. BRGC boasts about thirty members, and new singers usually join because they already have friends within the group. This recruiting method creates a very tight-knit environment. Mason initially compares them to the Freemasons, but the more she talks about BRGC’s various shenanigans, the clearer it becomes that they’re a bunch of fun, raucous punks.
I found the group to be most endearing when Mason delved into the nitty gritty of crafting song arrangements. Many of the members of BRGC are not musical professionals; they are there for the love and the people. While they give the music their all and work hard to build their, to borrow Mason’s term, “figure-out-the-instrument-behind-the-lyric” muscles, they also bring a humor to the experience that hardcore professionals can lack. The descriptions of practices reminded me of my time directing The Rocky Horror Picture Show in college; it was sometimes stressful to coordinate a group that largely lacked real theater experience, but it was really weird, and really fun.
Mason is friendly and funny; even if the topic isn’t initially appealing, the zine’s tone will pull you right in. As a veteran zinester her literary voice is clearly well muscled; when I asked how she first got into zines, Mason’s response was as casual and amiable as it is in Punk Rock Glee Club #1: “I used to buy Maximumrocknroll at my local record store and there were ads for other kinds of zines. You could put cash in the mail and packages of zines (and sometimes stickers!) would show up!” Recommendations from pen pals kept her in the zine scene, and she now works for Quimbys, a long-lived staple of the Chicago zine and alternative comics community.
There is nothing quite like listening to someone talk—or write—from a place of passion and love, and through Punk Rock Glee Club #1 Mason successfully communicates both. Plus, if you’re a Chicago local, you can have fun guessing which member’s only club they once mildly terrorized through drunken performance. You can purchase a copy of Punk Rock Glee Club #1, as well as copies of Mason’s other work, at Quimby’s physical location or through their online store. Watch some BRGC performances and get info on upcoming shows on their website.