We danced, we laughed, we sweat out our afros under the Brooklyn sun- Afropunk Punk fest rocked the neighborhood with alternative Nu Soul and fashion forward styles.
For people of color floating in the margins of alternative music, AfroPunk can feel like a national holiday. The one weekend a year you’re music interests and aesthetics about black beauty are validated. “So I’ve been styling this #twa right all along?! Go figure?” and “So that’s what Manic Panic looks like when you Really bleach first…maybe I should get that nose ring after all, looks good on her…”
I was happy this year to bring my lil sis along for the celebration, who like me comes from rural suburban roots where our interests in heavy rock and punk music were considered Extremely unusual for little black girls to be interested in. From the moment we got into the ticket line I could tell it was her Emerald city too. So many folks passionate about individuality and self expression. The love was deep!
However, a few hours into the first day of the fest, she turned to me with a very valid question. “Where’s the punk rock music?” I nodded with a solemn face, feeling too tired to acknowledge the truth. The rock scene that had started the movement had all but been driven out of the event these last few years and this year, with tickets over $50, the presence of the original punk rock scene and the local kids that normally would have attended for free had all but vanished.
I’m a metal headbanger by default so I wasn’t expecting full on circle pits or crowd surfs, but it was clear this year that only a couple of bands such as LetLive. and Suicidal Tendencies were even remotely hard core rockish in some way. The metal scene generally has a lack of focus on fashion or what people look like- it’s all come as you are, whatever is comfy for you. I’ve hung around the NYC punk scene enough to know they definitely care about fashion statements, but you need more than that to reside in their anti-establishment, DIY headspace. Yes, I know Lauryn Hill had to rep the nu soul/neo soul movement and Lion Babe is certainly on the fringes of pop as much as FKA Twigs, but this year’s fest relied too heavily on electronic DJs of little distinction and the saving grace of Lenny Kravitz closing out the event.
I know so many punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, metal and metalcore bands (locally and internationally) with multicultural members that could have exposed the Brooklyn scene to heavier, thrashier performances that still held a taste of R&B, bluegrass, hip hop or pop. Starting with Coheed and Cambria, Bloc Party, Counterparts, and Dance Gavin Dance- ending with The Word Alive, Alesana, Deftones, and Every Time I Die…come on guys keep up! Anyone one of these bands would have driven other underground music fans to the fest and inspired a more diverse mingling of alternative music cliques and communities.
As the AfroPunk brand continues to expand to other cities, I hope they really listen to their audience, lower ticket prices to under $20 for kids under 21, and book more musically diverse bands towards creating a space that is less predictable and more supportive of all things misfit.