Submit to the power of rock
A few days ago I went to a venue in Baltimore to see a punk show.
There were four bands slated and the headliners were The Tossers and The Street Dogs.
Now, I’ve had several friends in the past who were punk fans and let me into some of the ins and outs of punk culture—not that I’m anywhere near the point where I could sit down and diagram scenes out, but where I’ve been bequeathed enough bits to not be a total moron about the process.
Right. So I travel to said bar with roommate and his girlfriend (again, someone remind me to post them so we can get to know them properly). It was called the Ottobar and was nestled into the city far enough to absorb the B’more ambiance. The bar itself was in a nondescript building next to a small gravel parking lot—free, as it turns out.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, never actually having attended a punk show. I’ve heard the music and been a part of some gnarly non-punk concerts, but there’s always that specter of bearded, leather-clad, pierced agents of rage and pain many associate with punk.
There were some fierce-looking characters there—some outright, as in the older gent, bare chested, bald, in a denim vest and pants who looked ready to head-butt nails into the molding; and others more decorative, with the torn clothes and chains, but mild enough in disposition.
Yet, for all the coarse-throat intensity of the singing and shattering, smashing riffs from the guitars, there was hardly any outright hostility, and my prejudices were put to rest.
And that’s where most of punk gets misunderstood, I think. Most see the piercings, the tattoos, the profanity and writes the whole lot off as deviants, miscreants, or worse. But some of my punk friends from the past, for all of their “typical anti-social” language and clothes, are some of the most genuine people I’ve ever known.
Take the general etiquette of moshing, for instance, when looking farther into the punk scene. Here we have a celebration of kinetic energy—guys slamming into things and each other, flailing and raging with the roaring tides of the music. Firstly, it’s not involuntary. The crowd doesn’t throw unwitting virgins into the fires of seething humanity.
Secondly, good mosh pits practice chivalry. When someone falls, they are helped up. When someone is on the ground, people around form a ring to protect them. When something gets dropped, others will hold it up. When some hothead fratboy starts kicking people around for fun, the crowd stops, lets the drunk jerk move on, then starts up again.
Because it’s not malicious. Its sort of this limited physical tantrum—a contained, careful dance of intense energy where the audience explores the limits of controlled rage.
People sometimes get hurt, sometimes get personal, sometimes go too far; but that’s life, isn’t it? I, for one, think it’s another amazing bit of culture where I can shove and kick and charge into a group of gents and get pats on the back and a helping hand when it’s my turn to fall down.
I still can’t hear for a few days after the whole enterprise, but I’m damn glad I go.