Live: Bible Thumper And Tribal Force Put The Punk Back In Punk Island


Punk Island
Governor’s Island
Sunday, June 24

Better than: Riding a tandem bicycle.

This June marked the six-year anniversary of Make Music New York, a festival of public music and art centered on the notion that music should be free, outdoors, and available to all. Yesterday’s day-long Punk Island, put on with the help of the DIY space ABC No Rio‘s HC/Punk Collective and boasting a 50-band lineup scattered across seven stages.

The trek to Governor’s Island isn’t an arduous one, although getting through security after a crowd of crust punks is another story. (I watched a handful of similarly outfitted people get denied admittance to the GI ferry for being intoxicated or planning to get that way—one trash can was almost dedicated to crust tequila.)

ABC No Rio is a center for art and activism founded in the 1980s, during the heyday of Manhattan’s hardcore scene. The site hosts regular hardcore matinees and an incredible zine library that, after a few generations, seems to have lost some of the weight of its social engagement—a fact that was no more apparent during some of the less inspiring performances at Punk Island.

The New York band Panzie took the stage at around 2 p.m. Operating somewhere between the showboating banter and incredible performativity of a band like Rage Against the Machine, the band commanded their corner of the Isle’s main stage. But much unlike the Hot Topic© aesthetic of their audience, and with the help of Punk Island sponsors Guitar Center©, the performance seemed less about the music than it did about a certain level of aestheticized culture—about the falsified ideology of looking “punk” instead of being punk.

There were, thankfully and appropriately, exceptions to the rule. New Jersey’s Bible Thumper destroyed the very ground they tread, exploring the intersection of hardcore and noise. BT’s bass/drums duo completely overpowered the ringing of ship bells of the nearby transportation hub in a disorienting, 20-minute set. A few minutes later, Brooklyn’s Tribal Force took to an adjacent stage. Screamer Louisa Yuki (one of the event’s few frontwomen) dominated as much as she terrified the crowd. Offering perhaps one of the more complex sets of the evening, Tribal Force’s thick, sludgy bass overpowered the cheapened Rancid rip-offs of nearby acts and showing how Punk Island did have some quotation-mark-free punk to offer, but only in limited doses.

Critical bias: Though not a punk, I had a friend tattoo the VOID symbol on my arm two days prior.

Overheard: “They say crime don’t pay, but I drink champagne every day.”

Random notebook dump: This is where ska went to die.