I Love Pop Punk, and That’s Why the Scene Needs to Die

slam dunk 2012 wristband

I have had a draft sitting on this account for months, decorated with half-formed thoughts on the Parker Cannon drop kick incident and where it stood within the culture of the scene. It lay unfinished primarily through anger – I rely on being able to write to express myself, yet in this instance I found myself in the grip of a frustration-based writer’s block. No matter how many rewrites and phrase alterations, I couldn’t articulate why I had grown to feel only contempt for a community which shaped my adolescence.

My first foray into pop punk, punk rock, or whatever you’d like to call it (by “the scene” I also refer to post-rock, emo, etc.: it’s the people who make a difference, not the niches) happened when I was around 9 or 10. My mum was childminding full-time, and the dad of one of the kids brought me a couple of burned CDs one evening when picking his daughter up. I have a lot to thank the man for (Jim Bailey, you’re a hero) – that introduction to music via Dookie and The Green Album defined the next decade of my life. In 2005 I discovered Fall Out Boy, and in 2015 I had some of their lyrics tattooed on my shoulder. I found friends, love, and a community through going to shows. I moved in with a guy whose band shirt collection looked like Jason Tate’s inbox. I spent days on trains, on buses, and in cars travelling up and down the country for gigs. Friends I made at my first Fall Out Boy show in 2007 are still good friends, and coming to stay with me for their set at Bellahouston Park this month. I saw The Wonder Years play to 20 or 30 people in Ivory Black’s in 2009, and had the time of my life seeing them at Stereo a couple of weeks ago. Slam Dunk North gave me some of the happiest memories I’ll ever have. I saw bands like Set Your Goals, Fireworks, and Four Year Strong on the same bills, and when they were actually in their prime – a notion which is very much a thing of the past. I made life-changing decisions during New Found Glory sets. I went to a Jacks Mannequin show and saw Andrew play Watch The Sky. My high school English folders were covered in Get Up Kids, The Movielife, American Football and Brand New lyrics. I was lucky enough to visit the States, and picked cities based on where the musicians I respected most had gleaned inspiration. I got to know Glasgow through its wealth of live music, and ultimately decided to get myself out of high school after fifth year and to university through there, which is the best choice I ever made. The music I grew up on really shaped everything.

And now, I hate it. The majority of the bands which were the fabric of the scene have disbanded or are dormant, and the ones which are left are either shadows of what they once were or are assaulting their fans. The scene discourse now centres almost exclusively on the inappropriate behaviour of men given power by their place in it. As a woman I feel wholly uncomfortable with the culture that exists within the genre, and am happy to be mostly removed from it.

This scene is one which has always boasted about itself as a champion of equality, but it’s really just a boy’s club like everything else. Straight white guys wear Hostage Calm ‘I support same sex marriage’ shirts and pat themselves on the back for it, pleased that they’ve done their bit. Parker Cannon can violently kick a fan off stage, with countless voices insisting that she deserved it and with The Story So Far remaining one of the biggest bands still around. Warped is the best representation of the scene we have, Kevin Lyman claiming that inclusivity and safety for (primarily female!) fans are priorities, while pro-life stalls are given a space on the tour. It took almost ten years of involvement for me to realise that the role I had perceived myself and other women to have in pop punk was entirely toxic. Women highlight the imbalance in genders represented on stage at shows, and men argue that girls just aren’t as interested in starting bands. And that might be the straw that broke the camel’s back, in terms of my relationship with the scene – I could count on one hand the number of guys I know who went so far as having an opinion when someone prominent in pop punk was shown to have been sexually inappropriate with a minor. If that had been different, I might have felt a fire in my belly and been obliged to stick around to make a change to the environment which I know so well – but most are silent. I usually interpret this to mean they want to defend the successful guy in question, but know better. If you don’t even acknowledge that there’s a problem in pop punk, know that it at least appears that you don’t care. Your privilege lies in your ability to distance yourself from this. For the rest of us, we’re not bringing this up because we enjoy a good discussion – we’re talking through our lived experiences. Pop punk is a microcosm of patriarchy to an extent which it absolutely does not have to be.

The scene is in a weird place these days, though, diluted and struggling for relevancy; in a way, it’s reminiscent of what was to be witnessed in the time between kids obsessing over Living Well Is The Best Revenge and kids getting The Upsides tattoos. The wind is changing direction, and today’s Kerrang! generation is more interested in the lo-fi sensibilities of Moose Blood, The Hotelier and Modern Baseball. There was a certain identity associated with the crop of bands which really exploded around 2009, though – pop punk branded itself very well at that point – and to me, that’s something which is missing now. It seems more like something happened when pop punk met The Wave, and now we’re left with the crumbs of whatever that created; free of any formula, and yet somehow still a little bland and unimaginative.

Maybe pop punk is dying, and maybe that’s okay. Big league legacy bands like New Found Glory have enough ground to stand on no matter what goes on around them, so we needn’t worry about losing the bands that are worth holding on to. Maybe what’s happening now is downtime for us to reassess our priorities, elevate our women, and educate the next generation of bands before we put them in a place of authority above crowds of impressionable fans. I think that’s what we need. The next Dan Campbell will be here before long.




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