Kid Kongo Powers: Post-punk, culture, and identity

Richard T. Rodríguez, UC Riverside professor of English and media and cultural studies, will host a joint reading and conversation with Kid Congo Powers, an author and musician widely known for being part of bands such as The Gun Club, The Cramps, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, as well as for leading his own group, The Pink Monkey Birds. 

The conversation, dubbed “Nuevos Kicks, Nuevos Kisses: A Conversation About Post-Punk Latinidad,” Q&A, and book signing is open to the public. This event is 7 p.m. on Feb. 3 at The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside. The event and free and open to the public. Advanced registration is required.

The event is also a joint reading with Rodríguez, author of “A Kiss Across the Ocean: Transatlantic Intimacies of British Post-Punk & US Latinidad,” and Powers, author of “Some New Kind of Kick: A Memoir.” The evening will showcase these memoirs and the affinity shared by both Rodríguez and Powers as pioneering Chicanx figures.

“Kid Congo Powers (né Brian Tristan) is a central figure in the history of American popular music, particularly punk and post-punk. However, his contributions cut across musical genres and styles,” said Rodríguez, who noted Powers’ significant contributions to the post-punk scene in “A Kiss Across the Ocean.” “He grew up in La Puente, California and was influenced by many music artists that he learned about from friends and family. At one point, he was the president of the Ramones fan club. His iconic status is even more significant for Latino/a/x fans of punk and alternative music, especially given that Kid is a queer Chicano from Southern California.”

People build different relationships and connections with music and artists, Rodríguez said. For Latinos in the 1980s, post-punk created a sense of identity and community in which those who grew up marginalized due to their sexuality, class, ethnicity, simply fit in, Rodríguez said.

“A Kiss Across the Ocean,” whose title derives from Culture Club’s 1983 Long Hammersmith Odeon concert, focuses on what he defines as post-punk. For Rodríguez, the “post” in post-punk “heralds punk’s afterlives that form a genealogy” that embraces a stylistic hybridity with regards to sound, fashion, and politics.  

Through musical anecdotes Rodríguez narrates in “A Kiss Across the Ocean” his own coming-of-age story, sharing some of the harsher realities of family life and social discrimination and his concert-going adventures with friends in Santa Ana, Los Angeles, and beyond. 

“Nuevos Kicks, Nuevos Kisses: A Conversation About Post-Punk Latinidad” is co-presented by the UCR Department of Creative Writing/the Tomás Rivera Lecture Series, and The Cheech. The event is also hosted by Alex Espinoza, UCR associate professor, and Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair of Creative Writing, and moderated by Michael Jaime-Becerra, UCR associate professor of creative writing.

“This is exactly the kind of event the Tomás Rivera Endowment likes to support because it opens up the conversation around Chicanx identity beyond the halls of academia and into the wider community,” Espinoza said. “Here we have two amazingly gifted individuals whose creative energy has contributed significantly to the way we see ourselves as a community. I can’t think of a better way for young Chicanx people to be inspired by both our guests.”

For event details and registration, visit

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