By Dr. Sebastian Von Gekruldhaar
As I lay in bed, head on pillow and staring at the ceiling, in between my high-pitched humming ears circles a quote I just can't shake. It was from an American musician named Kurt Cobain, who unfortunately passed away at age 27. His reply to an interviewer of "what is punk?", he simply stated "punk is musical freedom. It's saying, doing and playing what you want." I've wrestled with that idea for a while tonight, in relation to how the punk music I recently experienced fell into that broad definition Mr. Cobain quipped for us.
So tonight, November 7th, 2021, I went to a punk show to investigate on the behest of a close friend.
My first unusual observation was the sight of shaved heads. I know this aesthetic has been heralded for decades within the punk community, regardless of country, but I can't help but wonder if this is by choice or by some coincidental, genetic grouping. Perhaps some do it to show off their fancy tattoos, emblazoned millimeters away from their cerebellum, the section of brain that regulates balance and posture. I hope this won't hinder their balance and freedom of movement. I think that would be very "unpunk".
"Barkeep!" I shouted to the bearded and pierced alcohol server behind the old oak. "One glass of your finest rosé, my good man!" I didn't understand what his initial facial response meant, but at least his follow up was more forgiving. A sale is a sale, n'est pas?
Post-sale, I felt it was necessary to wander the crowd and assess the environment and patrons.
The ratio of men to women was about ten to one. Lots and lots of men! Is punk rock music inherently more masculine and as such, deters female involvement? I was certain it be more obvious once the band performed. These fans of punk, these outsiders and non-conformers, absolutely had their own sense of style. It signals to others that they are their own group and refuse to fall into society's norms. In fact, they have their own norms and aesthetic which inexplicably makes this a unique sociological study. Shaved heads, tattoos, bomber jackets and fresh polo shirts. A significant number preferred the top button of their polo buttoned, which personally, I would find uncomfortable, but not these gents. These male patrons gave off a hard-knock, ruffian disposition, which gave me pause while closely viewing their dungarees. The like of which, I have not seen since my elementary school years, when denim hand-me-downs needed to be rolled up as a necessary tripping avoidance.
I kept a steady pace meandering through the crowd with a stiff grip on my drink and leather-bound notebook. As the band was entering the stage, The Reckless Upstarts, members of the crowd took notice and shifted to the front with their lagers in hand. A couple of these men had their arms around each other's necks which signaled a close bond, a brotherhood even. But to enter a public house each covered in the same aesthetics, this concert must have acted as a ritual of sorts.
The band begins. The song stops after about two minutes. Then again. And again. And again. It's so gosh darn loud and between ruptures of applause and hollers, all of these songs begin to sound the same. But the crowd, and especially this brotherhood of patrons, are overwhelmingly ecstatic.
By the eighth song, the singer announces "Okay, fuckers, I think you all know this one." And like a rocket, the drummer pummels our collective eardrums with a boom-cha-boom-cha-boom-cha-boom-cha. The men are riled up even more than before. Shouts of "Oi! Oi! Oi!" cast across the bar's ceiling over a couple dozen raised pints. I guess these patrons really did know this one and it clearly wasn't lost on the back-of-the-head tattooed fan flailing around, completely void of self-awareness and his body's rolling around and off of the fans standing close to the stage. A leather coat-clad pregnant woman with black-rimmed glasses paid no mind either. She was indeed (I'm told this is what these people do), "moshing" in "the pit", during which she entered my personal space, causing half of my rosé to spill upon my leathered notebook. I really should have found a table. The song ends with a raucous applause and patrons edging themselves onto the stage to the indifferent reactions of the musicians.
From what I could tell, the music is definitely powerful. So powerful, and loud, and moving, that it is able to unite these ruffians, these outcasts. A brotherhood of outsiders. Lyrically, what I could make out through the noise mirrored just that, along with standing with the proletariat, contempt for corporations and Nazis, while paying homage to the struggling working-class parents to whom these musicians came from. Topics of which are all understandable coming from a working-class town, and to hear it reflect it in music is a bonafide proper, artistic representation within the geographical area and our local zeitgeist... But does it have to be so darn loud?
Dr. Sebastian Von Gekruldhaar