Friday, October 5, 2007

MRR column 2

How we turned our shitty little town into a punk rock mecca, 10 point program.

1. Hanging out
2. Create a visible public presence
3. Show space
4. Dance
5. Form bands
6. Freak + Punk unity
7. Inviting strangers
8. Treating bands
9. Dealing with Nazis, sexist assholes or speedfreakhippypunkgutterscumbags
10. Events and Projects to draw people in

When I moved to my town, there were just 5 punks, mostly just graduated from high school, plus 3 IWW folks, some EarthFirsters and some art freaks. Here are some of the things we did to transform our shitty town into a punk mecca:

1. Hanging out.
Never underestimate the power of sitting around in public as a way to draw people into the world of punkness. Punks look cool. Just by standing around looking good we become a vibrant propaganda tool.

2. Creating visible public presence.
Posters, flyers, graffiti, public art. Nothing is more depressing than a town with punks that just post on the internet, nothing is better than walking around a shitty town and finding an Anarchy sign spray painted behind the grocery store. You must put up flyers about shows. If there aren't shows in your town yet, put up flyers about other stuff. Flyers thats main graphic focus is on girls body parts are not rebellious, they are jock. Make flyers about your beliefs. Make art and staple it to telephone poles. Make it look like there is something mysterious going on that people should want to be a part of.

3. Show Space.
Basement shows rule. No basement is too short or too small. Even if people can't pogo, they can still skank. Our first show space was a storefront on a crappy main road, and we had an art project in it, where anyone could pick a section of the wall and paint it. It made it so that punks that otherwise would feel weird as hell just trying to hang out, could come and be busy, but still part of things. Our next space was in a short basement with a small creek running through it. We built a retaining wall to try and keep the water away from the electricity. The whole place was cavern like, the energy just hung in the moldy air and the stage was just a few pallets. Everyone said it would suck to have shows there, but actually they were the best shows ever, with everyone crammed in and dancing and sweating, mashed together, and trying to see and going wild in the sweetest way.

4. Dancing.
I can not overstate the importance of dancing. Dancing rules. Dancing is punk! At first, no one danced at the shows in Asheville, then me and my sister decided to dance as hard as we could to the entire set, no matter how bad the band might suck. It was difficult, especially because in the beginning there would only be about 5 - 10 people watching the show, and everyone thought we were crazy, but after awhile everyone started dancing, and then when new people came, they thought that's what punk was all about - dancing like fucking maniacs. Punk is participatory, not entertainment. If the audience is not working as hard as the band, then it is not totally punk.

5. Form Bands.
Everyone can play. Everyone can scream. If I can form a band, you can. When I first started to try to scream, I just made a terrible choked croaking noise and I cried because I felt so stupid, now I scream like hell. Also, I've been playing the bass with only two fingers and only the top two strings for about 8 years. It's fine.

6. Freak + Punk unity.
One of the sad things about our shitty town become a punk mecca, is laziness and scene isolation. In the beginning, we all needed each other, punks and freaks and weirdos and intellectuals. If we wanted things to be interesting, we had to make it happen. There was the beautiful heyday of punk and freak unity, with amazing talent shows and musicals and cabarets and dance performances, but then, by the end, so many punks had meccaed out to our town that they thought they no longer needed the freaks, and it became just a bunch of isolated people who didn't need or care about each other any more.

7. Inviting Strangers.
So, the truth is, a lot of people are sort of afraid of punks. And a lot of people are scared to go to weird new places. So, it is important to reach out in person to people who look like they might secretly want to join the scene. Give people flyers, and talk to strangers, and if they come to the show, talk to them and make them feel welcome. I was always really shy, but then when I ran the door at the club, I got to watch how so many people felt uncomfortable and unsure what to do with themselves, and I realized it's important to be a welcoming committee and introduce people to each other, and do all the usual things of a good hostess. I've been to many towns where the only people who talked to me at the punk show were guys who wanted to sleeze on me, and I think it's so important that girls talk to girls, non-sleezers talk to the new people. Unity!

8. Treating Bands.
ok. So, if you book bands, be nice to them. Cook them food and give them a place to stay. If you are not going to have a place for them to stay, tell them that ahead of time. Also, give the bands money. Unless you are a greedy self absorbed capitalist bastard, paying the band should come first over show space rent. Figure out some other way to pay show space rent. Also, local bands should play first. If you start to create a scene where people only love the local band and only dance to the local band and the local band plays last, it sucks. Just play first, and make everyone stay for the touring band. Create a culture where people want to show off for the touring bands, and show them how much your town cares about punk by going wild and giving the band the best show they've ever had - I mean, dance!

9. Dealing with Nazi's, sexist assholes or speedfreakhippypunkgutterscumbags.
Don't let Nazi's into your shows. You can tell them that if they quit being a racist asshole then they can come in, but otherwise, no. Same with the fuckers who grope women. It is good to have some bitter ex-punks or bitter tough old punks around, because they are usually good at beating up Nazi's and other scum-bags if necessary.

10. Projects and Events to draw people in.
Punk is about creating our own lives, creating lives worth living, creating new and vibrant culture outside of capitalism's corrosive effects. Punk picnics, punk kick-ball, punk scavenger hunts, punk organizing, punk zines. And brainstorming up your own 10 point program for changing your own shitty town.

2 comments:

Amber said...

Cindy,

You don't know me, but I have your anthology and I read your zines religiously. I write a perzine called Culture Slut and a comp zine called Fight Boredom, which is all about creating adventures in a small town. This piece would be perfect for it. I'm wondering if I could possibly reprint it? With credit of course. Info on my zine is available here:

www.myspace.com/fight_boredom

Elissa said...

This post rules, I know that when I started trying to hang out, all the other girls where I live seem to just assume that the only reason other girls go to shows is to hit on dudes and to look hot. The attitude you suggest is FUCKING LOVELY and I wish ladies around these parts would just learn to welcome one another and form friendships instead of trying to prove that they're more punk than everyone else. WORD, Cindy. Love your brains.