Turn It Around: Thoughts on Punk and a Review

I can recall learning about Green Day like it was yesterday. I was twelve years old, a hurricane was rolling through, and my aunt was watching my step brother and I. She let us stay up way too late to watch Southpark, and we saw a commercial for American Idiot. my interest was instantly peaked. Aunt Jenny started talking about how cool they were, and all us kids were determined to figure out who Green Day was. I was just starting to discover my own music tastes, so when I finally listened to American Idiot a few months later, it blew my dang mind wide open. Thus began my journey with punk. Though that's a story for another day. See photo below of a girl who REALLY just wanted to front a pop punk band.

All this to say I've loved both punk and Green Day for a very long time. So when I heard my local arts center was screening "Turn It Around," I was both impressed and stoked. "Turn it Around" is a documentary about the emergence of the punk scene in the Bay Area of California in the late 1970s, and spans all the way to what happened in the 90s. I knew Green Day was from Berkeley and they reped it hard, but I completely forgot Operation Ivy and Jawbreaker were from the Bay Area as well. Plus, a film narrated by Iggy Pop? Ummm, sign me up!

I went in with no expections, and left just as blown away as when I heard a punk track for the first time. Not only did I get to hear the story of punk itself from the perspective of some of my favourite artists, I discovered new bands that were equally phenomenal (Yeastie Girlz? Uh, hello!). It was fascinating to hear a story of these kids coming together, fighting for what they wanted, and growing a community based on their mutual love of being their weird and artistic selves. Though I will always point out that punk was toxically masculine and violent, the way the punk community came together to speak out against injustices was incredible.

And honestly, the film didn't shy away from the violence that punk could breed. There was a fine line between the self expression of releasing anger and straight up violence for the sake of violence. That line was often crossed, and a lot of punk documentaries I've seen sort of glaze over that fact. This one, however, faced it head on and I appreciated it. The doc even touched on women breaking into the scene, and they interviewed Kathleen Hanna! (Points from me, obvi.)

Overall the documentary was superbly done and delightfully thorough. I could go on and on all day about what like minded creatives banding together means to me, and this film captures that perfectly. The animations were amazing, the interviews were captivating as I'll get out, and Iggy Pop had a surprisingly wonderful narrating voice. If you don't know punk and want to see what it's all about, this is a really cool place to start. If you have a long standing relationship with the genre like I do, this movie will have you holding on to those sloppy riffs even harder.

Life’s A Gas : Glam Rock Love

The past few weeks have been very flashy as far as my music choices go. I decided to listen to T-Rex radio on Spotify, and I haven't really been able to stop. Mark Bolan has been buzzing from my speakers and Bowie has been charming my turntable almost exclusively. Coming from me this shouldn't be much of a surprise, but I've really been connected to and inspired by glam rock as of late.

I briefly touched on why I love my glam jams when Bowie died. All of those reasons and more remain as true as ever almost two years later. Not only is the music beautiful and decadent in the best way, but the visuals combine with the sound for a delicious extra-ness only glam can provide. I was almost instantly drawn to and inspired by the over the top style of these artists. Very few genres mix musical and visual artistry in such a way. Color, patterns, glitter, and neon makeup oh my! Not to mention the expression of gender fluidity through androgyny. These guys (and a few gals) were more than a little ahead of their time.

Glam also basically emerged from one of my other favourite genres, psych rock. Early glam was heavily influenced by the groovy side of British Invasion like The Zombies, The Hollies, and Donovan. Glam really got its start in the U.K. in the early 70s. The one and only Mr. Marc Bolan of T-Rex and Bowie really got the train of excess rolling. Even though bands like The Velvet Underground were doing similar things in the New York art scene, Bowie really bridged the gap and brought glam to America's attention.

This inspired bands like The New York Dolls to come to be, but also had established artists like Iggy Pop and Lou Reed taking on more of a glam persona. Of course all good things eventually become mediocre things, and this gave rise to bands like Def Leopard, Motley Crue, and RATT, but I won't get into that ;).

I kid, I kid. Glam did however change the face of rock. It made sure it left a little eyeliner to make it's eyes pop. Glam helped pave the way for people more freely expressing their gender through fashion. Punk also rose from the ashes of glam, and I for one am eternally grateful for that.

