COVID Destroyed Punk Rock's Anti-Authoritarian Legacy
"Turn, tune the knob
K-go some alternal radio
Strategic marketing hype
Has our music been castrated?
To you it may sound good
To me it sounds all wrong
The notes and chords sound similar
The same forbidden beat
But the desperation's gone"
-NOFX, 'The Desperation's Gone
GG Allin is rolling in his filthy grave.
"If they live long enough all of your heroes will disappoint you," goes the axiom – or something like that.
In the fall of 2016, when I was still stateside prior to departing for the Far East, The Casualties – a longtime favorite of mine, authors of such classics as "Punk Rock Love" and "Tomorrow Belongs to US" – came to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a show downtown, a few blocks from where I was living.
It was surprisingly small, given how high-profile the band has been over the years. There were only about a dozen kids in the mosh pit with their band patch-riddled jackets and maybe a hundred people in the audience. The energy was sparse.
And, Jesus Christ, did the band look old.
They played all of their classics, but geriatrically and mechanically.
Then out came the Trump inflatable with the caricature features, which they tossed into the mosh pit so the kids could kick it around. The singer went on a long-winded rant about fascism or whatever with the heavy implication (I don't remember if it was outright stated) that everyone in the audience had to vote for Hillary Clinton. It was all very predictable, and equally stale.
It was then, watching one of my bands that maybe ought to have retired years ago, that something was not quite right with the state of punk rock. The desperation was gone.
Then came COVID.
Countless bands I used to love broke my heart by announcing cancellations of entire shows over a single positive COVID test (based on bullshit PCRs that can be cycled up to find a banana positive).
On their 2021 tour with Alkaline Trio (another favorite of my youth), venues hosting their shows required "all fans to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event OR full vaccination for entry."
California punk band The Offspring fired their drummer of over 14 years for not getting shot up with the mRNA.
Greg Gaffin, frontman for Bad Religion – which I once upon a time might have said was my favorite band – said in August 2020, in addition to it being "beyond him" why anyone wouldn't vote for Joe Biden (at 9:25), that he was optimistic about the COVID vaccines and that he didn't really think live shows mattered anymore (subverting the entire punk ethos of communion at live shows):
Although he's not a punk rocker, vaxx mandate fascist Gene Simmons of KISS fame had this to say:
"What about my rights? You don’t have as many rights as you think… Get over yourself… That’s right, the government is telling you what to do. Shut up, be respectful of other people, and get a vaccine."
And here is Stza Crack of Choking Victim/Leftover Crack fame -- once the crustiest, most contrarian of all punks – muddling his way through a pathetic acoustic set through a paper bag, blissfully unaware of the irony of the masochism enacted on behalf of the biomedical state.
But at least, as far as I can tell, the COVIDians haven't gotten to Smut Peddlers, authors of perhaps the most punk rock song of all time, "Fuck You…… That's Why," which I listen to whenever I feel myself getting a little too deferential to mortal authority.
Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.
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