THE LA and San Francisco punk scenes began flourishing in the 1970s with bands like Black Flag, the Germs, and Dead Kennedys. And as waves of people migrated to tract homes and shopping centers in the suburban sprawl, so did the music.
At its roots, California Punk Rock is still rife with the anti-establishment wails and raw energy that its founders wove into every coarse lyric and chord. Through the decades however, it’s evolved to reflect California’s changing demographic. Adolescent fans in the ‘burbs who couldn’t make it to punk shows in the cities began taking up instruments and staging their own acts. In doing so, they wove bits and pieces of their California lifestyle — predominantly surf and skate culture — into the music, and became part of a movement that has given punk some of its most profound contributors.
Whether you grew up in the city or the suburbs — in California or another place — California Punk Rock may have had a hand in raising you.
1. You’ve lost blood, teeth, or your voice in a Pennywise Bro Hymn mosh pit.
And it didn’t slow you down one bit. Spit out teeth. Sing. Repeat.
2. Bad Religion taught you more about history and vocabulary than high school did.
Why wouldn’t they? Lead singer Greg Graffin landed himself a PhD from Cornell and a professorship at UCLA. He knew what he was talking / singing about and he sounded way less bored than your history teacher. Is your fecundity a trammel or a treasure? Well played, Dr Graffin.
3. Dead Kennedys’ album art scared the shit out of you.
In the best way possible. The cover of Plastic Surgery Disasters still haunts me in a way that makes me want to change the world.
4. You weren’t — and probably still aren’t — a fan of authority.
Whether you were waging subtle war with your parents, your school, or the police busting your balls for skateboarding in the Vons parking lot, you could always put on Pennywise or Face to Face and feel like they had your back via headphones.
5. You have, or may have considered getting, a Strung Out Astrolux tattoo.
6. You know what (cartoon) Milo looks like, and are well aware that he went to college.
7. “Possessions never meant anything to me, I’m not crazy…”
You just finished that verse in your head.
8. When someone says Goldfinger, you don’t think of 007.
9. You or someone you know owns Brian Cogan’s Encyclopedia of Punk.
10. Your parents dropped you and your friends off at local punk shows when you were 14.
Or it might have been your friends’ parents. Either way, if the show included songs about the tyranny of parents, I hope you or your friend kept quiet. Also, you should call said parents and let them know how cool they were for giving you a ride.
11. Your belief DIY ethics had nothing to do with Martha Stewart or Bob Villa.
You only needed one more paycheck from In-n-Out to finally buy that four track recorder and then you had it made, Descendents style.
12. You’ve worn a T-shirt for the sole purpose of offending someone.
13. Upon hearing Black Flag, your dad said “that’s not music” and made you listen to the Eagles for three hours.
14. A part of you was crushed the day that No Use For A Name’s Tony Sly died.
Way too young. Sometimes I cry when I watch Lagwagon’s Joey Cape cry about it on film.
15. 924 Gilman St.
16. You had a crush on the lead singer from Tsunami Bomb.
Uh, she was a Punk Rock Queen.
17. You had a crush on the lead singer from Pulley.
Uh, he was also a Major League Baseball Player.
18. You can understand what is coming out of Rancid’s Tim Armstrong’s mouth.
19. No matter what you think of Green Day now, you know Dookie was still one of the best sounding punk albums ever released.
20. You’ve been kicked out of a show at House of Blues Anaheim or San Diego.
The bouncer was also 6’6” and 300 pounds of Satan, and he tossed you around like a rag doll. You might have also shouted, “This place isn’t even punk!” To which he laughed and closed the doors on you.
21. You love Punk Rock no matter where it came from.
No matter if it’s from California, Chicago, New York, Florida, Sweden, or Tokyo, if it’s punk and it’s rock, you probably love it. The fact that punk has spread to so many ends of the earth is testament to its collective nature. Do we have our own history and brand in California? Sure, but in the end, it’s all about hearing something and feeling like you have an army of support behind you — and at shows, you often do — regardless of what your qualms or hardships in life are. Provided you’re not being a dick. But we can always write a song about that if need be a la Jello Biafra’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off.
This article was originally published on December 10, 2014.