Monday, April 20, 2009

Punk and Body Image

This post might seem really random and out-of-nowhere at first, but bear with me.

This weekend some friends of ours had a benefit to raise money to cover their dog's vet bill after a little wrestling-with-a-train-and-losing episode. So they did the keg with live music (punk) and $5 at the door thing, and the party went really well. The police were not called, the neighbors did not complain, nobody passed out or puked on anyone else, and Crash (the most appropriately named dog in the world) is on the mend. But this party got me thinking. There was a day (pre-baby, of course) when I rarely missed a punk or rockabilly show. And yet, I don't have any interest in listening to pre-recorded punk or rockabilly. You won't find many punk tracks in my iPod or on my computer, and I have very few punk bands in my Pandora radio station. So why do I like live punk so much?

For one thing, of course I like the subversiveness of punk culture, although it irritates me to see it appropriated and commercialized at times. Second, I love the energy of the music. For some reason this doesn't translate for me when it comes to recorded material, but nothing compares to the energy of a live punk band. And third, the people at punk shows are endlessly interesting to me. You get such a good mix of misplaced people, angry kids, ironic gestures, and posing. You also get those few who are just exploring the identity and seeing if this might be their niche.

But what I really love is how punk (mixed with a little alcohol or pot) puts people in this place where their body issues kind of fall away. When you watch how people dance to other genres, it seems like there's always this element of self-awareness and self-censoring. People are acutely aware of how they appear, how hot they look, how trendy their "moves" are, etc. But at a good punk show, nobody cares anymore. People cut loose and dance any ol' how, and it always strikes me as this really freeing thing. So maybe it's just me, or maybe it was the tequila, or maybe it's the fact that I'm just now finally emerging from the year-long just-had-a-baby-and-rarely-go-out-and-party-with-friends stage, but to me it's one more thing to like about punk. Because everyone could use a little break from body issues, even if it's just for a few hours.

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