WE ARE ALL WE HAVE TONIGHT

There I was: deep in the heart of unknown territory, surrounded by unknown foes, ready to slash and die. My headon a swivel, eyes darting back and forth, I was ready to spring into action — to defend my honor or my life. The cute redhead I had as a date that night leaned over and said: ” Is something wrong?”

 

“I’m not sure.” I replied. “I don’t feel right. Like something is off.” She looked at me, shook her head, pinched up her lip, cocked her brow and said something to the tune of “Just relax. It’s cool.”

 

It’s cool. Yeah, it’s cool. Then it hit me, like a tons of fat kid stage divin’ ass, it hit me. “It’s too fuckin safe.”

 

I was in Nashville, and it was 2014. I didn’t know the no name band at the local punk rock show, but I had seen them 1000 times in other cities and other times. I was far from my home punk scene of Lawrence Kansas. Even though the Outhouse is long gone, and some of my favorite local bands are defunct, I still have a healthy respect for my scene because it will set your ass straight when it needs to.

 

Back in Nashville my date turns to me and says: “Are you gonna make it?”

“Yes” I said. “It’s just… It’s just I don’t feel like I’m gonna get stabbed or nothing.”

 

“Umm? Ok.” Is all she said.

 

“It’s too safe. I don’t feel any energy in the room. Nobody is into it.”

 

Punk Rock has become safe, and I fuckin hate it. See I’m from a scene that was dangerous. Punk Rock to me should be dangerous. It should be dangerous to me, to you, and to the sleeping giants of society that won’t see the revolution coming. Punk Rock should feel like you might get stabbed in the bathroom. You might have to boot party a Nazi to round out the night. It means vomit in your car, and sticky shit on your boots. It was visceral and greasy. There was not a god damned thing safe about it, except for your friends. But even some of those rat bastards would steal your mom’s credit card and bang your sister. Back in the day my scene was known for bands that were notorious for doing unspeakable things to farm animals on stage. Hell, one front man used to cram marshmallows up his butt. Bands were in your face and dangerous — bands like Kill Whitey, Cocknoose, Filthy Jim, Mopar Funeral, The Unknown Stuntman. God forbid that one night would go by without some dip shit getting his head kicked in for whatever we could think of at the moment. It was awesome. I remember tripping at shows, and having a religious experience in a corn field while D.I. or Toxic Reasons blared as the twisted soundtrack. It was an angry teen’s Valhalla. It was sheer bliss, and Anarchy, and unabashed freedom.

 

Back then you had to prove it. When rednecks and cops came calling, you stood and fought them. When you caught the jocks and bullies from school in your world, you taught them a lesson. Frat boys be damned.

 

But now it’s safe. Punk Rock should never be safe. Punks were meant to destroy. Now teachers and moms have blue hair, and its kitschy. People with corporate jobs have tattoos and piercings, and no one bats an eye. Somewhere, there are real punks left. Street level. In a part of town where your blue haired mom won’t go. Somewhere, there are loud guitars and blood and beer on the floor. There is a kid writhing on a makeshift stage screaming shitty poetry over feedback and dull drums. There are scars and drugs and fear. If you listen to corporate “punk,” if you have blue hair and Hot Topic jewelry and have never been punched in the mouth by a skinhead — or better yet punched one yourself, you are not a punk. You are bullshit. Live a little. Start your revolution. Tear it all down. Safety is for the weak. If there isn’t blood on you or the band, it was a shitty show. Pick up a guitar. Scream to the world. Safety is for complacent pigs. Stand up for your freedom. Wanna be a punk?  Bleed for it.  Show me the scars. Freedom isn’t free.

— Shane Thirteen

I first found the punk scene at a young age — something like 13 or 14 years old. It was around the same time that Green Day’s Dookie or Rancid’s …And Out Came the Wolves albums dropped. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. Before that I listened strictly to Alternative Rock — albums like No Need to Argue by The Cranberries, and if you go back further, you’ll find an odd mix of country and bad 1980s pop. But something clicked in my head when Welcome to Paradise and Time Bomb first hit my ears, and things really fell into place shortly after when I discovered Ska-core, the devil and more by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The music inspired me, and it filled a void in my life. Its energy gave my teenage angst an outlet. It made me want to be creative. I was able to feel free and had the ability to channel my creativity into art and allowed my own depression to take a back seat in my mind

 

My lifelong venture in the world of photography started about eight years earlier, but it didn’t cross paths with punk rock until the late 1990s or early 2000s when I started spending most of my time at a crusty punk collective called “The Pirate House.” This is where I started to photograph my friends there, during every day events and at night during concerts. What I liked the most was the crust look about them, how they wore it was pride and not a sole could talk them out of it. It was who they were and what they loved. It was a look that I had only seen a few times before, and those times my parents demanded that I stay away from them since they were “dirty” or “scary”. In reality, my parents, like so many other people still even today, are scared of what they don’t know or don’t understand.

 

The crusty punk scene, also known as crust, or anarcho-punk, began in the late 80s with bands like Amebix, and gained notoriety in the 90s with bands like Aus Rotten. My appearance changed. Patches of my favorite bands, and metal studs appeared on my clothes. My friends started to change. This was the backbone that united us, the love of music and the scene. By seeing someone who looked similar to you randomly walking down the street, you would stop them to ask what they are into and a friendship would most likely be started at that time.

 

I attended the happenings at the Pirate House pretty much every night. Sometimes it was a vegan potluck, or just spending the night out on the porch with friends, drinking cheap beer and enjoying what the night had to offer. But other times it was community outreach — volunteering at the local soup kitchens or standing up for worker’s rights or demonstrating with the Black Lives Matter movement. Of-course there were also plenty of house concerts. Independent bands like This Bike is a Pipe bomb, The Sissies, and The Short Bus Kids were the norm.

 

It was an education and a sense of a family that I didn’t get at home, or at school. It was completely welcoming and did not discriminate. Your sex, race, or religion didn’t matter. Nobody cared if you were bald or had dreadlocks to your ass; if you were fat or skinny; if you had glasses or not. I grew up in a divided household since I was 10 months old and I was of half Latino, half European descent. I never felt like I fit in anywhere. But I did fit in here, and it was a good group of people. But it didn’t keep us from being judged for it.

 

This is a 10-year project that covers how my scene has developed over the last ten years from the 40th year anniversary of the subculture’s birth to the 50th. It is a collection images and stories from the community, from all walks of life; musicians and radio DJs to club bouncers to activists, about how it has stayed the same and how it is different. The people defy the stereotypes of uneducated drunk and drug addicted trouble makers or bums. Some also call them activists, but they just call themselves decent human beings. They take a stand against injustices that are against not just themselves but against everyone. These images and stories are from across the States and the world as experienced by those who experienced them first hand.

 Chris Ortiz