Although I did like quite a few of the UK82 bands I was never much of a ’77 punk, punk ‘n roll, or Oi! fan. Sure, there were a few bands in there that I kind of liked but for the most part those were sub-genres that just didn’t pack much of a punch in my opinion. In most cases it was the lyrics that didn’t really get my attention. Even early on I had an expectation that punk was supposed to be the soundtrack to a revolution, the punks were to pick up where the hippies left off and rally for social and political change. I just didn’t get that with the ’77 and Oi! bands. With many of the UK82 bands, even if the lyrics were empty at least they had cool riffs and weren’t just sped up pop-groups! Part of the problem was I spent the early 80’s listening to Metal. Lots and lots of Metal!
I had this roommate who listened to a lot of Oi and it used to drive me nuts. He didn’t like crust and was especially opposed to Metal, so that is what I used to retaliate with. He had like stacks of these Oi comp CDs and they all sounded so sing songy and the same, it just drove me nuts. I think every song was about hanging out at the pub and playing soccer or something! Fuck! I couldn’t take it! He ate at Arby’s and McDonalds and I just didn’t get it. After time our friendship faded as he went further to play this role as a want-to-be skinhead and started wearing Fred Perry shirts, braces and stuff like that. And it didn’t stop there; he started listening to country! I shit you not! It was part of his good ol’ boy act and it was fucking mind boggling. I finally packed my shit and moved out. I’d seen kids from cowboy families get turned on to the music and ideals of punk and make some changes to their hair and clothes that freaked the fuck out of their conservative parents but this is about the only time I had seen a double mohawk wearing punk rock motherfucker trade in his studded vest for some shit kickers. Wow…
At the end of the day fast, metallic riffs and meaningful lyrics don’t always get the job either.
Much of behavior as a younger punk was hedonistic and shallow and I lived to throw back beers and be a general nuisance to society and my liver. Although I pondered the lyrics and started to form political opinions of my own, I didn’t really put them into action. Most of that I blame on my surroundings and running with the crowd, too reluctant or afraid to really act, but some of it was that I didn’t know how. I lived in a small mountain town, culturally we lacked many of the conveniences of the city (things have really changed in that town now and the counter culture is the mainstream) that would have made it easier to really embrace and move on. That’s more of an excuse and, again, the main reason I never acted on anything was probably not wanting to completely ostracize myself. I would have been pretty damn lonely. I mean there was a group of us that was pushed out from the greater punk circle because we listened to UK82, Peace Punk and were starting to get into crust (gasp!). The valley were we lived was certainly rooted in US Hardcore and more specifically SoCal punk and the lines were drawn. This split often led to fights and always manifested in bad attitudes and general dick headedness on both sides.
As I got older I found the strength to pursue my personal anarchy and make the changes in my life and lifestyle that I thought were important. Getting called “hippy” by old friends lost it’s sting a long time ago. Living in the city there were/are more like minded people to identify with certainly made things easier. I suppose that’s why a lot people move to the city, the culture. But not all were able to embrace the message of the music we grew up on and move towards more positive directions. Some just continued to spin their wheels in self-absorption while others took a turn for the worse.
Several years ago I was at small New Years Eve party with some very old friends. At one point in the night we were listening to the SUBHUMANS and my friend Suzie (names changed to protect the lame) exclaimed they were her favorite band. This came to me as a shock because Suzie was an American Consumer in worst definitions of the term. I had brought oranges with me on this trip, as citrus is very good for a hangover (I had also brought some “magic” tea that was very helpful as well…they were calling me a “hippy”) and her kids had asked me what they were. These kids were not familiar with fresh fruit! I kid you not! Another time I brought over fresh cherries from a local orchard and they asked what those were. If it was not processed and pre-packaged these kids really didn’t know what it was; so I was bewildered by the fact that SUBHUMANS could be her favorite band and how their message was so completely lost on her. So I called my host, out on this imbalance in the universe and asked her in some manner of saying “What gives?”. Our conversation did not fare well and from there and I think she got pissed and went to bed, it wasn’t even mid-night yet. I think by mid-night I was the only one hanging out still, my buddy had taken to smashing some furniture before calling it night and I was standing there alone with the ‘The Day the Country Died’.
I still hold on to some euphoric dream of living in symbiotic, punk rockin’ society or commune where we all pitch in while lending each other support and solidarity. When I bought my house I had come across this 4-plex that I thought would be so cool to have a few punk families living in, raising their children together, gardening and whatever else. It was under these huge power lines though and thought of imminent cancer and it didn’t sound as appealing and so I passed on that abode.
We don’t all have to live together to though to practice solidarity and build a sense of community. But, there is a difference between community and a “scene”. To me a “scene” is simply a bunch of bands that have at least a little something in common and frequent a lot of the same venues, while sharing at least the fringe of their respective fan-base… “The Underground Music Scene”, “the Punk Scene”, etc. This isn’t a community, it’s a scene, beyond music there is not much of a glue and it’s really pretty loosy goosey. The bands and people don’t necessarily stand for the same things and don’t push for a greater good. They don’t care if a club is notorious for ripping off bands…as long as they get drink tickets their little world is fine while any sense of community is lost.
A community works together and may share a common goal. Goods, services and ideas may be traded or swapped and the populace spends time together away from the bar or show. They support one another in the common goal of finding an alternative path through this commercialist, temporary, fast-food society. There is a general sense of caring and respect amongst those in the community, the community stands together in union against those whome they oppose or stand in the way of the communities’ pursuit for happiness and a better life.
I am sure many cities struggle with this but I have to say Denver always has. There are a lot of good people but there hasn’t always been a strong sense of community. With our Pyrate Punx crue we have set out to bring people together and are making an effort to right the ship. With planning and organized activities like bowling, football, picnics and other events it feels like we have started to make a difference. It’s funny though how some people are just too cool for that and even downright offended by people pulling together and enjoying each other’s time, sharing ideas and in general, just having fun! What gives?! People question the idea of Pyrate Punx but for me it was simple. People are more likely to unite under a flag and a commonality. Any collective or group finds a name that they hope represents them and rallies around it. I suppose we could have started something else but I was familiar with the Pyrate Punx and was impressed with some of the things I had seen in LA and Oakland as well as many other cities.
As this summer quickly approaches I am excited at the possibilities that await us and what we do this year to build a “community”. There are a few families and some small children running around and that makes it even more fun. I guess the kids might not be able to hang if we go do paintball or something but for the most part we have tried and will continue to make most of our events kid friendly, they are after all the next generation and need to have the exposure to and inclusion in the community. Especially if we expect them to carry the “black flag” after most of us croak or just get too old.
There will always be criticisms and people will always find something to complain about. With that at least we have something going and aren’t just sitting around getting drunk and complaining about bullshit for the sake of complaining. Will we help me realize my dreams of a utopian punk society? I don’t know if we’ll achieve any sort of utopic status but I know we can make a difference at least to our own lives if no one else’s while having a metric shit ton of fun.
End Note 1: My new band APEX just recorded our demo. It’s being mixed. Stoked.
End Note 2: The ENGLISH DOGS kicked my ass! What an amazing performance, that was so much fun!
End Note 3: Saw ROSKOPP the other nite for the first time in a few. They KILLED it! I think they are doing a mini tour in June to land themselves at that Metal/Grind fest happening in Portland. Look for them!
End Note 4: Actually I don’t care if you call me hippy. I don’t have any hair though.