Within the last month or so I’ve got about a half dozen inquiries into why at age 40 I can still listen to punk music.
It is a tad odd wondering why someone my age listens to punk music. How is it any more out there than the legions of soccer moms swooning over the Backstreet Boys who are performing in Lethbridge this week?
Or the bar star males of my age with their buttoned-down shirts and gold chains or women with far too-high hem lines shaking their money makers to the latest techno beats in a field of 20-somethings?
My response to them is we need to keep listening to punk music now more than ever. While I could argue that the above mentioned people are trying to hang onto their youth with their musical tastes, I’m trying to hang onto my ideals with my punk music.
While mainstream music nowadays seems to be caring more about what is happening in the club, punk music has always cared about something more. Just off the top of my mind I can come up with a song about caring more about if you actually enjoy your job than the amount of money you make (Pour Decisions by Real Mackenzies), fighting against gay bullying (Make It Stop by Rise Against) and addressing poor body image through commercialism (This Is The End by Anti-Flag).
Are we supposed to stop caring about these things when we reach a certain age? Do you reach a certain age and you are supposed to trade in whatever your favourite music is and grab your copy of Barry Manilow along with a nice pair of Dockers slacks?
I never really took to punk music until I was exposed to it in college, graduating from the musical masterpieces of I Wanna Sex You Up by Color Me Badd (yes I admit, I found the tune catchy in high school). People are very experimental in college and my experiments included music. I loved the hard guitar riffs mixed with the angst I was feeling in my early 20s while some of the injustice I was seeing around me and feeling like I could do nothing.
Maybe if I had been exposed to punk music a little earlier in life I would of fought the bully a little harder tormenting the populace instead of listening to top 40 which a lot of the time emphasized style over substance during a time when teens are just struggling to fit in.
Regardless, I got to listen to punk music in college and I liked it.
For those who think punk music is all just a bunch of inaudible screaming drowned out by the instruments, I think you are thinking about death-metal music. And you know what, if death-metal is your cup of tea so be it. Punk music is all about inclusion, unless of course you are a corporation keeping the blue-collar worker down or the politician brokering backroom deals with special interests.
And there are plenty of punk bands out there for the mainstream to enjoy with more radio-friendly riffs and grooveable beats.
But I digress. You should be able to listen to whatever type of music you enjoy where there is no expiry date. I listen to my punk music, but also enjoy the many other different meats of the musical stew be it Weezer, Our Lady Peace, Gus N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, Justin Timberlake for dance beats, Lifehouse for love ballads, all the way to dabbling in some country fare in Corb Lund and Ryan Bigham. Different music for my many different moods I say.
The sappy love ballad has given me an appreciation of all the beauty in the world and punk music has given me the appreciation that beauty can be threatened by some ugliness in the world and so it has to be fought for. It is quite a good symmetry where punk music helps keep me grounded.
And so in the end I make no apologies for my love of punk music where this white boy suburbanite will be awash in a crowd in Las Vegas of body piercings, tattoos and multi-coloured hair. I hope they will accept me as I accept them. And to be honest there should be lots of 30 to 50 somethings in the crowd at the 16th annual Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival in Las Vegas given many of the artists are older than me.
Singing about important issues of the day should not have any age limit nor should listening to it. For those who truly care, there should be a little bit of punk in everyone’s heart in your musical soundtrack of your very being.
While I’ve listened to punk music since my early 20s, punk music does not keep me young, it keeps things in perspective for me. A perspective of the real important things in my life of my family, friends and enjoying the little things.
And if the powers that be try and screw with those things, perhaps that passionate punk music can give me the courage to take action instead of simply being a bystander when the shadier things in life happen.
It is an outlook on life that no one should outgrow.