Sep 25, 2013

Gritty in Pink

Dear Ask A Punk
I like punk rock music. I listen to it all the time and I enjoy seeing shows when I can but we don't have a lot of all-ages shows here. The problem is that I don't 'look' punk enough I guess. When I go to shows the girls in their ripped fishnets and leather and stuff sort of sneer at me like I'm a poser, but I know as much, or probably more about it all than they do. I just don't look cool enough for them I guess. I never comment on what they're wearing. I can't help it if I just like nicer clothes, and I don't mean expensive clothes or anything. I'm not rich. In fact it is the opposite. I don't have the money to spend or waste on clothes that I can only wear to shows and not also wear to school or a job or out in the world. What should someone like me do? - Too Posh Punk

Dear TPP
The quick, easy and correct answer is: Ignore them all. Ignore 'em with a vengeance. Putting on clothes you don't really "feel" just to please or fit in with these anonymous girls would be the poser move, so screw that. 

I've said before that one of the most punk rock people I ever knew wore chinos, penny-loafers and an oxford shirt to every show, yet no one doubted his punk rock bonafides. It was always clear that he was sincere about his passionate love of the music, and that was all that mattered. That should be all that matters to everyone, but we know that just isn't the case. As soon as Punk Rock became "a thing" as much as we all might have tried to fight it, certain "standard" modes of dress and haircare crept in. This is normal for pretty much any human society or sub-group. Sooner or later an identifiable uniform is generally agreed upon and then our most tragic human tendency kicks in: The tendency to divide everyone into either "us" or "them." 

I don't even feel the need to make this one of my usual long-winded answers. You're right to stick to your guns, live your life and only hang the clothes that you want in your closet and on your body. Always. 

Good luck.

Sep 18, 2013

The Song Remains Mundane

Dear Ask A Punk -
Oh my god. I have to stop going out to clubs because every band, and I mean every band, seems to sound the same these days. It is unbelievable. I am sick of everything being so predictable and it makes me want to scream. Don't tell me to form my own band. I'm not saying these bands are necessarily BAD and that I could do better, I'm saying that they're all the same. You always tell people to make their own music, but some of don't want to make it, we want to enjoy listening to it. We want to find a band or a couple of bands we really like so that we can listen to THEIR music and enjoy seeing them play. I know you always say that punk rock made it so anyone can be a musican. I get that, but that doesn't mean that everyone HAS to be a musician. Almost everyone in the world likes listening to some kind of music, but most people have no interest in spending their time learning how to make music. So What is a potential music fan to do? - In the Mosh Pit 

Dear ITMP -
OK, you're right, not everyone needs to, or wants to, be their own source of music. As for why every band in your town seems to be "the same," here are a couple of possible reasons.

An entrenched scene.
If there are established clubs for punk rock and alt music, even those places can become pretty rigid in their booking polices etc. because, like it or not, club owners, even if they do love the music, are really most concerned with packing their club with paying fans (and beer drinkers.) They tend then, to go with what they know will work. The bands then, either consciously or unconsciously, start conforming with the established "sound" because they know that is the best way to book gigs. 

Low Tide.
Even in the best music towns, sometimes a fallow period occurs between waves of interest. A few bands catch everyone's attention and interest, they get bigger and leave, or they implode, or any of a million other possibilities, and then, for a while, there is no new interesting band to take their place, but the venues still have bills to fill, and so bands that arent' all that interesting, or unique rush in to fill the void. No town or scene can expect to always be "amazing" and groundbreaking, sometimes the tide just goes out on the talent pool... but the good news is that, eventually, the tide always manages to come back in sooner or later.

In the meantime, while you're waiting - sure, maybe you can take a break from clubbing. Save your money and maybe try expanding your listening into new areas you've never considered before. On that score you've got no excuses... it has never been easier to find "something new" to listen to. Search randomly on Spotify or Pandora or Soundcloud. Explore the 'radio' button on iTunes - I have found some amazing stations there, like one that only plays music by unsigned bands in Norway... I mean come on, how cool is that? Listen to classic ragas from India (or punk rock from India) or awesome tapes from Africa. Put new sounds and beats in your head. 

You'll save money and you'll increase your understanding and enjoyment of music while you keep an eye on your local scene - waiting for that next awesome band to come along. 

Sep 11, 2013

My hometown was so small....

This week's reader question actually started out as a comment. Just when I was thinking of deactivating the entire "comments" set  up (because 90+% of the comments that we get here at AAP are either from pornbots, scammers or trolls) someone lobs in a legit point of view and a question. I decided then to bump it up to be an official 'question of the week.' Here it is. Obviously, I have added the "Dear AAP" part just for the sake of form.

