Thank you, Kenocore
After hitting "post" on that last (depressing) blog entry, I have to admit, I was depressed about the state of music. I needed something to pick me up, to remind me that there are plenty of artists of all ages that aren't selling out or going batshit crazy or whatever. And as this Labor Day weekend was coming up, I knew there was only one thing I could do.
Take a trip down I-94 for the annual KenoCore Punk Piknik. They've been doing this for at least ten years; the first time I stumbled onto them was back in '07, before Beautiful Bert died. I dropped in last year, too, and was happy to see that the same level of peaceful mayhem was still happening. Since Bert died, Pistofficer's Frank Lefensty has helped keep this community together and growing. I always see events being posted that keep the local punk bands and club going in Kenosha. The Piknik used to be in the city of Kenosha proper, but Kenosha Blue has never been friendly to the punk scene, and rather than bait them, Piknik organizers figured, "oh, fuck this, we'll just find a friendlier local for our music" and found someplace outside of city limits.
The first year,it was this farm (beset by mosquitos) right across the state line; for the past few years it's at least in Wisconsin, on a nice stretch of property just off I-94. They enforce the law pretty well themselves, thank you, and it's a genuinely family-friendly event that attracts all ages: from 6 month olds to 60 year olds. Folks pitch tents as a respite, most folks bring their own food and drink but there's a fire pit raging all day with local corn. Truly not a scene most mainstream folk would associate with the phrase "hardcore punk." It's a free event (I kept looking for a donation bucket or something -- getting a sound mix, not to mention port-o-lets isn't free) and open to anybody who's willing to follow the rules: no fighting, no excessive drinking (by the time I arrived, somebody had already been kicked out and there was an announcement over the PA looking for that somebody's friends), no underage drinking, and if there was any weed being smoked I sure as heck didn't smell it.
I'm getting too old (and with too many other obligations) to do a full 10 hours of hardcore, but I do like to stop in and check out the scene. I got there much too early for perennial favorites Pistofficer, but I caught five bands that made me smile to myself, knowing that tight, aggro, thrashing hardcore punk will never die. It was like trash fest in that each band got a short set (there looked to be over 20 bands on the day's bill -- you'd have to keep it to 20 minutes plus maybe 10 to set up. All used the same amps and drum kits). The five:
|The Blue Collar Brawlers|
The Scraps: older, seemingly seasoned pros for whom a complicated rhythm bit isn't out of the question. Lead singer with cookie monster vocals, tight rhythm section.
The Wasted: Classic fucked up angry and, of course, wasted punk. Lead singer is impossibly tall, and the bigger the are, the more spectacularly they fall, but this guy didn't miss a beat, even when bloodied by a mike getting shoved in his face while mashing.
The Blue Collar Brawlers: Of course Milwaukee gets represented by a band whit "blue collar" in their name. Also nice to see some female representation. If you think there's not a lot of women in rock (even in proportion to the rock-listening population), there's even fewer in punk, and even fewer in hardcore punk. And rest assured, there's plenty of women who are into punk, if the attendance at the Piknik is any indication.
Anyway, the Brawlers have some good songs: pointed lyrics, and even a variety of melody and rhythm. I think they need to get a few more shows under their belt and then they'll build the following that will know and recognize their songs. They should fill an active mosh pit in no time. I'd like to check them out in our hometown.
Rechid: Now here's a Milwaukee band that's been around for some time, and I'm embarrassed to say this was my first exposure to them. Lead singer/bass player come out looking like Alex deLarge without the codpiece but just as menacing. This band gets old school hardcore despite their seemingly youthful appearance. They even throw in a bit of ska, but just a bit. Lots of jumping around, a voice you can understand, guitar playing a bit more complex. Unfortunately, that's kind of a guess on my part.
The afternoon was plagued by something wrong in the guitar channel that resulted in way too much constant high end feedback. At first, I thought it was the Wasted being obnoxious, but all the bands I saw seemed to have suffered from it, so I'm guessing it was a crappy patch cord somewhere. Nevertheless, I'm glad I keep high end filters in my purse. They play a lot of shows with the Blue Collar Brawlers, so it will probably be easy to catch them on a night where I'll be able to hear them all.
Wake Up: I'm glad I stuck around for just one more band, and Kenosha's Wake Up fit the bill of snotty loud sonsofbitches I love about hardcore. Despite the t-shirts, they looked more like hippies, or anthropology majors, but they sounded like they belonged here, and they have quite a fan base. I took another lap around the grounds before I left: impossibly skinny guys slam dancing, tattoos you'd never expect from this crowd, kids getting their t-shirts autographed, couples chilling out, indeed the Punk Piknik was everything I needed to feel good again. Punk was the protest music of my youth, and it just makes me as happy as a little girl to see it pulsing just as strong. I climbed into my car and headed back north, ready to go back to work in two days, glad to know somebody picked up the torch. Thank you, Kenocore.