Punk’s Not Dead, Just Sleeping

Maxx Wolff, author of column.

I am a forest child. 

I grew up in a tiny town, stuck in its ways, trapped among the trees. A place where punk rock went to die and country music would spit down your throat.

It was a bubble filled with families that had been there for generations. An endless cycle of  comfortable stagnation that everyone was all too happy with if it meant the outside world couldn’t touch them. 

They seemed content. But I knew I never would be unless I left that godforsaken forest. 

Punk rock was a stereotypically perfect outlet for an angsty teen living in the middle of nowhere. For a while, it didn’t even bother me that I was the only punk in a thirty-mile radius. 

Punk became something more than music to me after a short while. It was a way of life, a community, a safe space to allow myself to be, well, myself. 

It was rare that I would make it to a show, as nobody in their right mind would stop in my forest town for anything other than gas. But I’ll tell you this, there’s nothing like a punk rock mosh pit. 

If you haven’t tried it, you really should. Just keep your head on a swivel.  

After learning of my acceptance into Chapman, I began to glorify the punk scene in Orange County. OC is so full of punk rock history, giving birth to some of the greatest bands in the genre’s lineage. How could it not be everything I’d ever hoped for?

Maybe one day, OC was the stomping ground of many a punk rocker. But those days seem to have long passed. I was swiftly made aware of that. 

I’ll always remember arriving on campus for the first time, preparing to move into the dorms and seeing a flier for the opening of the university’s punk rock museum. Legendary OC punk band Social Distortion even made an appearance.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s great! Exactly what you’re looking for, right?”

Kind of.

The event was the day before. I had missed it.

I’m sad to say it, but that was the last time I saw, heard or read anything mentioning punk rock in OC aside from the occasional big-name band coming through The Observatory or a sad resemblance of olden times at Chain Reaction and The Doll Hut. 

That was my freshman year. I’m nearly a senior now. For three years the same question plagued me… is punk really dead?

Let me just nip that rising anticipation in the bud — I’ve got no answer for you. To be quite frank, I don’t think there ever will be an answer. 

The punk rock of old was a tool created and used by young people to inspire change, provide a community for like-minded individuals and to wake the slumbering, ignorant masses. But at its core?

Punk was a bunch of rowdy kids taking life by the testicles and telling a world that wanted them to live by its standards to, kindly, fuck off. 

Is it the same as it was in the 80s?

Hell no!

Do I think it’s better?

That’s a stupid question! How should I know? I wasn’t alive!

All I’ve managed to figure out is that punk is people. Specifically, young people. Because without the youth, you have old, hardcore punks in their late fifties putting on craft beer festivals with VIP areas.

What happened?!

VIP area? At a punk show? 

What a joke!

I find myself resenting the punks that came before for handing the next generation a commercialized and bastardized version of what punk used to be. 

But I soon remind myself that it’s not on them. They did it already. They put the work in and created something the world had never seen before. 

So what’s stopping us from doing the same thing? If there was ever a time for a young generation to scream at the top of their lungs that the world is fucked up, it’s right now.

It’s on us to rebuild. It’s about time for this generation’s punks to stand up and create the scene we wish to see.

So I say to all the punks out there near and far…

You are not alone. We are strong. Punk lives on. 

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