brought to you by Noding Your Homework. Circa September 11, 2002.
First of all, I am not, never was, and probably never will be what you would call a “punk rocker.” I sometimes enjoy “hardcore” or “emo” music, but that’s really the extent of it. No shows I had ever been to had been real punk shows, just high school bands and mainstream (I.e. signed to a major record label) bands like Dashboard Confessional or Thursday. The closest people that came to being “punk” at my high school were really scared of me, and the feeling was mutual because I’m kind of intimidated of anyone who as an earring gauge so large that you could stick a pencil through it.
So when I showed up at a house party last week, I was kind of scared that I would get weird stares or maybe even get ostracized. First mistake: bringing my bag with the Led Zeppelin patch on it. I thought that most punk kids were really selective about the kind of music they listened to, and that I would get punched in the face or something for listening to classic rock. Second mistake: my new short hair! They would probably think I was a poser. A girl I knew in high school has already been looking at me in disgust about it, why wouldn’t these people? I was truly already scared of a lot of “scene kids” (as they’re called) because my experience with them had been that they are very selective and elitist. I soon found out that this wasn’t the truth. Not in Greensboro, at least.
Well, the actual first reaction was pretty bland…a few dorky guys standing around smoking cigarettes. Me and my friend had come too early. So, we went to Wal-Mart, bought the band food, and came back. So…the second time I strolled down Cornwallis street, the view was sort of how I expected: tattooed and pierced people hanging outside smoking cigarettes. In fact, it was exactly how I expected. I did get a few stares, but I think that might have been because I was relatively younger than some of the people there. I opened the door, which was covered with egg crate mattresses, to muffle the sound I suppose, and saw that the first band had already started. I moved toward the back and sat on a table. This house party was literally in some guy’s basement. It was tight and hot, and the only lighting was red Christmas lights up front near the band. The music was horribly loud, and I immediately put my earplugs in.
A Face in the Crowd
It really hit me how much everyone looked similar. Not twins or anything, but everyone was dressed the same, tight vintage t-shirts for the boys, and skateboarding shirts for the girls. Everyone wore either Chuck Taylors, Pumas, or some variation of them, and girl pants. Yes, even the guys were wearing girl pants. The girls mostly had short pixie-cut or tied back hair, and the boys all had shaggy, messy hair.
Surprisingly, the only person who did stand out to me was the only one who looked “punk.” I mean Johnny Rotten, Joey Ramone looking punk. She was a girl. With a shaved head and combat boots. And she was right in front of me. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised, and somewhat frightened. She had her septum (the spot where your nostrils meet) pierced and a jacket with patches all over it. She was the only person there who I really thought of as the conventional “punk”. Everyone else just looked like someone from my mom’s high school yearbook. It totally altered my perception of what a “punk” was supposed to look like. This girl turned out to be quite nice, and even lent my friend some superglue when her fan broke. Why she had superglue at a punk rock show, I do not know. She didn’t smash me in the head, but to me, she would be the least likely to do so. She was the least arrogant person there. Everyone else seemed to be more concerned with how they appeared to everyone else than just feeling the music. Not to criticize them, but I’m just not a big fan of any sort of “scene”, IE a place where people need to feel that they “fit in.”
Besides how everyone was dressed, the second thing I noticed was the dancing. Some people were bobbing their heads, very safely. Yet others were thrashing about like some wild animal who had gotten their limbs cut off, and the nerves were still making them twitch around. I had honestly never seen anything like it in my life. I expected some sort of sweaty testosterone-filled mosh pit, but all I got was skinny kids flailing. Meanwhile, I looked even stupider than them, dancing like some lost 60 year old man at the prom. Do the mashed potato? Not here. I wondered if they really thought they looked cool doing what they were, but I decided to each his own.
Listen to the music
I had always expected “punk rock” to be loud and thrashing, with no real lyric or melody. Well, the first part was true, but I was definitely wrong about the latter. I surprisingly liked what I heard most of the time, it was melodic and meaningful. Besides the one band who’s singer was drowned out by the music, I liked the words. Usually, I shun “modern” music because I often feel that no one writes anything meaningful or enjoyable anymore, but I found that with this music, I did. I just had no idea that it could be ear-piercing and significant at the same time! Surprisingly at this show, there was no what I like to call “screamo.” None of the bands screamed about their emotional problems, which was a big misconception that I have about punk music. I had always expected any band like that I saw to be screaming some kind of gut-wrenching wail of pain, but this was just not true, and my ears and I appreciated that.
When the show was over, I finally got to talk to some people about what they thought about the bands, the setting, etc. I talked to the “punk” girl I mentioned earlier. She said that she “liked the bands a lot, but wishes there weren’t so many scene kids.” Excuse me? “A scene kid,” she elaborated for me, “is all those kids you see here.” she said, pointing all the kids with the chuck taylors and girl pants I had saw earlier. “They come to these shows, dress practically the same, and try so hard to fit in, and they are killing what true punk music is about.”
“And what is that?” I asked.
“Individuality, expression, and not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks about you!”
I thanked her and started walking away, realizing that I had a big misconception about a scene that didn’t really quite exist anymore, maybe just in people’s hearts. I had a lot of fun being able to be at a show for school purposes, but in the process I realized that the true meaning of punk has been erased from most people’s minds, and now it’s just another gang, another clique that people try to fit into. And it’s not just them, it just seems that’s the way people have to socially interact these days. Everyone is too concerned with how punk everyone else thinks they are to actually be “punk.”
If anything, that night on Cornwallis street taught me one thing: it’s okay not to be cool. It’s okay not to fit in. It’s okay to just be yourself.
January 18, 2004: Turns out I can mosh
better than any boy out there. People think I am "emo
" because I cut myself and cry a lot. Hrm. I admit, I go to a lot more shows now and listen to more modern music and I work at a radio station, etc. But if I had it my way, I'd be romping in the flower
s with a nice boy listening to the Dead