Dear AAP -
I don't know where you live or used to live, but I have to call some bullshit on your answer from a few weeks ago. In theory anyone can and should be able to start their own scene in their own town, but if you're from a really small place it can be 100x harder to do. My friends and I live pretty much in the middle of nowhere in a town so small that it barely counts as a town. There is NOWHERE to go to do anything. No coffeeshops. No youth centers. No empty warehouses. There are bars, but none of us is "of age" and those bars are full of the shitkickers and jocks who all hate us anyway. Everyone knows everyone by name here. We are bussed to another town after elementary school because we don't even have our own high school and then, as soon as high school is done, most people LEAVE, unless their family owns land or a farm or something. I don't think you realize how bleak some places are. We would like to do it ourselves but there is nowhere to do it and no one to come and watch you do it either. Really there is nothing. The best we can do is listen to punk rock while we play videogames or skateboard, drink some beer and rarely find some weed, while we count down the years and days until we can get out of here. Clearly you don't get it. What would you tell someone in a town like this? [note: at this point the writer sent me the link to a google map of his/her town. I will admit it was pretty damn bleak.]

Dear Commentator
You make a valid point. After seeing where you're living (Google streetview never ceases to amaze me) I have a good idea of what you're up against. You are in the "middle of nowhere" in a lot of respects, and yeah, you don't have a lot of the options or infrastructure that most scene DIYers in other places are able to find and take advantage of. 

But you're not completely right. 

You said you and your friends have nothing with which to create a scene. Guess what? You and your friends are already "the scene" and you don't even know it. When I was a teen in a small town, I didn't HAVE punk rock friends. I had friends, but back then, even my good friends didn't quite "get" what I heard and felt in the music... but you have each other. Answer me this: Why aren't you and your friends already a BAND? You might not have a cool club to play, but you also don't have a lot of snobby scenesters deciding how good your band is (or would be) or how really 'punk rock' you are or are not. You, yes YOU, really get to define what punk rock means for yourselves.

You have $$ for skateboards, videogames, weed and beer, and the luxury of time to sit around and be bored / complain... so why not devote some of that money, time and energy to creating your own music? Buy some cheap instruments, hunker down in someone's basement or bedroom and start making some music of your own? - Learning the basics of "how to play" for our purposes anyway, only takes a few months. You can find free drum, bass and guitar lessons online, and then you're off to the races. You might not have an audience to play for (yet) but your splendid isolation means you do have something else: a distraction-free incubator.  ...and if you run into "creative differences" within the group you could all agree form more than one band together. I'm not kidding. Even if there are only three of you, you could make three different bands - each person could be the 'leader' of each one and write the songs for it. They could all be stylistically different from each other. Who knows? How funny would it be to stage your own "Battle of the Bands" and have every band be made up of the same people, but playing different songs/instruments etc?

Put together some songs, record them in your bedroom, put a website together for yourselves and then put your songs (and videos?) online. By the time you're old enough to drive, just maybe you'll have connected with SOMEone, within a few 100 miles who might want to put together a gig with your band(s.)

That is how it is done. Think about and work with what you DO have instead of focusing on what you don't have. From what I saw on Google, you could create some very dramatic visuals using just the cameras on your phones... maybe try doing that and then creating the kind of music that compliments the visuals, or visa versa... I'm trying to tell you that there is no wrong way to do this, do do it all, and I can almost promise you this: When you do graduate and move on to some bigger metropolis, or a college town, a part of you will miss the purity of sitting with your friends, making only the music you love, and dreaming about what's to come. 

Get going. 

Sep 4, 2013

Sonic-wanting Youth

Dear Ask A Punk -
I like music and I really like punk rock music. I would like to be in a band someday. What instrument should I play? - ADA

Dear ADA
Hello. Thank you for asking your question. I am glad that you like punk rock music very much. That makes me smile. 

It is fun to pick out what instrument you want to play. Most people sort of know what instrument they want to play even if they are not sure why, but many people are probably wondering which one to choose just like you are.

Since I do not know you, I can not just TELL you what instrument to choose, so I am going to ask you some questions that might help you decide, depending on what your anwers are.

  • Have you ever watched a real band play? If yes, do you remember paying more attention to one of the musicians than all of the others? If yes, then whatever that person was playing might be the instrument for you.
  • Do you like to snap your fingers to the beat and listen quietly to a song? If yes, you might want to play BASS GUITAR.
  • Do you mostly just want to look cool, make loud sounds and have everyone look at you? You might want to play REGULAR GUITAR.
  • Have you ever gotten in trouble for breaking things or running around the house like a maniac? If yes, then you might want to play DRUMS.
  • When you hum along to the music does it make you want to write your own songs with lots of other instruments playing along? If yes, then you might want to play PIANO.

I hope those help, but if you still can't really decide decide then the best guess is to start with the piano. This is because, if you really understand the piano then it will be way easier to learn to play all those other instruments later.

And maybe that is an even better idea: Learn to play them all !!