Between Resistance and Community: The Long Island Do-It-Yourself Punk Scene: VHS, 44 minutes

Mar 03, 2011

This video is put together extremely well. The shots are clean and the editing is spot-on. It's not jerky or indecipherable, the lighting's really well done; all elements which put it in a rare class of down-home punk videos. As the title suggests, it covers a slew of young bands, centering on a couple of houses with basements in the Long Island area. Its heart is definitely in the right place: the power of low cost shows, establishing a haven for touring bands, and a pervasive sense that although the music is the catalyst, punk rock is more than a musical genre, but a healthy way to approach life. That said, and I don't want to be too disparaging, but due to the age and dogmatism of most of the participants, I could see the impending failures and unravelings of the whole enterprise from the first five minutes. It's plays like a punk rock do-gooder Spinal Tap. Almost everyone involved kept saying, in effect, "dominant consumerist culture bad," "our culture good." "If you're not with us, you're against us." (Which comes up when one of their tight-knit kinship bands signs to Revelation Records.) Although rebellion is a good way to start your day, and I still ascribe being against popular culture, they totally miss a five lane freeway of gray area that exists between being a malled and branded dumbass and espousing a punk version of a far away utopia.
Here are my questions to bands and scenesters that say all consumer culture is bad. Did any of you make your own guitars, own amps, have a water wheel that made your electricity, or refine your own crude oil for gasoline to tour on? No. Dominant culture did. Did you make the ketchup you're using in the diner you're sitting in, discussing the ramifications of parking lot kickball games? No. What no one in the entire video seems to realize is that, no matter what you do, yes you still live in a capitalist society, and yes, you have to make concessions, but you don't have to give in fully to it nor can you fully escape it. You can still live and carve out a life for yourself that doesn't entail fucking over other people. But, to act like you're completely separated from the dominant culture by being fortunate enough to have tolerant parents that make food and have a basement free to music is pretty blind, or naïve, but most likely coming from people who haven't been repeatedly hit in the mouth – financially or literally – for years on end.
On the other end of the video's spectrum is a band who used New York DIY scene as a stepping stone for "more exposure" and to "live as musicians." The rationalize signing to a label with connections to majors by stating that their parents didn't give them thousands of dollars to tour on, which, they imply, other bands in the video can fall back on if the going gets tough. Karma gets them by burning their van to the ground mid tour. Again, the gray area. What ever happened to working really hard at shitass temp jobs, saving your own money, touring for a month, and slowly making a fan base? These four things together, are never brought up and makes the video appear terribly short sighted. Everything seems so immediate or unobtainable. Why does it have to be an almost head-in-the-sand approach with a fragile nucleus and great intentions or giving it all up to The Man the first time some money's flashed? I'm much more interested in the long haul. I'm much more interested in the gray area where every one of us – in one degree or another – has to pragmatically live. –Todd (Traffic Violation, Box 772, East Setauket, NY11733; and Walklor Productions, 64 Pleasant St., Huntington, NY11743;)