Music History

Fear of a Punk Decade

The AV Club has this longish piece on how 1996 proved to be a major year in the world of punk.  Lots of props to Canada’s Propagandhi, too.

Everything was flying: spit, sweat, hair, shirts, bodies. Hundreds of kids packed into the upstairs dancehall of a VFW in Denver on May 18, 1996, going nuts while my band played. I soaked up as much of that energy as I could as I jumped around the stage. My bass was so drenched in sweat, my hands kept slipping off the neck. A haze of stink hung in the air like smog. In all the chaos, I could barely find the right note, let alone play it. Not that anyone cared. They weren’t there that afternoon to see local bands anyway.
They were there to see Propagandhi—the catchy, snotty, provocative Canadian punk band signed to NOFX’s Fat Wreck Chords. Too bad they wouldn’t get the chance. Before Propagandhi could take the stage, the show hit a snag: A riot broke out.
Kids who had been sold advance tickets—make that oversold—weren’t being allowed in. Lined up in the parking lot, they started throwing bottles. A few tried to rush the door. The cops showed up, and they reacted—make that overreacted—with a show of force. Before long, something new and far less fun was flying around inside the VFW: batons and tear gas. Herds of beaten, confused, choking kids stampeded as they tried to exit the ill-ventilated venue down a single narrow staircase. My bandmates and I ditched our equipment and snuck out through a kitchen. By the time we made it outside, dusk was falling. A police helicopter hovered overhead. In the parking lot right off one of Denver’s busiest avenues, dozens upon dozens of punks—most teenagers—were face down on the blacktop, handcuffed behind their backs, and crying huge gobs of tear-gas snot.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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