Punk is dead, almost…

Punk is dead, but not at Rockford’s Davis Park.

Punk has been dead for years since all the kids found out that wearing spikes and leather to prove who they were was the same as the jocks bleaching their hair and wearing Abercrombie.

Some kids, however, seem to have missed that aspect, which was nostalgically pleasant and inspiring to see on Friday, August 9 at Davis Park. It was as if disco and “anti-individualism” had started all over again—for a few, that is.

Punk-A-Phenomenon, put together by Klub Phenomenon in Freeport, featured the very well-respected third wave ska/punk group Less Than Jake from California (where third wave ska seems to have started).

The Davis Park show was an all-ages event. Although predominantly attended by 8th-12th graders who hadn’t been told about punk’s sort-of funeral in the late ‘80s, a wide spectrum of members from the old-school generation attended who just didn’t

care, and would rather live in the past. Which

is good, for those who hold a traditional culturalist point of view.

Less Than Jake is not really considered true punk by purists, but to some latecomers, it’s the only punk that they’ve ever known. Hailing from the hard-core third wave ska generation from California, they feature an explosive horn duo, slapping bass, and over-amped electric guitar. Less Than Jake truly represents everything wholesome and cool about growing up in the late ‘90s with rebellion on the mind. Sid Vicious they’re not.

Preceding Less Than Jake were an array of signed bands that seemed to be more Emo than anything else. A few scattered performers had some ska music on their minds, but none of them seemed to know who Tommy McCook or Desmond Decker were, and were more influenced by Skankin’ Pickle and The Bruce Lee Band.

It was rather disappointing to the viewer who came to see real anti-governmental punk and old-school ska. But the toned-down imitations were a good contrast to the explosive sounds of Less Than Jake.

The bands weren’t bad, and some were quite fresh and interesting, specifically Whippersnapper (Fueled by Ramen) and Slick Shoes ( Tooth-N-Nail Records). But overall, these bands did not represent the name of the function.

Despite the rather weak introductory groups, Less Than Jake put on a performance of spectacular sound and energy. If one is unfamiliar with this group, they’re a sort of Peter Gullato-esque punk-ska band with muddled inspirations from funk to hip-hop. Dominant slapping bass is what distinguishes them from other groups of their genre and personal (if not, a little goofy) lyrics grab the listener’s attention. They’re the kind of band that young girls strip their tops for, which occurred upon multiple occasions throughout the evening.

Essentially, Less Than Jake sound in performance exactly as they do on their albums: loud, energetic, clear and rock-steady, with an emphasis on the rock part.

The crowd went into a dancing frenzy when the group belted out the famous “Johnny Quest (Sellout)” and various tunes from their most current albums.

An unusual band for Rockford to host, their reception wasn’t as grand as that of other out-of-town groups in the past. This could have been due to the fact that re-entry was forbidden for the day-long event, and a lot of the kids had to go home to dinner at some point.

That, and the price being a little too steep for a punk show ($18/advance, $22/at gate), added up to a medium-to-disappointing turnout. Of course, Davis Park was by no means empty, but it has been better attended in the past for less well-known bands.

Taking these negatives into consideration, all-in-all, the event was a nostalgic trip down rebellion lane. Although the first half of the day should have been called “Whiny-Teen-Angst-Emo-Fest,” the day was still a nice attempt at a tribute to punk of yesteryear. A kinder, gentler mosh pit and anti-whatever sentiments accented the ambiance of the day-long festival, which reminded popular music fans everywhere that Punk may be dead, but the movement’s descendants still remember what it was all about.

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