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By Andrew Daly
What does Punk Rock mean to me?
I’ve been in a punk sort of mode lately. You know how it is. Sometimes we as music fans just fall into certain grooves. Right now, for me – it’s punk. It’s only fitting, as we’ve just passed the one-year anniversary of Punk Rock legend and bassist for the Germs, Lorna Doom’s death. My best friend Joe and I hit up a record show this past weekend, and I ended up walking out of there with several seminal titles that have been frequenting my want list for far too long. I can now say that I am the proud owner of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables by the Dead Kennedys, Singles Going Steady by The Buzzcocks, Young, Loud and Snotty by the Dead Boys, and lastly Guitar Romantic by The Exploding Hearts. With that, I knew the universe had spoken, and I knew what I had to do.
I didn’t grow up a Punk Rock fan; quite the contrary. But, as I’ve moved through life, Punk has seemed to follow me. I’ve always been a sort of against-the-grain kind of guy. Not in a bad way, but for one reason or another, I always seem to be the one that’s just on the outskirts of the proverbial circle. When you’re a kid, the way you style yourself will sort of assign you to your group. My problem was, that the way I styled myself did not coincide with how felt, or what I liked. I was something of an enigma, so needless to say – I had a rough time growing up. I had no group. From a young age, I was attracted to the rebels, renegades, and anti-heroes. I loved the shake, rattle, and roll of Elvis Presley. I was fascinated with the idea of Outlaw Country perpetuated by Johnny Cash. Most importantly, I loved the way they seemed to piss people off. At the time, it made sense to me. They had a certain unmistakable mystic and charisma about them that I wished I had. As I’ve grown older, I have learned to understand and embrace my perceived flaws, and even sometimes, use them to my advantage. We are who we are, and the only choice we have is to accept it or let it bury us. Right? Right.
In my early 20s, I started going to Punk Rock shows with my lifelong friends Brian and Joe. It became a sort of bond between the three of us. For a few beer-drenched hours, we could forget the stress of everyday life and just envelope ourselves in the music. We saw dozens of bands from the Jawbreaker reunion in Chicago to Against Me! in Brooklyn. Over the years, I’ve developed a bad back and early-stage tinnitus in my right ear, but I have absolutely no regrets. Some of the most memorable moments of my life were spent with Joe and Brian at various sweat-soaked venues, buzzed off PBR. I look back on countless late evenings where we would drunkenly listen to Brian tell us why The Smiths and Joy Division “changed his life” in his early 20s for the 100th time. Those are nights I would never trade for anything. In many ways, Punk Rock was the very real and literal glue that bonded us together as friends. As we entered our 30s, the ideals of what Punk Rock is based upon may have, in some ways, defined us as people.
A lot of people feel Punk Rock is dressing or acting a certain way. Some feel that if you don’t wear leather, chains, and eyeliner, you’re a “poser.” I disagree. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned one simple fact– there is no such thing as a “poser.” That is to say that you can be whoever you want to be, and like whatever you want to like, however, you like– on your own terms, and that is what it means to be Punk Rock. From its earliest days, Punk was always about rebelling against the excess of the mainstream. It was about keeping it simple while embracing the sub and counter cultures. It was about giving a voice to the voiceless. Most importantly, at its core, Punk Rock was and still is about acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and acceptance of those around you. It’s about community. Sound familiar? I’ve come to find that maybe, just maybe, Punk Rock is the most important genre of music to me, period. It’s ingrained in me as a person. The ideals of the early DIY Punk scene are ones that I hold close to my heart. Without knowing it, Punk Rock defined me in more ways than I can count.
So, what does Punk Rock mean to me?
No matter where I have gone in my life, Punk Rock has followed me in one way or another. I’ve always been content to walk to the beat of my own drum. I’ve grown very comfortable living just on the fringes of the masses. The message of Punk music over time has opened me up to the idea of free thought, and to question a mainstream that may not have our best interests at heart. Punk music has taught me that we do not always have to accept what is happening to us as our fate. That perhaps the sub and counter-culture is where the real heart is, and if we open our minds just a little, then for maybe one simple moment, we too can get lost in the “mosh” and forget the mundane stress of everyday life.
The very ideals of Punk music, and the foundation upon which it was built, can serve as a foundation for us in our everyday lives. Punk teaches us one simple lesson: get lost in the music, get lost in the mosh, but never get lost in this world.
Does it get any more punk than that?