Are you a product of punk in the internet age? I am too.
An introduction to “KEYWORD: PUNK,” a project exploring punk identity and community formation online
Unlike most gritty, salacious coming-of-age stories, my punk self-discovery didn’t take place at a local DIY venue or while crate digging at a hole-in-the-wall record shop. Instead, I spent my teenage years safely within the confines of my suburban Bay Area home, watching a lot of television, playing a selection of video games, and talking to strangers on the internet. As the daughter of Filipino immigrants (which I write about a lot), I relied heavily on American media and the almighty internet to educate me on what’s popular, what’s trendy, and — in simplest terms — what’s out there.
I learned about pop-punk by playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater for PlayStation. I found out about emo music (and my favorite band, Taking Back Sunday) by watching the band’s cameo on “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” I watched a vlog of Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato praising Hayley Williams from Paramore as their idol, so I got my hair cut like her. I listened to Bowling For Soup’s “1985” (one of the first songs I would ever illegally download) every day after school on Radio Disney.
It wasn’t until I went off to college at UC Berkeley that I really gained an understanding and appreciation for the local East Bay punk community. And even though I didn’t grow up going to local shows, the minute I stepped into a local DIY venue (shoutout to the Oakland Metro), I immediately felt a connection with the community there.
And I realized that was because I had already been connecting with a lot of these people online.
I have been working as an arts journalist for the last four years, specializing in live music coverage, punk subcultures, and Internet culture. Now, as a student at the University of Southern California pursuing a master’s degree in Specialized Journalism for the Arts, I’m writing a personal and oral history of punk in the Internet age. Yes, I am aware that is a very, very lofty goal — which is why I’m writing this post to connect with all you lovely people of the Internet.
Throughout my career as a journalist (and as a lifelong fan of punk music), I’ve found myself making some of my most valuable community connections online, whether it’s posting on a random Facebook group to find someone to split an Uber to a far-off venue, or DMing people in my area who are tweeting about a much-anticipated album drop. I would not be the journalist — let alone the person — I am today had I not had access to sites such as MySpace and Buzznet, programs such as Limewire (sorry, authorities) and Spotify, that allowed me to discover new music and connect with people with similar interests without ever having to leave my parents’ home.
To my friends in the online punk community: You’ve been there for me since the cringe-worthy MySpace profile pic, yellow skinny jeans and band tee days, so I know you can help me now…
I want to hear your stories.
Your “we met on the Internet,” “this band changed my life,” “the best show I’ve ever been to” stories. Tell me about your gateway band or the first album you ever downloaded, or how being on Tumblr in 2012 was almost as good as (if not better) than being a part of your local scene. I know these stories are out there — because I’ve lived them, and I know you have too. We need these stories to be documented and heard. Consider this a DIY first draft of the written history of punk in the Internet age.
If you have a story you want to share (or know someone who might), feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (#KEYWORDPUNK), Instagram, or email. And keep an eye out on social media for the stories I’m collecting from the community; I’ll be publishing them on Ampersand LA (USC’s arts and culture magazine) as I go along.
Like everything else in the punk community, this project is nothing without the support of the scene. So spread the word and speak up; I’m ready to listen.