Black Flag Elm St. Music and Tattoo Festival, Night 1 Club Dada Wednesday, June 11, 2014
I do not like punk rock. I do not like what it was, I do not like what it stood for, and I do not like how it's become short hand for some ideal of rebellion when it's really just some benign idea of challenging authority. It's hard for me, the child of a migrant worker and César Chavez disciple who's been politically active his whole life, to take any of the faux outrage seriously. The imagery of punk is too homogenous and historically exclusionary. It doesn't represent me, or the millions of other people of color in the U.S. Middle class suburban outrage is not my outrage.
But even if I might be right, it's also pretty rad to sort of be proven wrong every once in a while. Last night at Club Dada, with Black Flag kicking off the opening night of the Elm St. Music and Tattoo Festival, was one such night.
The festival kicked off with a set by Cinema Cinema, a Gregg Ginn solo set and then Ginn, Mike Valley and whoever passes for the rest of Black Flag these days. It wasn't just the older, overtly white audience in attendance (though let's be honest it mostly was), it was a crowd spiced with diversity. It's a testament to America's changing demographics that for the most part we're all pretty much the middle class at this point, and a crowd full of young teens and twenty-something minorities clad in garments that would put the attendees of the 2013 Met Gala to shame just drove this home.
During Ginn's solo set he employed a flat screen TV to showcase videos behind him while his laptop looped music, and he shredded at his guitar. This came off as extremely comical as the images jumped between Winamp level visualizations, clips of people dancing from bad VHS copies and old movies. You can almost picture Ginn at home late one night caught in a YouTube loop watching people dance and muttering to himself, "Yeah, perfect." This was all just the prelude to the Black Flag set which emptied the outside patio and jammed the inside of the venue with punks of all ages, creeds, sexes and sizes.
Hilariously enough Ginn blew the stage electrical system early in his set giving a teenager with a glorious Mohawk and his friend the opportunity to take photos close to the stage. This was followed by a photo with his dad, then with his mom, then a family portrait, then a group photo. The family that rocks together stays together.
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The success of being middle class tends to take the fight out of you: your parents fought to get you there, so now you're fighting against them. That's a shame and awesome at the same time. It's 2014 and in many ways we're closer (though further in others) than ever on racial lines, and a group of kids of all races bouncing around to Black Flag proves it. Even my jaded self jumped up and got into the flow of things when the iconic "TV Party" was played. The Dallas crowd gets demerits for so eagerly shouting along to "DALLAS!" though. Way to miss the satire.
As the set wound down, and the room got steamier, I took off for the fest's only other venue going, Three Links. Down the block a crowd gathered outside as San Antonio's Piñata Protest's Tex-Mex punk created a sweaty swirl of bodies dancing in front of the stage. A prime example of the demographic shift in the genre, Piñata is all Latino in band members and all Latin influence in it's music. The lead singer plays the accordion while shouting lyrics in Spanish, his band mates fill the air with the usual punk rock licks, and much like California rockers Metalachi, they cause everyone to dance and sing along. It's infectious. I find myself shouting in Spanish, catcalling he band and even dancing for a second. Black Flag may have been the marquee name of the night, but the boys from San Antonio put on the show of the night.
But that eclecticism is what makes it all work down here in Deep Ellum. It's easy for those to go on,and on about the neighborhood's revitalization, but that would ignore the work of people like Oliver Peck. He and the folks at Elm Street Tattoo, as well as several crucial retailers and bar owners, never abandoned the area.
Making my way down Elm, past Trees, I come across a gaggle of kids working a Pop-Up Art Show, each sketching something different, sharing cigarettes and taking passerby's for donations. They say they plan on being at the festival all week. I remark that it's just Wednesday and they've got a ways to go till Sunday's final night. They laugh, and say they'll make it. I think we all will, and Deep Ellum will be better for it.