I’m so fucking sick of discussions about “punk’s problem with women” that make reference to the Warped Tour and its “ShiraGirl stage.’’ I don’t give a fuck about the Warped Tour and I don’t really see what the fuck it has to do with punk rock in the first place.
The last DIY show I went to was five days ago in Madison. Two of the bands playing were Lipstick Homicide and Rational Anthem, both fronted by women. The last band I bought a shirt from was The Turkletons, a band in which lead vocals are traded off between the guitarists – one male and one female. The last set of records I bought from a distro were three 7-inches – by Boys, Pity Party, and Skinny Genes. Only one of those doesn’t prominently feature women and that’s only because it’s a solo effort by one guy. But that one guy’s active band is Science Police, of which two of the members are women.
The gender of the performers wasn’t even a thought (until this morning when I read another of these articles and asked myself if there was any validity to its criticisms). I don’t support any of those bands because they have women in them; I support them because they’re great punk bands. When I interviewed Rational Anthem for Razorcake, I asked singer/guitarist Noelle Stolp about gender and punk rock. She said and I quote: “To me – I don’t really fucking care. I don’t feel any different. I just know that I can shred better than some dudes and it kills their self-esteem as well as their boners.” Beautifully fucking articulated.
Punk rock is whatever the fuck we want it to be. If you don’t like the shows being booked at 924 Gilman or Charm City Art Space, become a member and book your own shows (one of the only rules to do so is “no sexism”). If you don’t like the coverage in zines like Maximumrocknroll or Razorcake, write your own articles, conduct your own interviews, and they’ll printthem! And if you feel like whatever group you identify with is underrepresented in punk, then start a band, put out records, and go out on tour.
Are there sexist attitudes in the punk scene? ABSOLUTELY! (Kind of like how there are sexist attitudes – oh, I don’t know – EVERYWHERE). Is that a bummer? Of course. But I think we do a way better job (in the punk scene) at being inclusive and open to people of all genders, races, ideologies, etc than 99% of the rest of this planet (and we’ll continue striving to be even better). Punk rock is important to me so I’m sorry if I’m getting defensive but I don’t appreciate all the shit you’ve been talking on this scene that I love and that so many of us (male and female) work so hard for.
Back in February, I was lucky enough to get to work on a painting and set up a print table at a couple shows some of my favorite bands were playing. On the second night, I asked my buddy Mike (who runs Dead Broke Rekerds) if I could scoop up some records in exchange for some artwork. He picked out a print and asked if I would draw something for a Dead Broke sticker. It took me a while ’cause I was stressing out, worrying about whether or not Mike would like whatever I came up with. As soon as I decided to drop the anxiety and just do what came naturally though, it was done in no time and I had this design. I’m really happy with it – in large part just because it’s so radically unlike the kind of art that a band or label would normally use for a sticker design.
But I’m getting carried away… the FIRST band to play at Transitions that aforementioned night in October 2006 was Down in the Dumps. They were the only band on the line-up I didn’t know anything about. And they were fucking awesome. It was everything punk rock’s supposed to be: grimy, coarse, fucked up but catchy and upbeat (sonically, if not in content). Mike played bass and sang. And as I’d later find out, he was also the guy responsible for Dead Broke Rekerds, whose catalog now boasts a whole slew of my favorite records.
After I moved to DC for law school and started my record label, Traffic Street, the first bands to come through Baltimore and stay at my place were Iron Chic and Jonesin’. Mike played bass and sang in Jonesin’ and – though he wasn’t at the time – is now the bassist in Iron Chic as well. Both bands mean a lot to me. One of Traffic Street’s final releases was Jonesin’s EP, “The Dream is Dead.” And – going back to the beginning – #001 in the Traffic Street catalog was a 7-inch compilation called “Dangerous Intersections,” which was not only my first vinyl release but also Iron Chic’s first appearance on vinyl (and only their second release overall, following their five-song demo).
Before Traffic Street collapsed under the weight of my mental health issues and heroin addiction, Mike and I were in regular contact, states away, trading our releases for our distros, talking music, making fun of each other, and – every so often – crossing paths again when I’d book a show for Iron Chic or he’d book one for Rational Anthem (who, coincidentally, shared the A-side of “Dangerous Intersections” with Iron Chic). When it all went wrong for me, he continued to stay in touch, checking up on me periodically, wishing me well, and even sending me a slew of records in the mail while I was in rehab. He’s continued being a source of support since I’ve been back in the real world too. He’s a great friend and a veritable fucking pillar of DIY punk rock. I’m honored to have my art featured on one of his label’s stickers.
AND REGARDING “punk rock today” and the claim made by the title of this piece… Allow me to present some audible evidence! Here are songs from the records Mike traded me that night back in February, as well as some recent stuff by other bands I’ve mentioned (and some by bands that spawned from their ashes).
“Babyboo” by Unfun
“Snow Angels” by Murmurs
“Wolf Dix Rd.” by Iron Chic
“I Wish I Could Be Happy” by Rational Anthem
“Not Cool” by The Slow Death
“Old Man Yells at Cloud” by Skinny Genes
“This Future Sucks” by The Brokedowns
“Hey Caroline” by Dear Landlord
“Look” by Science Police
“How the Day Runs Down” by Dead Mechanical
“Start Walking” by Off With Their Heads
“Hold Fast” by Banner Pilot
And even though they’re not technically “punk rock today“…
“‘Lone” by Jonesin’
“City of the Living Dead” by Down in the Dumps
Oh! AND… I think I like the black-and-white version better but since I can’t resist coloring anything and everything, here’s what the finished, physical drawing looks like (though the stickers will still be black-and-white).