The Punk Rock Show

The Punk Rock Show

There’s a house show nearly every weekend night, and nearly every weekend night you can find me in the basement of some house where I don’t belong. The truth is, I really don’t think that anyone should belong in the basement of a house at any time.

The basement is an irrelevant sort of place. It’s bare, cold, dark, and underground. But it is important: The basement is the foundation of the house. It’s unusual we don’t spend more time or care down there, at least finishing it with carpet, painted walls, couches, a TV, or whatever else makes us comfortable in a cube. Is it because we aren’t comfortable down there? Do we need a place to throw out our old junk that we don’t use anymore or don’t care about?

I really don’t think that anyone should belong in the basement of a house at any time. And this right here is the problem.

Don’t you dare try to tell me what “punk” is. It’s an attitude. No, I think it’s a fashion. How can it be a fashion? It’s definitely the sound; it’s always been about the sound. No, it’s a reaction. But anything can sound like anything. It’s got to be the message. Isn’t it about the friends? Well I still think it’s an attitude.

The roots of the punk rock movement took hold in the 1960s and 1970s with protopunk bands such as the New York Dolls, Velvet Underground, the Ramones, the Stooges, MC5, and the Sex Pistols. Punk emerged as a backlash, not a cause. Economic decline of the late 1970s and early 80s, high unemployment rates, the Vietnam War, and civil rights movements were factors that drastically changed the culture of baby boomers. Frustrated and going nowhere fast, teens and young adults had to outlet their feelings and aggression in some way. Though they were not trained in music and by no means musically talented, these “punks” picked up drums, electric bass, and guitar. They formed bands and the only rule was to have no rules. Their music wasn’t like the explosion of talent of Pink Floyd, CCR, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles. It seems to be the very opposite. They stripped music of its creativity and ingenuity. Their music was raw, fast, short, and without the long drawn-out guitar solos of Shine on You Crazy Diamond or Robert Plant screaming his head off about love.

It’s unclear when punk became an accessory to attitude because quickly, privileged teens were acting like they had something to be mad about. Punk rock became a trend, sort of like the flappers or disco. And with its popularity, a whole lot of unspoken requisites became law to being “punk” as a person. Let’s look at the ideal punk rocker. They are poor, got to be poor. Cannot be too attractive, cannot be well-groomed, and doesn’t have a job (or at least a good paying one). They are angry, they have something to say, they wear clothes that aren’t trendy, they smoke cigarettes, they do drugs, they have something to say, they slam dance, they have a terrible haircut, they read the news, they have something to say. And no one is listening.

And like Milo from the Descendents says, “I want to be stereotyped, I want to be classified,” of course you can always fake it. Punk rock is now like that themed party your annoying friends always want to throw. There is, ‘How to Look Like a Punk: 11 Steps (with Pictures) on, “How to look like a punk” YouTube tutorials, and even a “How to Dress like a Punk Rocker Over 40” article of an author who wrote a book on punk wanting to know how to dress like a punk for her book tour (anyone that truly knows anything about punk rock knows that dressing a certain way won’t earn respect).

We can wrap up this short digression by understanding that punk rock was reactionary to social conditions and, due to its explosion of popularity, became something that could be capitalized as trendy. Now we can head back down underground and into the basement.

I don’t know if punk rock concerts were called “punk rock shows” or “punk rock concerts” by the people in the scene a few decades ago, but I do know that they don’t call them that today. Now they’re just “shows.” What does “show” mean? (Why do I keep putting things in “quotation marks?”). There are many definitions of the word including: to make known to, to inform, to prove, and to present or perform as a public entertainment or spectacle.

I believe there is a correlation between all these definitions and the nature of the show itself.

It’s 11:00 pm (I’m a half hour late) and the music can barely be heard from outside. I walk past the lone man on the porch smoking a cigarette casually. He doesn’t look at me so I ignore him. I reach for the knob, turn, and push myself in. There is an explosion of laughter, light, and people enjoying themselves in the company of others. People look at me and smile. I smile. I slowly work my way through the crowd of people. I get shoved. I shove back. I work myself to the back porch. The girl I gave a shot of Fireball to before walking over to the show offers me a beer she stole from the house’s kitchen, I accept it. I am a shadow who validates the other’s feelings. The brighter they are, the more pulsating my reflection becomes. There is a reaction to every action.

