Thankfully (from a parent’s point of view), Brandon didn’t wear his pants halfway down his backside, spike his hair, or dress as punk as some of his friends. I think because he packed groceries at the local supermarket he chose to reign it in a bit. You wouldn’t normally find him doing the lavish party bus Dayton Ohio thing or overstepping his boundaries. He didn’t need to care, but for whatever his reasons, he did.
Off duty, he often ran into people he knew from being at the market, and occasionally his employer or members of his employer’s family. Brandon was a smart guy, and because we are a small community within a larger metropolitan area, he knew his inner punk needed to be expressed differently – especially since his part-time job helped to make his car payment. “I don’t need to advertise my punkness. A real punk doesn’t need to show off…Its like a Karate man… the Karate man bleed on the inside. A real punk is punk on the inside.” –Mark Hoppus (Blink 182)Towing an identity around as a teenage kid is – like, what we all do. For a lot of kids, an initial identity is not really who they are, but notably, most teenagers are not sure who they are. Did you? If you answered in the affirmative, then you are one of the lucky ones. Most kids find something simply relatable and often jump in with abandon.
I recall listening to Bob Dylan, and the next thing I knew I wanted to be a Rolling Stone. I almost immediately went counterculture, and my parents freaked out. Dylan’s music and lyrics soon became my creed and they influenced much of my outlook on life for years. Admittedly, I’m still a Dylan fan, especially his early stuff, and he did help shape my true identity.
I’ve witnessed kids getting sucked up into someone else’s identity just to have a sense of belonging. It happens all the time with inner city gangs as well as kids in the burbs in search of fitting in somewhere, anywhere. It may take years, if ever, to answer the question of who we are, and for awhile we all try on different guises. I’ll never know if having the heart of a punk was a lifelong commitment or a passing fancy for Brandon, but whichever it was, I give him credit for handling it by being true to himself.
Every year, dozens of new punk groups enter the scene. Several make a short appearance and are replaced by fresh and more edgy groups in a heartbeat. The more established groups also have their time in the sun and can fade into obscurity. That’s life in the realm of the artist. It appears that punk music has an addictive need to express itself. Not for the money or the fame as much as for the sake of basic survival.
A voice needs to be heard. If the audience grows or dwindles, it really doesn’t even matter that much to those who throw it out there. Anti-establishment doesn’t even begin to cover the reality of a punk group’s expression. They are the other side of the social norm and thank God we have other sides!
Punk music actually brings about a balance that otherwise could leave us wobbly and uncertain as a culture. Too strong of a statement? Think if everything were vanilla and went unchallenged. Where would growth come from? Where would the appreciation for diversity be birthed?
We should all be grateful that there have always been rogues in every artistic endeavors, and for the past 40 years, the raw genre of punk has kept us from ever being complacent in an acceptance of a particular form of music. We should know better than to think the artistic expression of the unlimited individuals that make up the human consciousness could ever be held at bay. I’ll leave you today with a quote from Greg Graffin of Bad Religion, who in my mind, lives and tells it like it is.
“Punk is: the personal expression of uniqueness that comes from the experiences of growing up in touch with our human ability to reason and ask questions; a movement that serves to refute social attitudes that have been perpetuated through willful ignorance of human nature; a process of questioning and commitment to understanding that results in self-progress, and through repetition, flowers into social evolution; a belief that this world is what we make of it, truth comes from our understanding of the way things are, not from the blind adherence to prescriptions about the way things should be; the constant struggle against fear of social repercussions.” . . . Greg Graffin