I've always been fascinated by the legend of the late seventies Akron, Ohio punk scene that almost became the next big thing. Maybe it's the fact I narrowly missed it myself by being born twenty some years too late, or maybe it's just the northeastern Ohio association. Or maybe it's because I recognize and identify with the quintessential rust belt story element of almost - but not quite - making good, and having to live with that near miss forever on.
In any event, the parts of that legend now exists in graphic novel form, courtesy of Ohio artist Derf, who released last October Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. Sure, it's an outsider coming-of-age tale involving punk rock, a formula already approaching overuse, but it reaches beyond the formula to establish itself as a sincere statement on what a cultural movement like punk meant when it emerged, especially to the misfits of the American working-class Midwest. If you don't identify with that background, the sincerity is still undeniable and compelling. And if you do identify with that background, this graphic novel is like meeting a new friend who instinctively gets what you're about from page one.
Regarding Akron's punk scene, I've posted before about two documentaries on the subject, It's Everything and Then's It's Gone, and If You're Not Dead, Play! I'm having some trouble viewing the video of the first one, but the second is functioning. Along with tales like Derf's, they're a good look into a tiny piece of history, as well as the larger contextual history of punk, that the VH1-style docudramas won't or can't convey.
The BUST blog points out this pretty rad collection of punk photography from Jenny Lens called Punk Pioneers. Best part is that it pays good attention to the women of punk, who sometimes get lost in the shuffle of punk history.
But in the world of punk, DIY and getting turned on to subversive politics through punk, I felt more comfortable and excited to get my shit together as to help create positive change. A big part of me feeling like I had my shit together enough to parent a child is reflected in how I feel about children being raised in freedom; the conscience act of parenting a free child IS creating positive change. You know, 'Be the change you wish to see.'
Akron native, Zen Buddhist master, punk band member, columnist for Suicide Girls, and director of the doc Cleveland's Screaming, Brad Warner, is going to be back in Ohio soon to talk about hardcore meditation and punk in NE Ohio.
Last week I posted a link to the 2003 documentary It's Everything and Then It's Gone, which is about the 70's and 80's alternative music scene in Akron, Ohio. After doing a bit of digging, I discovered the director, University of Akron's Phil Hoffman, also made a sequel: If You're Not Dead, Play!!, which covers the second wave of Akron garage bands. I also found out that Hoffman received Emmy nominations for his work on these docs.
"What most surprised me as I created the documentary is that I've become an advocate for 'rock-as-art,'" mused Hoffman. "The average person who considers rock 'n' roll only looks at the musical part. These bands were dedicated to it as performance art -- as theater -- and I have come to appreciate the full artistry of their work."
I saw the local PBS documentary It's Everything and Then It's Gone a few years ago, when I still lived in NE Ohio, and just thought of trying to track it down. It's the tale of how Akron, Ohio almost became the next musical hotspot in the punk and post-punk eras. Even if it never quite got the street cred that places like Seattle or Austin would someday earn, it still produced some noteworthy artists like Devo and the Rubber City Rebels. Great little doc, and it's all online.