Rock in the Suburbs: Why Punk Moved Out of the City and Into the Cul-De-Sac

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With unaffordable Progressive Disneyland hell-hole cities like San Francisco’s predictable cost-of-living increases and perverse real estate inflation driving out all but the wealthy and well-connected, the bright lights don’t beckon young punks like they used to.

Shows like that are increasingly common in Santa Rosa, and it has a lot to do with the prohibitive cost-of-livingpunk-sneer in nearby San Francisco. “I had every intention of moving down to the city,” said Ian O’Connor, 23, who organized the gig.

[Read the full story here, at The Guardian]

“But when the time came, it was too expensive.” Instead, in the last three years, he has booked dozens of all-ages gigs in Santa Rosa, mostly at unofficial venues: detached garages, living rooms, lobbies of sympathetic businesses. The scene thrives on the participation of people like him, area natives in their early 20s who, not so many years ago, would’ve likely moved an hour south to Oakland or San Francisco.

O’Connor stressed that though Santa Rosa is relatively affordable, the local punk scene faces challenges that cities with established reputations lack. “If you’re in the big city, you can sort of just jump into the stream,” he explained. “If you’re in a small town, you have to get down on your hands and knees and dig a ditch so that the water can run.”

“I had every intention of moving down to the city. But when the time came, it was too expensive.”

— Ian O’Connor

One hallmark of punk’s inception in the Bay Area and throughout the Pacific northwest was the notion of cities as places of possibility, so hollowed out by eroding tax bases and selective civic neglect that they seemed “deserted and forgotten”, as music journalist Jon Savage wrote of his 1978 trip to report on San Francisco punk bands such as Crime and the Dead Kennedys. “It was there to be remapped.”

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But with the same cities stricken by intensifying affordability crises – premiums on space that make somewhere to live, let alone rehearse and perform, available to a dwindling few – they don’t beckon young punks like they used to. And though reports of music scenes’ deaths tend to overstate, news of shuttering venues (see eulogies for The Smell, The Know, and LoBot) deters some of the intrepid transplants needed for invigoration. Dissipating metropolitan allure, however, helps account for the strength of scenes in outlying towns.

“The people who before just came to the shows are now setting them up. It’s been pretty astounding in terms of genuine participation…We could move and struggle somewhere else, but I think there’s a lot of people who’d like to see Santa Rosa become something like Olympia.”

— Ben Wright

In Santa Rosa, Acrylics are at the center of things. The five-piece, which recently announced a forthcoming record on leading west coast punk label Iron Lung, boasts a lashing and cantankerous sound, with staccato new-punk-250turnarounds and nervy guitar leads. They share members with a constellation of groups, including tightly wound punk outfit Fussy; sturdy hardcore units Rut and Service; and the dynamic noise-rock band OVVN.

“People in Olympia don’t think moving to a bigger city would be daunting – just dumb. Why pay five times the rent?”

“The people who before just came to the shows are now setting them up,” said Ben Wright, 24, who recorded recent releases by most of the aforementioned groups and plays guitar in Acrylics. “It’s been pretty astounding in terms of genuine participation… We could move and struggle somewhere else, but I think there’s a lot of people who’d like to see Santa Rosa become something like Olympia.”

Scott Young, 28, grew up in the Pacific northwest and moved to Olympia, Washington, in 2006. Until recently, he played bass in Gag, a winkingly scabrous hardcore band that’s lately influenced the genre significantly. Corey Rose Evans, 23, moved to Olympia from the Bay Area in 2010 to attend Evergreen State College and eventually joined both Vexx, a raucous foursome composed of inventive, tactile instrumentalists and a mightily expressive singer; and G.L.O.S.S. (“Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit”), a blistering and bold hardcore outfit that foregrounds transgender issues and skewers reformist politics. The scene is decidedly autonomous, centered around small labels and self-organized gigs. Read the rest of this entry »


[CHART] Average Age of Death for Popular Musicians by Genre and Sex

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Poynter: This Week’s NYT Magazine Cover was Inspired by a Fugazi Flier

 paul-fugazi

Having been an active participant punk rock tabloid and street poster art era this cover refers to, I find this NYT treatment both rewarding, and overripe. Or at least overdue. That the Times engaged MTV VJ Kennedy a source (almost a media dinosaur, by the standards of would-be millennial readers) is telling. But we’re hardly in position to judge. Pundit Planet’s visual stylebook is directly inspired by the fast-and-dirty cheap xerography of that bygone era, when the ubiquitous internet was still on the horizon. It’s unnerving to see it given the archival museum treatment by NYT editors and art directors, but its not without its pleasures. Relevant, or nostalgic? We’ll let the readers decide.

From Poynter:

The former MTV VJ Kennedy is indirectly responsible for this week’s New York Times Magazine cover, which depicts U.S. Sen. Rand Paul as the star of a hardcore punk show.

Times Magazine Editor Jake Silverstein “really wanted us to do a cover that conveyed the energy and spirit of the libertarian movement,” art director Gail Bichler told Poynter in a phone call. Robert Draper quotes Kennedy at the beginning of his cover story: She compares Paul to Pearl Jam (and his father, Ron Paul, to Nirvana, and fellow Sen. Ted Cruz to Stone Temple Pilots). That got the art folks thinking: This piece needs a rock treatment

They decided to “use that rock reference and twist it a little bit,” Bichler said. “Since it was a story about Washington politics, we wanted to appropriate the language of D.C. hardcore.”
Read the rest of this entry »