What punk was/what punk is

Punk was the big bang that gave rise to a look, a sound and an ethos that in-turn gave birth to a social atmosphere in which every iconoclastic idea from grunge to "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" could work its way into pop culture.

But pinpointing an exact definition more than three decades after the explosion started is no easy task.

Many of the old timers who bore witness to punk's initial invasion in the late '70s and early '80s declare nowadays that punk is dead. They are wrong.

It is no longer the cultural terror it was during the Reagan era. But it was and still is a shotgun blast of energetic release, grit and contempt for suburban alienation.

Punk blasted a lot of doors off their hinges. And after the bang, it spread outward like so much dark matter – lost in the universe but out there nonetheless.

Today's punk may not fit neatly into the circa '79 definition of punk, but it's still there, warping the edges of popular culture in ways the powers that be cannot explain and cannot control ... and it was never intended to be something that was waxed over intellectually for decades to come. Harder, faster, louder wasn't only the sound and the battle cry, it was the lifestyle.

Like everything else, consumer culture ate it up, neutered it and put a price tag on it; and in true viral form, punk continued to evolve. There is nothing more passé than a disaffected suburban teen, expressing his or her angst through spiked collars and belts purchased at Hot Topix. It even feels passé griping about the uniform here.

Clubs like the Metroplex and 688 are so important to Atlanta's musical history because they emerged at a time when any sane or rational club owner wouldn't let punk kids come within 30 feet of their establishment, let alone let them play on their stage. They looked at these kids and thought they were from another planet.

These days the Earl, the Star Bar, the Drunken Unicorn, Eyedrum and other clubs in town open their stages to punk bands, but to call them punk clubs would be misleading. As the music has become co-opted into mainstream culture its various strains live on as musical genre as legitimate as hip-hop, country music and the blues — but so imbedded into the cultural fabric that it's seldom distinct or recognizable

In Atlanta, rumors of punk's death have been greatly exaggerated. Pick up virtually any record released by Rob's House, Die Slaughterhaus or Douchemaster and you will get an earful of what punk has to offer. The names alone tell you they were infuenced by punk.

Go see a show by Predator, Carbonas or Derek Lyn Plastic and you'll get a face full of just how alive and kicking punk rock is these days. All the bands and labels are energetic and young. Too young to have witnessed old school Atlanta punk and hardcore bands like Neon Christ and DDT performing at The Metroplex or 688, but they are definitely channeling the spirit.