Now that the opening band stopped playing, the shows really starts. People shuffle their way through the mysterious door that leads underground: the basement. I’m still on the first level of the house but not yet at the show. I’m among the outliers, the bystanders, the sober, and the ones who have very little interest in any kind of show. I’m among the “too stoned to communicate,” the insecure, and the anticipators of tonight’s attraction. But dotted among the edges, those who burn the brightest of them all, are the ones who had just emerged from the basement. Smiles light their faces, they stride with confidence, and they laugh with ease. I’m curious so I reach for yet another knob, turn, but this time I pull. I carefully work myself down the stairs like I had invited myself into a private party. Music consumes any silence or thought of mine. I am no longer granted any license to self. I am welcomed. No, I am initiated.

[Read the following at 1.5x speed]

The next band starts and nobody is dancing. Why do I feel that people need to be dancing? Why do we even dance in the first place? I want to have fun so why aren’t I having fun? No, no, it can’t be me. It must be them. I’m feeling a sense of urgency and they’re feeling hesitation. I need to start an action so I grab the girl’s shoulder standing next to me, “Let’s dance!” She smiles and accepts (duh, I’m charming). We dance. A few people start to dance. The whole floor is dancing. There’s a circle pit in the middle, there’s nearly a sea of crushed Keystone Light cans below our feet, and people helping each other up as they struggle to regain their footing on the slippery floor of spilled, cheap, shitty beer.

So what is this “show?” What is this spectacle? Notice that I didn’t even talk about the quality of music, what it sounded like, or what the amplified words said to me. I guess I didn’t care. It’s something we don’t think about or like to admit. The “show” isn’t for musicians because they are not the performers. We, the crowd, are the performers. We dance, we sing to the songs we know instinctively, we watch out for one another, we like to prove we’re having a good time, we desire to have a good time not by the music but by the validations of the people standing right next to us.

The music caters to us as a community and our desires. We need instant gratification. According to Jeremy Brent in his article “The desire for community: Illusion, confusion, and paradox,” “Community is the continually reproduced desire to overcome the adversity of social life, and it is community as desire rather than community as social object which commands engagement.” This means that we desire community for the sake of escaping our problems. There are many habits of a punk rock show that prove this. First, people get wasted on alcohol. Alcohol is consumed as an anti-depressant or a mind-altering drug. The only reasoning to alter the mind is because the current state of mind isn’t sufficient enough. Second, people are excited to be together with those of a like mind or around those experiencing the same things we are experiencing. It creates a kind of social bond we may not have above ground. Third, people slam dance. Slam dancing is basically self-inflicted bodily harm by the use of others self-inflicting bodily harm. This makes it innocent and fun.

But take away the people and it’s a person slamming against a wall in which case we would probably be concerned for their mental stability. Would we not be worried for someone getting drunk all by themselves? What if someone we knew was always comfortable with being alone? Once the community of others is taken away, what is left is pathetic, depressed, and unstable. The community is therefore a necessity because it masks an individual’s escape from social life, as Brent puts it, with fun and music.

Call me pessimistic but I guarantee that the ones who look like they’re having the most fun have got the biggest problems. Smoke a cigarette with them on the back porch and in a few minutes you’ll be a therapist.

I really don’t think that anyone should belong in the basement of a house at any time. Some people need the basement and failure to recognize this is idealistic. I need the basement on weekend nights and I know my friends need it too. The basement is the congregation area of our desires; it is our community. Being underground makes us feel detached and if I want a little alcohol to be comfortable with that it’s fine by me. Sometimes basements are dark, cold, and bare but that’s the reality we have to face. It’s as much as a confrontation of social life as it is an escape because I refuse to be a coward for following my desires and wanting to be around others; that’s what being “punk” is all about.

About the Author

Corbin Kenaley

Guest Contributor

#TayTakesTaiwan: MTV Welcome to My Crib (The Philippines)

#TayTakesTaiwan: MTV Welcome to My Crib (The Philippines)


As the year slowly comes to a close, we all grow more and more impatient to break free from 2am Carrier study sessions and into the vast magical wonderland of adequate sleep and sunburns– summer. Here in Taiwan, the finish line isn’t really in sight yet since we don’t finish until June 22nd, but the craving for summer is still all too prominent. That being said, I decided to make the tough choice to travel and break the alliteration of my hashtag, truly a 21st century tragedy. So, without further ado, here’s a few pro tips from #TaytakesPhilippines.

