Up The Punks is an online archive that documents the punk scene in Wellington, New Zealand Aotearoa – that is, round my neck of the woods. The site is curated by local punks, and it follows the birth of punk rock in Wellington (24 August, 1977, if you’re curious), right on through to today’s wayward activities. The site’s an engrossing repository of reminiscences, and features plenty of up-to-date developments. But Up The Punks’ most crucial role is to provide an “alternative narrative” to Wellington’s mainstream artistic timeline.
For someone like me – odd, shy, and a certified hermit – Up The Punks’alt-narrative has proved to be an absolute boon for discovering new (and older) bands. The site’s UTP TV section features a series of live clips and interviews that are a lot of fun in that regard as well. And what Up The Punks does best is shine a light on the efforts of many members of New Zealand’s punk community who’ve kept genuinely independent and DIY music and art alive over the years.
Recently, Up The Punks has taken a trip further afield, uploading a page dedicated to an Australian and Southeast Asian tour undertaken by Wellington-based d-beat and crust band Rogernomix earlier this year. Rogernomix’s Tour of OZ / Asia 2016 page includes a ton of great photos; a lengthy travelogue; and loads of links to underground bands, labels and venues. Listening to Rogernomix is always a rip-roaring pleasure, but what makes the page utterly fascinating are the videos it includes.
Those videos highlight Southeast Asian punk scenes that are simply overlooked by the bulk of the underground music media – and I’m not pointing any fingers in saying that. I’m as guilty as anyone on that front. I’ve only written about a handful of Indonesian and Japanese punk bands in my time. But I’m aware there’s a mountain of stories we could be telling about Asian punk. (I’m also aware that I haven’t embedded those videos, because I’m really hoping you take the time to head over to Up The Punks to check them out, as well as the entire Rogernomix tour page.)
Underreporting Asian punk means we’re missing out on hearing a heap of great music, obviously. But that’s almost incidental to the fact that many Asian punk communities show courage and ingenuity in dealing with pressures and challenges that most Western bands or fans will never encounter in their own countries. Those are the stories we should be telling, because the responses and solutions found to what are often complex hurdles are frequently punk as fuck.
Rogernomix’s Tour of OZ / Asia 2016 page certainly features committed punks overcoming unique obstacles, which obviously underscores the diversity of experience within punk rock. But there’s another tale being told on that page too.
The Tour of OZ / Asia 2016 page is a vivid display of how punk rock can break down cultural and social barriers, and, for me, punk rock’s always been about that kind of close-quarter comradery. It’s about the shared sense of embracing loud and provocative music in order to rise above tough circumstances – whatever our respective backgrounds, and even if that feeling of liberation only occurs for the briefest of moments.
Point being, there’s mutual freedom to be found when hurling yourself around during a two-minute whirlwind of noise. Fair enough if you think I’m being too romantic about punk rock circa 2016. I mean, I did buy my first punk LP in 1983. So I am old. And maybe my idea of what punk rock means is nostalgic. But I see a genuine sense of solidarity being celebrated on Rogernomix’s Tour of OZ / Asia 2016 page.
To my eyes, that page shows people being drawn together in an age where the media and politicians seem set on driving us apart. There’s no us and them on that page. Just us. And that sounds pretty punk rock to me.
So kudos to Rogernomix, Up The Punks, and all the bands and fans featured on the Tour of OZ / Asia 2016 page. It’s a great reminder of what DIY punk rock is all about, and what it can achieve.
Now here’s some of Rogernomix’s nasty noise to enjoy, while you’re scanning Up The Punks’ pages… I’ll scuttle on back to my hovel.
[UPDATE: As I was typing this post, Up The Punks went and posted another great page covering the 12th Onslaught punk festival, which was held in Dunedin, New Zealand recently. Again, the page includes great photos and a video with interviews and live clips. Celebratory times were clearly had by all.]