Who said, “‘Punk is dead’?”
Mark Perry, founder of the legendary punk magazine, Sniffin’ Glue, certainly coined the term after he made the statement “Punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS.” But it seems as though the students of SUNY New Paltz didn’t get the memo.
Punk, as an ideology, is an attitude and culture found in harmony with self-knowledge, self-expression, and self-optimization against more persuasive, cultural tendencies that can compromise our identities and take away power as a collective force. Frequently identified by its aggressive and fast style, punk music has been used as an outlet for anti-authoritarian artwork. With its “do it yourself” ethics and empowerment of unity, it has become a culture that encourages individuality and nonconformity.
“The characteristics of the culture and music of the punk lifestyle are definitely still alive here, but it’s underground in a sense. These huge punk shows that used to be hosted at clubs like CBGBs, are now held in small, grungy, sweaty, residential basements owned by SUNY New Paltz students,” said Scott Renaldo, fourth year industrial organizational psychology major, and member of the New Paltz Music Collective. The New Paltz Music Collective provides the student body with events that are fun, stimulating, and drug and alcohol-free. They utilize spaces on campus, such as the multipurpose room in the Student Union building, to host a variety of shows and expand the student body’s knowledge of music. Their most recent event took place on Monday, October 6th in the Student Union building. It featured punk rocker Jeff Rosenstock, of Bomb The Music Industry! and Antarctigo Vespucci, as well as three local punk bands; Oswald, Whatever, Mom, and Kyle Moore.
After conducting a random survey, it has become clear that the culture and music associated with the punk movement is still very much alive here at SUNY New Paltz. Fourteen out of fifteen people surveyed on campus believe that the punk culture is not only still alive, but also heightening. In years past, the SUNY New Paltz Music Collective, a student-run organization dedicated to expanding and diversifying the local music scene, has hosted secret punk shows in the basement of the Smiley Art building. But because of this year’s exorbitantly high attendance rate, they unfortunately were forced to cancel this one stop shop for rock.
Punk emerged in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States in the mid 1970s, but began to diversify by 1978. This lead to the discovery of new wave, hardcore, pop punk, and street punk. This diversification, in turn, diluted the punk scene. In the 1990s there was a “punk revival,” but consequently this revival became an extension of further diversification, leading some to the decision that punk music and it’s culture was dead.
This subculture of the punk movement found at SUNY New Paltz is one among the many, according to second year digital media production major, and member of the local band, Stifled, Mike Frankfurter (see inset). “Compared to cities like Boston, Massachusetts and Austin, Texas, New Paltz’s punk scene is still only up and coming, punk shows are becoming less and less underground, with hundreds of New Paltz students attending them each week, the shows just keep on growing,” he said. Frankfurter and the other three members of his band, all live in Dubois Hall, it’s where they practice, seek inspiration, write new songs, book shows and self-promote their music.
Students looking for new punk music consistently turn to the school radio station for recommendations. SUNY New Paltz’s radio station, The Edge (WFNP), is a student-run, student-funded college radio station and is open to all majors, genres, and levels of experience. WFNP is notorious for it’s wide variety of artists and lively DJs. It is also well connected with various other radio stations and record companies throughout the Hudson Valley and surrounding area. “The majority of our DJ’s play punk music. Mainstream or not, it is definitely played. We receive a lot of CDs from record companies trying to get their music out and the majority of it is of punk or indie decent,” said WFNP DJ and radio host, and second year journalism major, Katherine Carroll. In addition to receiving CDs from record companies, WFNP also plays the albums of local punk bands, “The music director at WFNP is a huge advocate for punk music and is always looking for new artists to add onto our rotation,” said Carroll.
Guitarist for the local band, Primate House, and second year music major with a concentration in theory and composition, Devin Gilbert, addressed the prevalent punk music and culture on campus with vigor. According to Gilbert, studying music is much different than performing it. It impacts the way the artist views music, helping them develop their own unique sound and stride. “[The punk culture] serves as a great networking system for musicians and music lovers alike. It offers an opportunity to come together with a community of fellow students that have similar interests as you; so you can make friends, share music, and meet babes,” said Gilbert. He has taken great advantage of the opportunities offered, in addition to playing in his own band, he is currently a temporary member of two other local bands; Active Bird Community, and Hipsturbia. “Having the ability to meet new people who enjoy playing the same type of music as I do, or live a similar lifestyle to me, gives me a sense of community. It [punk music] may come off as brash and angry, but it produces an overwhelming sense of comfort to those who follow it.” Gilbert explained the rampant campus-wide decision that punk music and its culture are still thriving, by comparing it to “blood flowing through a set of veins…it will never end, because it’s what so many people use to connect with each other as well as further develop themselves.” With the majority of punk music focusing on individualism and freedom of expression, the community and bonds it forms is unbreakable. “Punk is an attitude, it never dies.”