There are select moments in history when the entire world is engaged in one singular conversation. We are living in one of those moments.
I showed up at Boontunes, a music venue/record shop in Boonton, NJ on Saturday night November the 12th, 2016, one night after I had engaged in a love rally that marched from Washington Square Park to Trump Tower in New York City. It was just supposed to be another night on the local band circuit, hanging with friends, doing my job as a journalist, and supporting the vinyl release of local hardcore act Hell Mary. What I got was so much more.
Punk – and all of its offshoots – has always been attached to politics. Whether it was actively speaking to a political issue or taking a decisive step away from “the man”, raising its bruised and bloodied middle finger, it has always been a genre of music that has been about more than just a collection of off-kilter sounds, wailing voices and the occasional death-by-substance abuse.
I walked into Hell Mary’s self-titled vinyl release show, with bands Great Reversals, Silence Equals Death, Comb The Desert, Weather Lore, None Above All, Dead Channels, and spoken word guest Greg Bennick (Trial) also on the bill, expecting nothing more than the usual blaring hardcore and mostly familiar faces. It was supposed to be a much need break from the same conversation that had been occurring over and over again since Tuesday night, when Donald Trump won the presidential election to the incredible shock and dismay of at least half of the country. But every band felt compelled to take time out of their set to continue talking about the issue, and it became clear that this political rupture is not a fleeting, escapable problem. It is a major historical shift that marks a worldwide revolution, which means that punk is here to do its job again.
It is a major historical shift that marks a worldwide revolution, which means that punk is here to do its job again.
There are select moments in history when the entire world is engaged in one singular conversation. We are living in one of those moments. The conversation, of course, is one about racism, LGBT rights, women’s rights, religious freedom, xenophobia, bigotry, the immigration issue and civil, as well as basic human rights. Every person with a microphone in front of them in this tiny music venue in a small corner of northern New Jersey had something to say about it. The consensus? We will not do nothing.
One can say that this year’s election results have left the country divided, but it would be more accurate to say that this year’s election results exposed the great division that has apparently been lying beneath us all like a beast in slumber for many years. Issues that we thought were taken care of by revolutions of generations past are still very alive today, which means we have to continue to fight just as hard, if not harder, than those in the history books we read growing up.
During the band’s set, the Great Reversals drummer, Eric Scobie, took the mic with trembling hands. He took a few seconds to adjust himself and solidify his demeanor before he began speaking. When he did, it became obvious that despite the confident force he used to hit his drums, his heart was breaking for his family. “My son is disabled,” he finally said, “and I have to figure out how to explain what our new President is saying when he talks in that clip.” The clip, of course, to which Scobie was referring, was the one in which Trump mocked a disabled reporter during his campaign.
This is not the only kind of callousness and cruelty that the President-elect has displayed in the past year and a half during his run. He has made numerous hateful statements about women and various races that either his supporters sympathize with (like the KKK) or simply choose to overlook as unimportant or not that bad. But we cannot overlook these things any longer. Whether you voted for him because you agree with his hate speech or because you simply desire change, the fact is that he and his VP are attracting the support of sexists, white supremacists, and anti-LGBT people for a reason. This is all now very real.
Greg Bennick, a speaker and a key figure in the international hardcore scene (Trial, Between Earth & Sky) drove the point home Saturday night amongst the gathered crowd of local rockers when he spoke to such issues. What was most important, though, was what he said aside from the run-of-the-mill anti-Trump commentary. That is, that in times like these, we need to turn our attention to positive efforts, like art, for real change that we can be proud of. “In punk rock and hardcore,” he said, “we don’t need to have heroes, we can have friends.” Every person in that room, regardless of whether they had met before, or whether they were in a band or just a fan watching, could come together and be on the same level; human to human, equal.
So no, our genre of music doesn’t have heroes and as a society we don’t have any heroes to look to right now. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When we stand together, as equals, to support each other in these terrifying, angering, and saddening times, we need not look to leaders that have failed us. We need only look to our left and to our right, to our CD collection and to our show flyers. Our protests can be positive. They can take the form of music, photography, writing, art, etc. And we will do so until there is a great reversal. We will comb the desert until all options have been exhausted and all trials have been weathered. We will put no one above anyone else and we will fill the dead channels with the noise of revolution and love, because we would rather be dead than be silent.
This article was written entirely by and expresses the sole opinions of Taylor Markarian.