"Maybe we need a revolution," sang Mutants frontman Fritz Fox last Friday, pointing at the crowd. "You're not the problem, you're the solution."
That line, from the San Francisco art-punk band's signature song "New Drug," was one of many shout-along favorites during the Mutants' reunion show at Denver's hi-dive. The event (see "Art for punk's sake," AudioFile, May 30) drew a wildly enthusiastic and surprisingly diverse audience, ranging from 20-something skinheads to trendy art-school types, a few of whom may actually have been around long enough to catch the band in its '80s heyday.
The lyric also spoke to the fact that the punk-rock genre isn't always the stereotypically nihilist force it's frequently made out to be. Even if that is part of its charm.
Just ask Dann Kieta, organizer of this coming Saturday's Front Range PunkFest 3, where some two dozen bands will command one stage at the new D.I.Y. Event Center (2361 E. Platte Place) and another at Tino's next door.
"There's places in town that wouldn't let me hang posters just because it says 'punk' on it," says Dann, who organized the first Front Range PunkFest at the now-defunct Blue Iguana Tavern, where he used to tend bar. "So this year, I wanted the focus to be more on spreading the word to the public that, look, punk rock doesn't mean heroin needles and safety pins. You know, there's more to it than that.
"We're a community, but we're not the kind of community that doesn't want to have other people get involved. We want the general public to come on down and, you know, maybe you'll meet somebody with a mohawk or a nose piercing or something, but this doesn't mean that you can't be friends or have a good time."
And while you're at it, bring the family. "At the last punk fest we did, there were a lot of little kids running around, and they were just having a good old time. And everybody was super-cool, you know. Even when a kid runs into the pit, everybody makes sure the kid doesn't get hurt, and slows down and stuff, and makes sure the kid has fun."
What began with a half-dozen bands crammed into a Nevada Avenue bar has now evolved into a local punk-rock institution. This year's lineup includes return appearances by local stalwarts like Murder Hat, 99 Bottles and the Nobodys; Dann's own trio Tater Twat (which he describes as "the greatest rock 'n roll band in the history of Colorado"); and, traveling out from California's inland empire, Iggy and the Rough Riders Family Band, a group that consists of single father Iggy and his "five amazing boys."
Musically, the bands range from gutter punk to ska and a lot of points in between. "We've got the real hardcore skinhead oi punk stuff like 99 Bottles, and then we've got the more ska-punk style, more the Blink-182 type stuff, like Sorry I Came. The idea was to kind of cover the whole genre." (You can find the full schedule at tinyurl.com/frpunk.)
I should probably warn you that there'll be a third outdoor stage where accordion performance-art terrorist Chris Mandile has been given free range to do whatever he wants, which is kind of a wonderful and frightening idea.
"We're also gonna have some body suspension people — you know, people that put hooks through their skin and hang from them. We were thinking we'd use a cherry picker, but then one day I was at work standing on a scaffolding, and I thought, hey this would work. So we have a rolling scaffolding that we're gonna use."
And who'll be up there? "Whoever wants to hang," says Dann. "I think you're an idiot if you do it, myself, but it's fun to watch."