Am I a Punk or a Poseur?

What does Punk Rock mean to me?

I’ve been in a punk sort of mode lately. You know how it is. Sometimes we as music fans just fall into certain grooves. Right now, for me – it’s punk. It’s only fitting, as we’ve just passed the one-year anniversary of punk rock legend and bassist for the Germs, Lorna Doom’s death. My best friend Joe and I hit up a record show this past weekend, and I ended up walking out of there with several seminal titles that have been frequenting my want list for far too long. I can now say that I am the proud owner of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables by the Dead Kennedys, Singles Going Steady by The Buzzcocks, Young, Loud and Snotty by the Dead Boys, and lastly Guitar Romantic by The Exploding Hearts. With that, I knew the universe had spoken, and I knew what I had to do.

I didn’t grow up a punk rock fan; quite the contrary. But, as I’ve moved through life, punk has seemed to follow me. I’ve always been a sort of against-the-grain kind of guy. Not in a bad way, but for one reason or another, I always seem to be the one that’s just on the outskirts of the proverbial circle. When you’re a kid, the way you style yourself will sort of assign you to your group. My problem was, the way I styled myself did not coincide with how felt, or what I liked. I was something of an enigma, so needless to say – I had a rough time growing up. I had no group. From a young age I was attracted to the rebels, renegades and antiheros. I loved the shake, rattle and roll of Elvis Presley. I fascinated with the idea of outlaw country perpetuated by Johnny Cash. Most importantly, I loved the way they seemed to piss people off. At the time, it made sense to me. They had a certain unmistakable mystic and charisma about them that I wished I had. As I’ve grown older, I have learned to understand and embrace my perceived flaws, and even sometimes, use them to my advantage. We are who we are, and the only choice we have is to accept it, or let it bury us. Right? Right.

In my early 20’s I started going to punk rock shows with my life-long friends Brian and Joe. It became a sort of bond between the three of us. For a few beer-soaked hours, we could forget the stress of everyday life and just envelope ourselves in the music. We saw dozens of bands from the Jawbreaker reunion in Chicago to Against Me in Brooklyn. Over the years, I’ve developed a bad back and early-stage tinnitus in my right ear, but I have absolutely no regrets. Some of the most memorable moments of my life were spent with Joe and Brian at various sweat-soaked venues, buzzed off PBR. I look back on countless late evenings where my ex-wife drove an hour into NYC to pick us up, and we drunkenly would listen to Brian tell us why The Smiths and Joy Division “changed his life” in his early 20’s for the 100th time, while she patiently drove us home. Those are nights I would never trade for anything. In many ways, punk rock was the very real and literal glue that bonded us together as friends. As we entered our 30’s, the ideals of what punk rock is based upon may have, in some ways, defined us as people.

A lot of people feel punk rock is dressing or acting a certain way. Some feel that if you don’t wear leather, chains, and eyeliner, that you’re a “poser.” I disagree. You would never know it today, but my friend Angela grew up in Queens, NY, and spent all her free time supporting local bands at venues like Lamours and Third Rail. She wore chains, parachute pants, and 50 rubber bracelets up to her elbows. She went to hardcore basement shows. She moshed in pits and even managed to lose track of all her friends in a Bouncing Souls mosh pit at Warped Tour in Raceway Park, NJ. She saw Saves the Day’s debut at the Pop Disaster Tour with Green Day and Blink-182. She was friendly with members of local NY hardcore bands Sheer Terror, Candiria, and Life of Agony. From the outside looking in, you might say she was more punk than I could ever dream to be. Does that make me a poser? I don’t believe so. Angela still loves all of those hardcore bands from her youth, but today she is an RN and also loves science, cats, chai tea lattes, and Disney movies. Does that make her a poser? Not in the slightest.

As I’ve gotten older, I have learned one simple fact there is no such thing as a “poser.” That is to say that you can be whoever you want to be, and like whatever you want to like, however you like – on your own terms, and that is what it means to be punk rock. From its earliest days, punk was always about rebelling against the excess of the mainstream. It was about keeping it simple while embracing the sub and counter cultures. It was about giving a voice to the voiceless. Most importantly, at its core, punk rock was and still is about acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and acceptance of those around you. It’s about community. Sound familiar, vinyl addicts? I’ve come to find that maybe, just maybe, punk rock is the most important genre of music to me, period. It’s ingrained in me as a person. The ideals of the early DIY punk scene are ones that I hold close to my heart. Without knowing it, punk rock defined me in more ways than I can count.

So, what does punk rock mean to me? No matter where I have gone in my life, punk rock has followed me in one way or another. I’ve always been content to walk to the beat of my own drum. I’ve grown very comfortable living just on the fringes of the masses. The message of punk music over time has opened me up to the idea of free-thought, and to question a mainstream that may not have our best interests at heart. Punk music has taught me that we do not always have to accept what is happening to us as our fate. That maybe the sub and counter culture is where the real heart is, and that if we open our minds just a little, then for maybe one simple moment, we too can get lost in the “mosh” and forget the mundane stress of everyday life. The very ideals of punk music, and the foundation on which it was built upon, can serve as a foundation for us in our everyday lives. Punk teaches us one simple lesson: get lost in the music, get lost in the mosh, but never get lost in this world.

Does it get anymore punk than that?

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Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

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