Peace On Earth, But When On Stage?
Words by Mike Fursa
Photo by Audrey Lew
The issue of etiquette at punk-affiliated events has been something of a debate in the scene, especially since the Joyce Manor incidents. This past week the subject has come up once again. Every time an issue such as this arises a slew of firm and, often, ridiculous opinions fly at us from every digital direction. While certain supporters of “mayhem and punk shows” as a “peas and carrots” mentality are clinging to an antiquated idea at all costs, others trod to their keyboards to try to fight for people to be much less rough at shows. This problem has caused a schism in our community and the dialogue between the two sides is disheartening at best.
These situations beg, why can we as a scene not criticize perceived poor behavior, not to vilify, but to educate and push forward? Some of the best lessons I have learned have been because people called me out. They sought not to crucify me but instead quite the opposite: they sought to redeem me. Punk music, for me, has always been about expanding my comfort zone and seeing the world not for what it is but what it could be. We should be equally challenged regarding the politics of our own scene and should furthermore be mature enough and respectful enough to be able to discuss such issues as a collective.
Sure, when attending a punk show, one enters a social contract of sorts. Vigor and roughness are, as many adamantly affirm, to be expected. Though punk music’s sound and meaning vary across a spectrum, it has certainly become synonymous with at least some degree of violence. Punk’s allure roots much of itself in this risk and physical expression of rage.
So, maybe, these adamant defenders of punk’s status quo are right in a way. Maybe “punk” is not the word for all of us anymore. Maybe it is time to rebrand what it means to be punk and shine a spotlight on the so-called statement show-aggressors are trying to make. What is their true motive in coming to punk shows? What is really in it for them if maintaining a war on stage is such a priority? Was the release ever a mental one or was it always purely physical? There are methods of expressing rage and aggression in a healthy and joyful way, and I think it is time we celebrate that while also promoting personal responsibility. The exuberance of punk shows can, and should, continue to exist in an inclusive environment, though maybe we need to adjust our vocabulary somewhat.
Punk music is old enough to be a middle-aged human being. It should come as no surprise, then, that some of its tenets are as stubborn as one. Maybe it is time to create a new lexicon surrounding the music altogether. If punk stands to represent rowdiness sans personal accountability and civic responsibility, then perhaps those who seek a scene that is inclusive and safe should operate outside of that semantic restriction. That might be the most punk thing to do.
Last modified: April 20, 2016