This project is an on going, 10 year project that was started in 2017, to show how the subculture of the Punk Rock looks between the 40th year and 50th year anniversary of it’s start. These photos focus on the people who have made this subculture their life, ranging from teenagers to those who have been in the scene since it’s beginning in the late 1970s. These are their photos and their stories.
I moved to Lawrence, KS in the Fall of 1988. I attended KU, and lived in the dorms. I was in the Wichita punk scene in 1987, and had heard of the venue The Outhouse, in the cornfield, outside of town. The first show that I attended there, was Die Kreuzen, and then GWAR. I loved seeing bands at The Outhouse! I started working at KJHK, the college radio station, as a DJ and Concert Promotions Assistant, in 1989. I also worked Hospitality for SUA (Student Union Activities). This meant that I took the band’s lists of backstage requirements for shows, and made sure that they had everything. I worked at SUA for the Faith No More show, Day on the Hill, and my favorite show Soundgarden. I drove Chris Cornell across town in my brown Chevette, to sign autographs, at Streetside Records. There was also a stage in my backyard, 1223 Ohio, where local bands would play. They also played inside our house. We also had bands that were playing at the Outhouse, staying at our house. SNFU, the Chemical People (2x), Straw Dogs, Steve Albini & Flour. One night my housemates brought home Babes in Toyland. It was a scene. The best times and friends, Ever.
" I’m not sure." I replied. " I don’t feel right. Like something is off." She looked at me and shook her head. Pinched up her lip, cocked her brow and said something to the tune of "just relax. It’s cool." It's cool. Yeah. It's cool. Then. It hit me. Like a tons of fat kid stage divin’ ass, it hit me. "It’s too fuckin’ safe."
I was in Nashville 2014. Seeing some no name local punk rock show with a band I didn’t know but I had seen 1000 times in other cities and other times. I was far from my home punk scene of Lawrence Kansas. Even though the Outhouse was long gone and some of my favorite local bands were defunct I have a healthy respect for my scene because it will set your ass straight when it needs to.
Back in Nashville my date turns to me and says.. Are you gonna make it?"
"Yes" I said....."it’s just.. It’s just I don’t feel like I’m gonna get stabbed or nothing."
"Umm? Ok." Is all she said.
"It’s too safe. I don’t feel any energy in the room. Nobody is into it."
Punk Rock has become safe and I fuckin hate it. See I’m from a scene that was dangerous. Punk Rock to me will be and should be dangerous. To me, to you and to the sleeping giants of society that wont see the revolution coming. Punk Rock should feel like you might get stabbed in the bathroom. It means you might have to boot party a Nazi to round out the night. It means vomit in your car and sticky shit on your boots. It was visceral and greasy. There was not a god damned thing safe about it. Except your friends. Even some of those rat bastards would steal your mom's credit card and bang your sister. Back in the day my scene was known for bands that were notorious for doing unspeakable things to farm animals on stage. Hell one front man used to cram marshmallows up his butt. Bands like Kill Whitey, Cocknoose, Filthy Jim, Mopar Funeral, The Unknown Stuntman, bands that were in your face and dangerous. God forbid that one night would go by without some dip shit getting his head kicked in for whatever we could think of at the moment. It was awesome. I remember tripping at shows and having a religious experience in a corn field while D.I. or Toxic Reasons blared as the twisted soundtrack. It was an angry teen's Valhalla. There was sheer bliss and Anarchy and unabashed freedom.
Then, you had to prove it. When rednecks and cops came calling you stood and fought them. When you caught the jocks and bullies from school in your environment you taught them a lesson. Frat boys be damned.
But now it’s safe. Punk Rock should never be safe. Punks were meant to destroy. Now teachers and moms have blue hair and its kitschy. People with corporate jobs have tattoos and piercings and no one bats an eye. Somewhere there are real punks left. Street level. In a part of town your blue haired mom won’t go to. Somewhere there are loud guitars and blood and beer on the floor. There is a kid writhing on a makeshift stage screaming shitty poetry over feedback and dull drums. There are scars and drugs and fear. If you listen to corporate "punk" have blue hair and Hot Topic jewelry and have never been punched in the mouth by a skinhead or better yet punched one yourself you are not a punk. You are bullshit. Live a little. Start your revolution. Tear it all down. Safety is for the weak. If there isn’t blood on you or the band it was a shitty show. Pick up a guitar. Scream to the world. Safety is for complacent pigs. Stand up for your freedom. Wanna be a punk? Bleed for it. Show me the scars. Freedom isn’t free.