Some of my favourite glam albums are "The Slider" by T-Rex, "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" and "Diamond Dogs" by Bowie, and "Raw Power" by Iggy and the Stooges. I also throw "Loaded" by The Velvet Underground in there, but that may just be me. I've made a playlist to go with this blog post of some of my favourite tracks. They range from influencers, the real deal glitter rockers, and the punk that came after. I owe a lot to these guys, so I don't mind the jukebox in my head being a little glittery for now.

https://open.spotify.com/user/1230018323/playlist/09BiHNUfOglbOXJh18qtxM?si=y4JwmUFu

Let The Music Be Your Master

Vinyl has been a pretty big part of my life since my mid teens. It's no secret that I'm obsessed with everything 60s and 70s. It only makes sense that I would be drawn to records. For me they epitomize old school rock and roll soul and the heart of at home music.

I know that sounds cliche, but I couldn't care less. The image of friends gathered around a record player with incense burning and bell bottoms all around (a la That 70s Show) has always been the pinnacle of cool in my eyes.

My first vinyl was "Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine" by The Doors. It was my first time in a local vintage store, and the crates of records immediately drew my eye. I was wearing one of my Doors t-shirts, found the record, and Love Me Two Times started playing. Obviously it was destiny, and I handed over the money with no hesitation. I didn't even have a record player at the time, but I knew I would get one soon enough.


The rest is me buying history. 48 LPs, 24 45s, and three record players later I've invested quite the little chunk of change into my wax collection. I do have a few new releases and re issues, but most of my collection is original pressings from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I've upgraded from a small starter turntable to a real deal AKAI set up, thanks to a Christmas gift from the parentals.


It's no New York or L.A, but Baton Rouge has some pretty cool spots to find records. My favourite of all is the Atomic Pop Shop. It's owned by all around powerhouse Kerry Beary. It's such a rad space, and they even have shows and neat events as well.

Another pretty rad space is The Exchange. They have a nice selection, but it's a lot more crowded and less organized, so more digging is required. However, they do have 50 cent LPs occasionally, so it's the thrill of the hunt, ya know?

I've found that other than these places, my best bet around here are estate and garage sales. Some of the coolest scores I've made have come about this way. Cheap Thrills, Are You Experienced?, and Fly Like An Eagle were all $1 finds. Antique stores can be pretty legit as well. Changes One and Who's Next for $5 each? Say no more, mon amour.


All of the above are some of my favourite finds, though picking favourites are like ranking children at this point. Some of my other favourites are my red and white double LP edition of Get Behind Me Satan, Diamond Dogs, Sea of Cowards, and Magical Mystery Tour. As I've said, the older ones have the most special place in my heart. I feel like they have such a story to tell, dig?

My collection my be pretty modest right now, but it brings me immeasurable joy. My aim is to be Lester Bangs from almost famous and have nothing but vinyl filling shelves upon shelves. Taking a record out of the sleeve, putting the needle to the groove, and escaping to another place and time is one of my favourite pass times. London in the 60s, a club on the Sunset Strip in the 70s, and New York in the 80s. Vinyl brings me everywhere.

Raging Against Machines

Lately there’s been a lot of rhetoric around who can say what about politics, particularly when it comes to musicians. There are many who feel like musicians and entertainers shouldn’t express their political or social opinions at all. They should just “do their job, be entertaining, and leave their politics out of it.” I come from a place (southern Louisiana) where we still “don’t listen to The Dixie Chicks” and people “boycotted” Beyonce for her Superbowl performance.

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via FoxNews

I can see where the opinion comes from, but I am from a completely different school of thought. I think musicians, and other people in the spotlight, using their performances to enact positive change is an amazing thing. Music is what sparked my interest in activism and advocacy in the first place. Not to mention music and activism have gone hand in hand for years. All of this made me start to think about musicians who are also political activists, and I decided to make a playlist.

This is a compilation of diverse artists taking on a huge range of issues. From Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra speaking out against gun violence, to Sly and the Family Stone talking about standing up for what you believe in general. This playlist also touches on issues of immigration, misogyny, multiple wars, and hardships facing the LGBTQ+ community.  Some of these musicians have also done work with their activism outside of their music. Joan Baez helped found the USA section of Amnesty International, and Alynda Segarra created Nosotros Fest to celebrate latinx musicians and performers.

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via bikinikillarchive.wordpress.com

Too often people forget that musicians are human too. They are passionate about issues that affect them and those they love. They have just as much of a right to express themselves as anyone else. They are artists using their art to hold a mirror up to society. Just because they’re in the public eye to varying degrees, does not mean they are there purely for your entertainment.

