Or was it ever alive?
By Justin Hill
â€œHey, punkâ€™s dead!â€ the kid yelled out the window of his lifted Jeep at me as I walked down Elizabeth Street in my patched denim jacket.
I never understood that phrase. I donâ€™t consider myself a punk and I still receive these kinds of pointless jeers every once in a while. It makes no sense.
I wanted to try to come up with a response for the next time someone has the stones to say this to my face. My response stems from something I read on Tumblr once.
Punk isnâ€™t Mohawks, or leather, or tattoos and piercings, or spikes and colored hair. Itâ€™s not even really music. Punk is an ideology that says, â€œI donâ€™t need to be like that just because everyone else wants to be like that.â€ Punk is individual expression and a rebellion against conforming to the mainstream status quo.
â€œI like punk because itâ€™s different,â€ Cammie Hays, a friend of mine said. â€œItâ€™s not something everyone listens to or knows about, and I like that itâ€™s unique like that.â€
Now, punk canâ€™t be dead because that would imply that it was once alive. Original punk was never the cool thing to do. It was never broadcast en masse on the radio and mainstream outlets certainly never encouraged it.
Sadly, over the years punk has been bought, packaged and then mainstreamed by the radio and advertising companies. It has been turned into just another clique, another fashion statement; an outlet for kids to rebel just for the sake of rebelling.
â€œI have to say I like some mainstream bands, like Green Day, but I donâ€™t think of it as real punk,â€ Hays said. You can definitely tell its similar music but itâ€™s been changed and sold as an image to make money.â€
Bands like Green Day and Sum41, while perfectly respectable bands, wrongfully advertise themselves as â€œpunk rockâ€ when in reality they are a part of the corporate music system that real punk claims to be so much against.
This is because the punks claim that record companies pressure artists to be the next big thing and stifle creativity. They are somewhat correct according to some of the stories I have heard while speaking with signed artists.
Typically the constituency that this mainstreamed punk generates are the kids who call themselves punk but they are just angry kids wanting to lash out for the sake of not conforming.
â€œMost labels don’t try to change a band’s music off the bat. Record labels do a lot of picking and choosing of music – so a band that plays pop will be more likely to get signed than a ska band because it’s marketable – and that’s okay, they’re trying to make a profit,â€ said Sara LeFevre, guitarist of a local band, Ska Skank Redemption. â€œThe labels I have a huge problem with are the ones that cheat bands into contracts that will put them in debt the rest of their lives.â€
It is absolutely true that the scene of original punk followers has diminished since it was more popular. You just donâ€™t see very many of them anymore, not here anyways. Where I come from in New York they are much more common.
Itâ€™s really unfortunate to me that there is so little of this scene in this area. Iâ€™ve seen a few bands like The Potato Pirates, whom I like very much, but really there isnâ€™t a huge swell of that scene here like in cities Iâ€™ve been to.
To say punk is dead is really sad to me. Not only because I think itâ€™s great music, but because of the ideology it represents. If you think punk is dead what you are really saying is that ideology is dead. This heroic individualism is gone. But, thatâ€™s not true.
Punk is underground, exactly where itâ€™s always been and will always be. Itâ€™s right where it belongs â€“ under your nose waiting for you to find it when youâ€™re ready.