My event write up is about the show celebrating the 19th year of the Minneapolis-based anarchist punk collective Profane Existence (PE). PE produces one of, if not the most popular anarcho-punk magazine in the world and has been key in the rise of crust punk, releasing records from many of the world's most popular crust bands over the past two decades. Although it is a generalization, in the interest of being concise, I will be using "anarcho-punk", "crust punk" or "crust" as a blanket term for these types of bands and their lyrics, music, lifestyles, politics and shows. Because "crust punk" is not a term that is widely understood, I will briefly state my thoughts on the scene as a whole before discussing the Resistant Culture show. Before I go any further, I would like situate myself as a white, financially stable male who often benefits from cisgender privilege and I recognize the contradictions and potentially very offensive nature of authoritatively projecting my understanding of feminism wherever I choose.
Crust punk is a sub-genre of punk rock and a lifestyle that is heavily influenced by anarchist and socialist politics that often include but are not limited to anti-racist, anti-sexist, pro-queer, communal, sustainable, animal-friendly, anti-war, anti-state and anti-authoritarian beliefs and practices. The politically radical nature of the music and lifestyles within anarcho-punk communities creates a space that is often open to self-reflection and criticism regarding gender, race, class and other dynamics. A promising aspect is that many crust bands and people who are invested in crust punk music publicly identify as anti-racist and feminist. However, crust punk in the Twin Cities continues to be predominantly white and male, regardless of how radical, inclusive or open-minded these spaces are. In saying this, I want to acknowledge that many other people and myself have observed that crust as a sub-genre of punk is far more diverse regarding participation in bands as well as supporting the music than any other sub-genre of punk. The dynamics within and around these spaces should constantly be interrogated and reevaluated based on multiple feminist and queer frameworks of intersectionality and positional consciousness in order to recognize the limitations and weaknesses, as well as the strengths of collective anarcho-punk spaces.
I would like to acknowledge that I am extremely uncomfortable with reading (my understanding of) feminism into/onto spaces that do not explicitly define themselves as such. I recognize that many radical spaces and individuals oppose these types of categorization, figurative co-optation and literal misrepresentation and it will inherently be problematic to do so. I aim not to co-opt or misrepresent, but to highlight a few of the ways I noticed crust punk bands enacting a translation of what I believe to be intersectional and positionally conscious feminisms.
Now, on to the show…
The bands Parasytic (Richmond, Virginia), Wartorn (Appleton, Wisconsin) and Appalachian Terror Unit (Huntington, West Virginia) opened for the show's featured group, Resistant Culture.
Most of the band members and audience members (like me) were, white, presumably economically stable male-identifying people. A large portion of the people at this show (not just the white dudes this time) fit a traditional crust punk look that opposes mainstream standards of beauty and fashion by wearing mostly black clothes with patches, metallic studs, pins and the occasional tear in the material complimented by intentionally poor hygiene. A relatively unique openness and comfort with androgyny regarding hygiene, physical appearance and clothing is something I have noticed within certain crusty spaces (like this show) that is inspiring and gives me hope that these spaces have a tiny bit of radical potential.
Of the three opening bands, all the musicians were white and almost all of them presented similar styles of clothing and hygiene their crusty audience. While obviously not signifying equal sex/gender dynamics, Wartorn and ATU both have a female-identifying member, presenting a disruption in the normatively gendered punk band stereotype. Wartorn’s female-identifying member plays bass in the band while ATU’s female-identifying member is the lead vocalist and lyricist.
ATU’s 7 inch record, “Armageddon Won’t Be Brought By Gods But By Men Who Think They Are”, invokes a radical anti-authoritarian eco-feminist perspective in addressing regional environmental destruction and union busting corporations. ATU often highlights that their state, West Virginia is embedded in an area with a rich history of early colonial resistance and influential labor struggles. Appalachian Terror Unit’s name alone invokes the importance of this regional history of resistance while ATU are most vocal in criticizing the coal companies who currently are destroying the Appalachian mountains through mountaintop removal and other unsustainable mining practices. In the PE magazine #52/53, ATU’s vocalist Sarah explains why she chooses to focus on regional issues more than stereotypical crust bands while still trying to understand broader issues; “They are all equally important to me because all politics are inter-related in the long run. Largely because we do live in a small town with a mainly non-political scene, for me its all about getting local (and non-local) kids pissed and motivated”. Sarah and ATU’s approach represents what I believe is an intervention in normative crust punk discourse that can be understood as feminist because it recognizes the importance of regional issues, local communities and intersections of multiple local and global systems.