I understand it can be jarring. Most people when listening to music or watching a film, they’re looking for an escape. Having someone talk about their opinions can make things uncomfortable, sometimes even if their opinions are the same as yours.

So, boycott all you want. Delete Mp3 files until your heart is content. However, I hope that this playlist proves that musicians have never stopped using their voices, and they never will.

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I’ve linked the playlist below. I’ve designed it to listen straight through without shuffle. It mirrors my journey, and many other’s, with activism. It starts slow and ends with righteous indignation.

What do you think? Do you feel like musicians should be able to talk politics, or should music purely be used as an escape? Have musicians inspired your activism if you’re involved? If so, who? Let me know!

The One Where It’s 2017

Wow. The year I thought would never end is finally dead and buried. 2016 was a wild and atrocious ride to say the least. It was both one of the longest and shortest years of my life simultaneously. 

2016 started with the announcement of David Bowie’s death on my birthday. I’ve already made a post about that day, and will probably make another in the days to come. Honestly, and I’m not trying to sound hyperbolic, that marked the beginning of the end for me. The year was over before it even started. 


My inspirations seemed to drop like flies through the rest of the year. My childhood home, and much of the rest of my hometown, flooded in a tragedy that went virtually uncovered by any media outlets. We elected Donald friggin’ Trump as our president, I ended relationships, and my anxiety was ever present. Nothing seemed to be able to go anywhere and it was beyond frustrating. This year was full of challenges and lessons like I never thought possible. 

Which brings us to the end. The last few hours of 2016 turned out to be the best of the whole year, and the first moments of 2017 were filled with joy and music despite the gloomy weather. 

As I was beginning to clean my room yesterday, I decided to pause and reflect. I pulled my tarot deck from my bookcase and proceeded to draw a three card past present future spread. I drew with the intention in mind of what I needed to take from 2016, and I needed to bring into 2017. The reading that unfolded filled me with a renewed hope. 


For those unfamiliar with tarot: I drew the four of cups for past, death for the present, and the two of cups for future. The gist of this reading is that it’s been a year of self defeat and limited motivation, which couldn’t be more true. Presently a change is occurring. It’s the end of an era or phase in life and new adventures await. This is my sincere hope and I can already feel it happening. The future holds important new relationships and bonds, not just with someone else but with yourself. An inner peace is on the horizon, and I’m so hopeful. 

After this reading and much thought, I was determined to watch this year die in a much better way than it has unfolded. I convinced Gabby to go with me to the Moon Honey New Year’s Eve party appropriately named “F#%! You 2016.” I threw on some glitter and my Bowie shirt and we were on our way. 


This turned out to be the best possible decision I could have made. The show was absolutely amazing. Moon Honey, along with other beautifully talented Baton Rouge musicians, got together and played the most wonderful set of covers imaginable. They not only paid tribute to artists we lost in 2016, but so many others that got everyone on their feet. 


Jess said it best on Moon Honey’s Instagram.

“Last night was the most superior genre of fun-rebellion as a jumpstart to personal liberation.”

Being in a room full of beautiful artists and friends saying “screw off” to a year of hurt in our communities was the most healing way to bring in the new year. 

As I look back I can’t think of much good that happened in 2016, though I know it existed. However 2017 had better be ready for me and those I’m working closest with. It’s going to be a wild ride in the best way. 

First adventure: Los Angeles.

The Stars Look Very Different Today

With any other artist, I can pretty much tell you when I discovered them down to the time and place.

Fall Out Boy: On the bus in 7th grade.

The Beatles: My sophomore year of high school after watching Across The Universe.

Alanis Morissette: In the car with my mom when I was 4.

It was different with Bowie though. I can’t put my finger on a time or place when this shooting star of a man’s existence overlapped with mine. I just know that it was at the right place and the right time. It’s really like he’s been there my entire adolescence into adulthood, but his presence was subtle.

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I remember learning how to properly play Dance Dance Revolution in one of my best friends bedrooms to “Just Dance.” I remember staring in awe at the cover of Aladdin Sane for what seemed like ages. I remember seeing a video of him performing “Fame” on Soul Train and thinking it was the slickest thing. I vividly remember having car concerts to Ziggy Stardust with my roommate and singing at the top of our lungs.

