What Punk Rock Means to Me

Jar of Manic Panic Electric Amethyst hair dye

I was never a punk rock girl. In fact, I was the opposite. Growing up, I wanted to be liked by everyone. Being liked meant feeling safe and that was super important to me as a kid. Laura’s blonde and blue eyed sister, Mary, from Little House on the Prairie was my ideal. Sure she had zero personality, but she was loved by all. As I got older, I realized that being liked by everyone meant not saying what I really thought in case someone else didn’t agree with me. Sometimes it was hard to guess what people wanted to hear. Turns out, going through the world carrying, “Please don’t object to me” around didn’t make me feel more safe, it made me feel more anxious.

Also, would you want to be stuck in traffic with Mary or Laura? I’d rather have sassy and be-freckled Laura in the passenger seat any day. Buckle up, half-pint!

I was introduced to punk rock in my early 20’s when a friend dragged me to a Le Tigre concert. I approached it like an archaeologist studying an unfamiliar culture. Since I was working on computers all day, I could relate to the lyrics: Get Off The Internet / I’ll meet you in the street. Still, it wasn’t music I was going to listen to for fun. At the time, I was obsessed with Big Band music (remember the swing revival anyone?) and singers like Billie Holiday and Judy Garland.

Because my parents signed me up for piano lessons at starting at age 7, I had ideas about music and musicianship. My teacher employed The Suzuki Method and I’m not sure she knew that, “Dr. Suzuki’s goal was not simply to develop professional musicians, but to nurture loving human beings.” She definitely read the part about, “Constant repetition” being “essential in learning to play an instrument.” There was a lot of KEEP YOUR WRISTS UP.  I also played the flute in band and orchestra and sang in choir. Music was hard work, so don’t come at me with your, “I bought this guitar two days ago at a garage sale and now I’m performing for an audience” nonsense.

In my late 20’s, my friend Rachel gave me a copy of L7’s Slap-Happy and it was a revelation. It was full of the “ugly sounds” my High School choir director warned us about and it was wonderful. I liked the unrelenting drums of Dee Plakas and the way it sounded like a sneer when Donita Sparks sang

Remind me, advise me to,
Remind me to, ignore you

I’ve been thinking about punk rock lately, because I am friends with the dad of one of The Linda Lindas. I know! This does not mean I’m cool. I just happened to work with him years and years ago and now his daughter just happens to be famous. She’s a good kid. The band signed with  Epitaph Records and they performed LIVE on Jimmy Kimmel.

I was a fan of The Linda Lindas after watching this awesome video they did for the movie Moixe (Netflix). It’s an epic example of how much you can do with planning, an iPhone and fantastic audio and video editing. Major props to Sawhorse Productions for putting such a professional video together within the constraints of shelter-in-place. Directing over Zoom – what?! I did not even know that was a thing. 

It was The Linda Lindas’ interview and performance at the LA Public Library that made them a “viral sensation.” They gained 200K followers on Instagram in one week after Eloise belted out, Racist, Sexist Boy among the library stacks. The interview was great. Just kids saying things like, “We love cake, all of us” and talking about their favorite and least favorite subjects in school; Lucia said, “I believe in science. I don’t like science.” I especially loved the part where the adult interviewer mistakenly tried to make them feel better about being weird. At first he denies their weirdness in order to validate them and then he comes around when it is clear that The Linda Lindas have no problem with being weird. From around 28:57 in the video:

Mila:  OK, I really like being creative and weird with you guys. 

Bela: Yeah, we’re weird. 

The interviewer tries to tell them, “It’s not weird, it’s unique, you’re super unique” and The Linda Lindas deftly jump in to stop his attempt to make them feel better about something they don’t feel bad about, assuring him, “It’s a good weird” and, “We love weird.” Bela says, “We embrace it.” The interviewer relents and says, “For sure, lean into it. We need more weirdos in the world.” Lucia sings a high (weird) note and everyone laughs. The Linda Lindas win. 

I’m going to follow Bela’s lead and embrace my weirdness. I haven’t had a haircut in well over a year and I think it’s time to dye that white Susan Sontag lock of hair near my face, purple!

These are a few of my favorite things right now:

photo of The Linda Lindas by jessiecowanphotography

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