The night’s featured band Resistant Culture comes from Los Angeles, playing what they call “tribal grindcrust”, describing it in their biography on their official website as “the development of extreme and tribal music that has weaved the indigenous flute, rattle, tribal drum, and chant into an organic and flowing tapestry with extreme contemporary punk and metal”. Lead vocalist/gourd and flute player Anthony Rezhawk, female-identifying guitarist/vocalist Katina and their former, now deceased guitarist Jesse Pintado are of indigenous descent which is reflected within their music, lyrics and mission. In an interview posted on the Dorobopirata blog, Rezhawk says Resistant Culture “is rooted in the spirit of indigenous resistance. Any person who has come from a culture that has been colonized by civilization can understand that just to survive as a culture is a deep form of resistance.” This quote alone can be recognized through a feminist, intersectional analytic lens because of the attention given to resistance that goes unrecognized by dominant discourses and their binary oppositions. However, I would also like to acknowledge that even in projecting positionally conscious and intersectional feminisms onto Resistant Culture’s beliefs, I am categorizing (one of the most powerful tools of the colonizer), imposing and making judgments regarding individual lives, experiences and histories. I do not think this is wholly appropriate, yet it illustrates an amorphous connection between the theories, practices and enactments of differently situated subjugated knowledges.
Rezhawk articulates views of freedom and liberation in an interview on their Myspace blog saying, “We support all struggles for tribal autonomy and survival, we actively support local struggles and indirectly support various struggles throughout the world” and “We believe that nature is the only legitimate power. The essence of nature is anarchic and resists attempts to reduce its complexity under the rule of one person, culture, species, etc”. Although it is highly problematic for me to categorize and label Resistant Culture’s beliefs and frameworks, it is worth noting these ideas parallel positionally conscious, dynamic, anarchist eco-feminism.
During Resistant Culture’s set, the dynamics within the space visibly became a little uncomfortable for some people, exacerbated by a drunk audience member who felt privileged enough to interrupt a moment of silence Rezhawk requested in order for the band to perform a spiritual ceremony that they do before every show. Resistant Culture’s set was amazing nonetheless. They played a few of their older songs as well as newer ones while addressing the song topics during the breaks and finally throwing in a cover of Discharge’s “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing”.
A slightly outdated Resistant Culture biography says that Katina’s musicality and presence problematizes multiple stereotypes by “blowing most guys off the stage with meticulous precise effortless playing and a thrashing storm of head-banging”. Katina’s musicality and presence presents what could be understood as a feminist intervention in white, male punk normativity. In another set of quotes that could be seen as paralleling or being directly related to feminism, Anthony talks about their outlook and their message; “A lot of our lyrics focus on the destruction of nature and the oppression of people and animals. We also focus on raising consciousness about the past, present, and future of native peoples worldwide. We believe that we need to deepen our understanding of the state of world and the state of our minds since we are heading toward an uncertain future. Creating a dialog through music for people to discuss new ideas for change and new possibilities for community empowerment is the substance we try to bring to the music world”. Resistant Culture’s focus on survival, the environment and widespread liberation comes from lived experiences and their beliefs and ideas are comparable to and were formulated under similar, yet different situations as more recent intersectional and positionally conscious feminist theories and practices.
I would again like to acknowledge that there are dangers of misrepresentation and recolonization when comparing these views to what I, from my privileged positionality, believe is radical, intersectional and positionally conscious feminism. I aim to draw parallels between intersectional and positionally conscious feminist theory and the frameworks and interventions that come out of lived experiences and subjugated knowledges.
The Twin Cities crust punk scene and more specifically the Profane Existence Anniversary Show aren’t extremely radical, diverse or accessible spaces, but there are interventions happening and hopefully modifying and reclaiming those spaces in the name of true liberation and equality.
Resistant Culture Official Website