 

I’ve always referred to David Bowie as “the light of my life,” and he was. As completely cliche as that sounds, he really was a shining beacon for me in a lot of ways. A beacon pointing me to more amazing music, pointing me to some of my best friends and pointing me toward finding out who I was and accepting how weird I am.

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Bowie’s music not only helped shape who I was as a person, but his existence in general. Whenever I would feel bored or uninspired, I would just search images of David Bowie on Google. I would look on in complete awe at him just simply being a human. His outfits, his facial expressions; they were all so out of this world to me. Again I’m going to get really corny, but it was like his entire existence was art.  He lived to make his entire person part of his music and artwork. I wanted (and still want to) be that way, but I don’t think I will ever even come close. Him being so unappologetically and authentically himself taught me that it was okay to do the same.

 

When you really think about it, his influence and  body of work is absolutely astronomical. 26+ albums, films, fashion; the list of marks he’s made on popular culture could go on and on. Even if you don’t REALLY know who he is, chances are you’ve heard of him. Even I was surprised to read just how heavily he influenced punk rock in the 70’s (which shouldn’t be a surprise at all when you think about it.)

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When I woke up this morning, it was the closest thing to a “disturbance in the force” as I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. It was around 1:15 in the morning when I woke up out of a dead sleep, turned over, unlocked my phone and checked Facebook. It’s my birthday, so I was just expecting to see maybe one or two birthday messages I had received in my sleep. The first thing I saw was a friend who had reposted the official statement from the David Bowie Facebook. I was in shock. I hoped that a quick search would tell me something different, but it was very true.

 

I began searching through social media, and I was blown away. It was as if every Bowie fan had gotten the same message to wake up and heard the news all at once. I was texting with Matt and told him that “He was some sort of rock and roll celestial being. He let everyone know that he was gone. He had that much power.” He responded “This is crazy. I can’t think of another person who would cause this kind of shockwave.”

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As I scrolled through all of the tribute tweets from the likes of Alex Gaskarth, Kate Hudson, Mark Gatiss, Gerard Way, Carrie Brownstein, Mitchell Davis, Hannah Hart; people from all walks of life, I felt more connected with these people I’ve never met than I have in my entire life. It was then I chose to get up, blast Hunky Dory, put on glitter eyeshadow, and dance in my kitchen.

That’s how I chose to remember Bowie; an out of this world being who somehow managed to connect so many people before he left this earth. He did it so effortlessly too. A kind of effortless that no one else will be able to touch.

Thank you so much, Starman, for everything you’ve done. Let us know if there’s life on Mars, and I’m glad you visited. Stardust to stardust.

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Hello, Is This Thing On?

So, I realize that I haven’t posted since April. I am also now realizing that you wouldn’t know that, because I deleted those posts. I’m so good at this blogging thing, right?

Anyway, that is neither here nor there. I was talking to my roommate last night, and I had a sort of epiphany. (Well, I don’t really know if you can call it an epiphany because it’s something that I tell myself all the time.) This epiphany was that literally nothing is stopping me from what I want to do other than my own laziness and general apathy.

Miranda and I were watching The Punk Singer, and I found myself thinking the same thing I think every time I watch it;”Wow, Kathleen Hanna accomplished so much so young. I wish that I could be more like her and do all of these wonderful projects.” My thought process normally doesn’t go much further than that, but last night it did. I said to Miranda out loud “I want to live that life,” to which she replied “Do it, dude!” I know it sounds really silly that at 23 years old this simple statement made me think, but it did. I started thinking about just how completely lazy I am, and how I literally have no excuse for not accomplishing more.

I tell myself that I’m busy with school, which is a lie. I tell myself that I don’t have any time to dedicate to this stuff, which is also a lie. I am completely content with wasting what free time I do have with laying around and watching Netflix. I only have myself to blame for not doing more creative and worth while projects. I know I’ve made this promise to myself before, but I intend to keep it this time. I’m going to stop wasting the time I have, and start channeling my energy into what (little) creativity I have.

I hope to post more on this blog. I love my tumblr, but I want this to have a more cohesive and professional purpose. I want to post my progress on projects and their finished products. I want this to be a home for everything I have plans to do. My best friend Gabby and I are starting a podcast that I want to promote here. I want to start doing more photo shoots and updating my flickr. Most of all, I want to start making videos and uploading a zine I plan to go with them. That is going to be my biggest pet project that I hope to update you all on.

Hopefully I can continue to stay motivated and inspired, and use this as an outlet for what that brings.

Until next time,

Kalynn