Background: I traveled with a friend from class to the island of Palawan, in the southwest of the Philippines, and I now highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for an adventure. If you’re trying to form an image in your head, imagine heaven and then add an ice cream cone in your hand and that’s basically the beauty of Palawan.
First and foremost, weigh your luggage! Unfortunately, we did not think to do this and ended up wearing 75% of the contents of our luggage on our person on the way home to avoid paying overweight fees. Always an adventure folks! At least we left with our digni…..oh wait.
The main mode of transportation is Tuk-Tuk (also called Trikes, basically just a motorbike with a big cart strapped on the side) or motorbike. Both are pretty cheap, but if you do decide to go the motorbike route and drive yourself make sure the bike works! Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, when you rent a bike during the day, you might not think to check the headlights. However, checking headlights right away? Perfect plan. Checking headlights when you leave a remote beach at sunset? Not so much, unless you enjoy the thrill of riding into the abyss with potholes three feet deep. What a rush! Thankfully, we had nifty friends who rode on all sides of us to share their headlights. I guess you could say there was never a dull moment (pun definitely intended).

The food is one of my favorite parts of any place I get to visit, and the Philippines definitely did not disappoint. The area most people stay in when visiting Palawan, El Nido, has plenty of food options, my favorite of which was pineapple chicken *cue dream sequence.* BUT if you’re looking to try some classic Filipino food, the most recommended is always Halo-Halo & Balut. But do brace yourselves, balut is a fertilized duck egg that has been boiled/steamed before it got the chance to finish developing. That being said, I didn’t quite have the stomach for it this time around, but a friend who did try it reports: “tastes like chicken soup. Good!’ However, I DID try halo halo and let me just tell you, it was a religious experience. It’s a dessert featuring shaved ice, jelly, various gummies, beans, milk, and even more depending on where you get it. Basically, picture snow cone meets strawberry milk meets Scooby Doo gummies. 10/10 would recommend.

My next pro tip would have to be that if you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to simultaneously scream and watch your hopes for prosperity shrivel and die while on vacation, buy an “I don’t want to talk about politics” shirt! You probably won’t encounter this, but I didn’t think I would either, so better safe than sorry! Never did I think I’d come half way across the world to be on a boat trip with a fellow American who tries to give me a 15-minute lecture on why women’s rights are silly because women are “asking to be raped.” But it happened! Fun times! T-shirt probably available on amazon and can be recycled for family reunions.
After twenty years of having skin comparable to red velvet cake whenever in the sun for more than 30 minutes, you’d think I would’ve picked up on this tip by now, but surprise! I still didn’t think to use sunscreen! Now I have gotten burnt quickly before, but nowhere close to the speed of my sunburn in the Philippines. Thankfully I managed to burn a different part of my body each day so that by the end of the week I was evened out.
Overall, Palawan was stunning and really made me appreciate the opportunity to meet people and experience cultures from all over. And good news! You don’t have to go to the opposite side of the world to experience how nifty people are! Go talk to someone new today. Humans are neat.



About the Author

Taylor Herndon

Taylor Herndon

Writer & Editor

Taylor is a sophomore theatre and SMAD: digital video cinema double major who is STOKED to be working with Reduced Pulp. She overuses to word “nifty,” and is a firm believer that Kevin was the superior Jonas Brother.
When not doing theatre/SMAD things, she can likely be found studying Chinese, taking pictures, stalking the quad cats, or thinking of a witty tweet. In the future, she hopes to act, travel, and break the world record for the most coffee dates in one week. She is so excited to share her love of the arts with JMU & you can follow along with her on twitter at @freckleface_tay.



my fingers ache for chalk dust,

for paint stains and captive sketches.

but I am no painter

and have no skill with still images,

crafted by my hand,

of sights I can’t describe.


my brain aches for words,

whose company I keep,

but who often overstay their

welcome or expire

before I’ve opened the carton.


my head aches for faded conversations

in smoky rooms,

with friends whose names I’m afraid

to write on my heart in Sharpie,

but who have already made their nests in my left atrium.


I want to express and impress

and cypress.

the last of which is to say:



but I guess I don’t know

when to stop yearning

and when to

just sprout.

About the Author

Stephen Evans

Guest contributor