Welcome to the inaugural post of “Punk on the Rocks,” a new weekly column focusing on all things punk. But what is punk? Some people say the genre started in New York with the Ramones creating a stripped down, raw antithesis of bloated 70s rock radio. Others insist it started in the UK with the Sex Pistols gobbing at the audience, embodying the discontent of the British youth. Both are right. Punk music developed almost simultaneously in the US and the UK and spread quickly. While the different scenes boasted varying styles, both music-wise and fashion-wise, the common thread was the frustration with the status quo felt by musicians and fans. Punk is as much an attitude as a genre of music. You might have the power chords and the “woah-ohs,” but if you don’t have the heart, then it’s not punk. Punk is not about making it big, it’s about making yourself heard. Punk is stating your opinion, whether the subject is your girlfriend or the President. Punk is about not caring what other people think.
Punk music can be as hard to describe as the ideology behind it. There are punk bands like the Dead Kennedys with distorted guitars and political agendas and there are punk bands like Atom & His Package with songs about the metric system written and performed on electronic music sequencers. There are punk bands with bagpipes, violins and standup basses. There is New York Punk, UK punk, California punk, political punk, pop-punk, hardcore, emo, ska-punk, punkabilly riot grrrl, dance punk, skate punk, acoustic punk and latin punk. This column will include all of these things and more.
To kick off this column, lets start at the beginning. Contrary to what some people would have you believe, punk is not dead. In addition to the continued success of 90s punk revival bands like Green Day and NOFX and punk festivals like the Vans Warped Tour, many of punk’s founding bands are still together and touring like it’s 1977. Here is a sampling of the groups currently on tour along with my picks for OurStage bands who would best rock each tour’s opening slot:
Blondie – Although they’re best known for their international disco hit “Heart of Glass,” Blondie cut their teeth in the late 70s New York punk scene. This summer, the band teamed up with Pat “Love Is A Battlefield” Benetar and The Donnas for the Call Me Invincible tour. This celebration of three decades of hard rocking ladies will be crisscrossing the US through the beginning of September.
OS fantasy opener: Debbie is representing the 70’s, Pat’s the queen of the 80s and The Donnas have the late 90s so who should rock the aughties? My vote goes to Tip The Van. Fronted by sisters Simone and Nicole Oliva, this CT ska/punk/pop outfit knows how to put on a show.
The Dickies – One of California’s first punk bands, The Dickies are still alive and kicking, playing dates on this summer’s Warped Tour along with fellow Cali punk legends Bad Religion. The band will be swinging through Europe in August 2009.
OS fantasy opener: The Dickies are know for their campy, humorous lyrics and fun covers of non-punk songs, like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence,” The Moody Blues “Nights In White Satin” and the Christmas classic “Silent Night.” Ontario’s The Stiff Wires are in on the joke with lyrics like “There’s a party in my brain/And you’re not invited,” and a tongue in cheek anti-war tirade titled “Take Me Away To Afghanistan.”
The Specials – Two Tone Records ska pioneers The Specials have spent 2009 on a European reunion tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of band’s 1979 self-titled debut record. While the absence of Two Tone Records founder and The Specials main songwriter Jerry Dammers from the tour has caused some controversy, it has mostly been eclipsed by the fan’s excitement to hear “Gangsters” and “A Message To You Rudy” live.
OS fantasy opener: MTV Tr3s VMA Best Breakout LA nominees South Central Skankers would be a perfect complement to The Specials’ raucous blend of Jamaican rhythms and punk attitude. South Central Skankers’ frantic ska/punk/latin/metal music embodies the Two Tone message of unity, encouraging people of all ages, races and primary languages to get together and skank.
Check out the OS fantasy openers in the playlist below!
Which 70s punk band do you wish you could see live? Who are your favourite OurStage Punks? Comment away!