Punk rock is something to many and notably not all the hype for some. It can be dirty, violent and unforgiving. Well, It's meant to be, right? At its core, punk rock is not a sound, it's a universal language of revolution and change. It has something to say and doesn't care who or what gets in the way of it. No matter how much you want to separate specific sounds into genres and sub-genres alike, punk rock is not how you play a guitar or start up a pit. It's the energy that flows from simply striking a guitar to the tone of the amp resonating across crowds of 50 in a basement to 1,000 in a venue where you finally made it. Even that description doesn't matter. None of anyone's opinions of how something sounds or acts matters. At the end of the show, what you take away from it, the feeling of emotional release - that's what matters. Punk rock is supposed to invoke something special inside you and exorcise it for the thirty minutes to hour long sets of any band. Two very big people reminded me of that this weekend on separate occasions during this year's Chaos in Tejas festival in Austin, TX.
I met Moss Icon's Tonie Joy on Thursday night meeting up with my friend Derek who so happened to also handle the band's press for their reissue through Temporary Residence. Though our conversation was short lived before Toys That Kill hit the stage (and put on a stunning performance they did), I got to ask Joy at least one question I was curious about. I asked him what he thought his band was at their height. What genre did he think he was in versus what people thought of Moss Icon now? His answer wasn't that all surprising - he simply thought he was in a "rock band." Fast forward to after Moss Icon's incredible hour long reunited set (and only one thus far or possibly ever), and I got a chance to talk to Pygmylush's Chris Taylor. Taylor of course was one half the vocals of hardcore greats pg. 99. If you remember the band's interview with NPR, Taylor's take on where he saw his old band at the time and what people deem pg. 99's legacy now, it's certainly a matter of "he said, she said" dribble that's been passed along through media-heads and elitist alike. What has since carried through into Pygmylush is the state of simply doing without a purpose or foresight. There is no image, no gimmick and no predestined answer to what a song, record or band as a whole should sound like. The Ramones were a dirty pop band but they're herald as "punk pioneers." Led Zeppelin were taking a new spin on the blues and considered metal to others. Watching Tonie Joy's mini-solos on some of Moss Icon's songs Sunday night - he really was playing in a rock band.
The great thing about punk rock is also its bastardized downfall. It sums up the phrase "This is why we can't have anything nice!" We're all guilty of it - especially we, the media plethora of writers. I wonder why that is - is it the fear of association with one sound and not another? "Oh, well, they're not this, but they're more that. I don't listen or like that." It just seems dumb, and it's finally snapped in me how irritating it can be to breakdown what music isn't instead of what music is. Watching Nasum on Thursday night was no different than Dropdead on Friday to me. Both were brutal. Sure, one's "more metal" than the other, but they both invoked similar damages among the crowd and through my eardrums. I can also see the separation as well. To me, Thou is not only one of the heaviest bands, they also standout in how clean their execution is and how forceful they come off compared to everyone else around them doing the same thing right now. It's simply terrifying. Is it it doom? Is it hardcore? Is it metal? I'm sure if you asked different people, they'd give you a different answer depending on what they know and what they like.
Festivals like Chaos in Tejas and The Fest down in Gainesville remind us about the importance of community of punk rock, no matter what genre specific band you're going to see, what you're wearing to go see it or how old or how young you are still trying to attach yourself to the reason you never let that anarchist and revolutionary inside you ever completely die off. That feeling is global and seen across the overseas acts of Chaos in Tejas. Reality Crisis put on a raging set Thursday night, I almost forgot in all the media imagery I see that tells me what Japan is and isn't into that there is massive punk and metal scene in Japan. Then there was Ice Age from Denmark on Sunday before Moss Icon. It was raw, angry and slightly harmonic. It wasn't exactly grunge and it wasn't exactly hardcore. But their set sure was punk as fuck. Who the hell knew Denmark had a punk scene?!
Last year, between a heavy weekend of work, I was only able to attend a handful of shows and see a handful of bands. This year I tried to attend as many shows and see as many different bands as possible. On Saturday I saw the brutality that is the heralded Dropdead, immediately heading over to see the lush layering of one of my new favorite acts, Chelsea Wolfe. As the excitement began to calm inside me during Wolfe's intoxicating set of harmonies - opposite that of the heightened feeling I witnessed just minutes later - it dawned on me that revolution has always won out among the masses and lasted. I've said it before, I'm just some kid who writes behind a computer and can only offer insight, and hitting 26 in a few months, what I now know of what "punk can be" versus "what punk was" when I discovered the word a decade plus earlier, they are two complete variations. For the most part, the bands that I've seen to be "the best" lasted a good long time or are still talked about among "the know" - ahem*EngineDown*ahem. The bands that I didn't get to see and understood years after their demise, still last today with generations to come - as seen by the ramped hype of reunions as of late. This weekend I probably couldn't talk to you about half the line-up of Chaos in Tejas, but the venues were packed with kids and adults alike that could. Punk rock is not a fad, and the media and press and labels that make it out to be will fail for all the wrong reasons. Punk rock isn't a specific sound. It's always been a feeling. You'll know it when it hits you. You'll know it when the idea of punk rock expands when you grow older as well. I can promise you that. If you don't get that feeling ever, than you were just one who held punk rock in the wrong hands.