This Saturday is the Punk Island 2014 festival in New York City. It will feature almost 100 bands on seven stages all for FREE on Staten Island.
I have had the good fortune to have been a fan of punk rock music since I first heard ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ in the eighth grade. And 10 years ago I decided I would take a stab at being in a punk band of my own and started a band called Blackout Shoppers.
Full disclosure: our band is playing Punk Island and has played the festival several times, and we are friends with several of the principal organizers. But this isn’t world of laminated back stage passes and cushy green rooms. In the world of DIY punk rock music, the back scratching and mutual admiration dick sucking doesn’t earn you big rock and roll money; it maybe gets you a space on a floor to sleep on, and maybe a free beer.
The Punk Island festival for the first several years of its life was held on Governor’s Island. Governor’s Island is an excellent place to visit. A former Army base, airfield and Coast Guard base, Governor’s Island boasts lots of great historic sites and rarely-seen views of Manhattan and industrial waterfront Brooklyn.
Governor’s Island became off limits in the wake of the damage done by Superstorm Sandy and more recent park development by the city.
So last year, Punk Island moved to Staten Island. It takes place on a small strip of land and pier right near the Staten Island Ferry terminal. It was a long, hot day but it was well run and everyone had a good time. It wouldn’t be a punk show without a few fights and problems. But last year no one went to the hospital and no one went to jail; that’s a win-win for a punk rock festival.
People have been fighting over what the term Punk Rock means since 1975. Punk Island has always featured a large cross section of punk rock music. There are “crusty punk” bands with members who appeal to gaggles of itinerant homeless-by-choice youngsters who smell bad. There are beat-down hardcore punk bands that buy tattoo ink by the gallon. There are “pop punk” bands who may sound like Green Day though they probably don’t want you to tell them that. Punk Island even has a Brooklyn TransCore stage as trannies from Brooklyn have created their own punk scene. More power to them all.
Our band has agreed to help provide equipment for the Dispatches from the Underground stage, which we’ll be playing. So I will be there bright and early by 7 a.m. It will be a day baking in the sun with my ears ringing from the sounds of a multitude of punk bands. By noon I will be a disgusting miasma of sweat and coagulated sunscreen. It will be great. As much as my inner adult voice tells me to be more serious about life and that punk rock is a young man’s game, I find it hard to tear myself away, try though I might.
Punk Island is a very short walk from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and it’s free and for all ages. It it will have all kinds of punk bands there. You have no excuse not to go.