Punk Rock has almost died many times only to be revived by an influx of idealistic, angry, young people discovering and breathing new life into the movement. Despite this, they eventually only become jaded and heartbroken. For evidence, see post-punk in the early 80’s, hardcore in the mid 80’s, post hardcore, pop punk, and ska punk from the early 90’s, emo in the mid 90’s. The late 90’s brought ska-punk back, and beginning in about 2002, folk punk has been immensely changing the world of punk rock. As I write this though, the coffin is being built. Hopefully, though, you guys can enjoy some of this optimistic, somewhat aggressive, and overall highly enjoyable genre before it nearly dies as well.
People are rather apt to say that punk rock has saved their life, which is a little melodramatic for my tastes, but I can see why it’s an appealing statement. The punk rock community is often about much more than music; when I was active, it was about trying to change your world and finding a place for you and your friends as the world currently was. Most importantly, it was about experiencing as much as you could. I got into the community in about ’01 during a resurgence of hardcore*, and I couldn’t have had as happy of a time in high school without it. I had a family outside of my own–which was often stressed and fractured due to my father going off to war and other random deployments–where I could let out everything in a pit where I sang along to bands that loved nothing more than to play to 50 people. It was intimate, it mattered to us all, and it felt as if nothing was being sold to us.
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Fast forward 3 years later and its 2004, hardcore is everywhere and it’s not what I had fallen in love with, it wasn’t a community anymore, it was an industry. This is about when I found Plan-it-X and No Idea Records two small labels releasing music at cost for the hard copy and free for the digital versions. The music was good too, really good. It was punk rock as I loved it, angry and artful, but played completely different then I was used to. It was acoustic, it was pretty, it wasn’t always screamed at you. This was my first real exposure to folk punk, a genre that can really be credited to the Pogues and the Violent Femmes for creating, but has been mostly dormant for a while, where musicians are equal parts Stiz of leftover crack and Woodie Gutherie.
It’s now almost 2009, and the scene is still strong. There is a folk punk festival in Florida, where the whole movement seems to be based out of now. You can now buy some records in major chains (mostly Hot Topic), and Against Me!, who were part of the early scene have sold out and changed their ethics and sound completely. Despite this, I am not convinced that this scene will ever really make it any bigger than it is. It’s not because it’s not marketable but because it doesn’t seem like the bands want to be marketed. So, if your adventurous, check it out. I recommend you start with The Violent Femmes; Defiance, Ohio; Frank Turner; the first two Against Me! records; and Even in Blackouts. After that, you’re on your own. There are plenty of others to check out.
*note the movements listed above will almost never go away, but will experience rises and falls in popularity