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Punk Rock With a Mature Message


Ryan Immegart was into punk music, skateboarding, snowboarding, his friends and girls, the typical diversions of a carefree, youthful existence in Southern California. But in 1994, after graduating from high school in Big Bear Lake, things got serious in a hurry.

Immegart and his girlfriend, Erin--still a senior in high school at the time--soon discovered that she was pregnant. After considering their options, the young couple decided to get married and start a family, which now includes their 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Remi, and 1-year-old son, Jonah.

While any dreams of attending college were dashed, the Immegarts have made the most of a difficult beginning. They moved to Orange County, where Immegart continued to sing and play guitar in the punk-rock band the Line, which has released three CDs and is part of the nationwide 2000 Warped Tour lineup.

Now 24, he's also emerged as the vice president of Volcom Entertainment, the Costa Mesa-based independent record label owned by Volcom Stone, Inc.

Although Immegart is happy and has a promising career, he knows he's atypical of those who suddenly find their lives turned upside down by unplanned pregnancy. That's why he feels so strongly about Sunday's Battle of the Bands II benefit concert at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. The concert will feature the Line and showcase six local high school rock bands.

The purpose of the event is twofold: to raise money for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties' music outreach and education programs, and to reach out to at-risk teens in a nonthreatening environment.

"I wish there was something like this when I was growing up," said Immegart, whose band has previously performed at several benefits for Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit reproductive and general health-care provider that advocates making responsible family planning decisions.

"I know a lot of kids that just don't have the knowledge . . . I was one of them and had to grow up really fast. I love my family, and even though I came out of it better than I ever could have imagined, the reality is that others probably won't.

"In this setting, the teenagers are around people they can actually talk to. It's cool to them, they're not turned off by it. I think because the bands are more like them, the crowds are more inclined to pick up a pamphlet or maybe some condoms."

Calling the concert an outreach tool, Planned Parenthood Marketing Director Kim Custer said: "It's not necessarily that people are out there being promiscuous. Unwanted pregnancies and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) come from a lack of knowledge. We're hoping to give them the education--or at least access to it--so they can make informed decisions.

"Yet at the same time, issues of morality surface. What about teens whose parents insist that premarital sex is not OK? We promote that abstinence is the only 100% effective method of preventing unwanted pregnancy and STDs," Custer said.

"But if they decide that's not an option for them, they at least need the tools to be safe. Part of responsibility is doing what's right for you, and letting other people make decisions that are right for them. That's what it's all about."

Venue owner Gary Folgner, who also owns the sister Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana, hosted the first Battle of the Bands about eight months ago. He says he offers his clubs for free because the more we can do to educate our kids, the better.

He believes musicians make effective messengers. "High school age kids look up to their peers, particularly if they're in bands," he said. "When kids tell kids something, there's a much better chance of it getting through than if you or I tell them."

As part of the program, the participating bands gain some experience and exposure. They also compete for sponsor-donated prizes such as CDs, CD cases, videos, T-shirts, caps, etc. But according to Immegart, win or lose, the biggest reward is the satisfaction of making a difference.

"I want to make sure that kids know what they're getting into, that they understand the consequences when they start having sex," he said. "These concerts are a unique way to show you care."

The Battle of the Bands II benefit concert for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties is Sunday at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. Featured bands include the Line, the Goons, Melee, No Respect, Mind of My Own, Last in Line, Rudiger and Offset. 1-8 p.m. (Doors open at noon) $8. (949) 496-8930.

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