By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
By Chaz Kangas
By Allison Babka
History, technology, community and punk rock: a fusion so crazy it just might work. Punk rock is, by nature, ahistorical. If new musical styles are created by people failing to imitate their favorite bands, then punk rock is the story of kids repeating the same mistakes over and over. The young get old fast, and today's heroes swiftly become yesterday's news.
Like the history of everything else, punk's history is written by the winners even as the most significant part of its present is always written by the losers. Godfathers from Iggy Pop to the Descendents will always play to large, excited audiences, no matter how many crappy records they've released since their heyday. But punk at its most meaningful resides not in any one band, or canon of bands, but in the thousands of bands in hundreds of scenes across the world -- bands that tend not to last long or leave a very deep footprint once they're gone.
Punks have also had an ambivalent relationship with technology. Sure, punks depend on electricity and everything, but technology plays the villain in many punk-rock dystopias. It has its uses, but it's probably not to be trusted. A certain segment of the punk audience will never buy a recording with a synthesizer on it. More broadly, punk's emphasis on spirit and spontaneity over technique puts it at odds with the culture of technology.
Punks were among the first critics of the Internet, and their wildest satires on the subject were quickly surpassed by reality. It should surprise no one that there is an AnarchoPunk Web Ring, much less that www.punkrock.org is a tremendously successful site. Like the Amish (no, seriously), punks will embrace technology when it helps build community. Granted, your average teenage punk-rock goofball probably won't think of it that way. But when he complains on a message board about the Nazi bouncers at last night's show, "building community" is exactly what he's doing.
Jerome Gaynor is responsible for thousands of such interchanges over the past few years, as well as a growing body of historical punk lore. He's the creator of the St. Louis Punk Page (www.stlpunk.com), a one-stop local punk Web site that receives several hundred visitors a day. Some come to check the calendar of local punk shows, some to talk smack on the notoriously unmoderated message boards and some to play the "very easy video game." (This last attraction allows players to drop a nuclear device onto downtown St. Louis, to the delight of a nearby zombie.)
A chance encounter with a Dead Milkmen record in the mid-'80s convinced the teenage Gaynor that punk rock was his way out of a dull South County existence. Years passed in a haze of vandalism, skateboarding, ludicrous hairdos and Agent Orange records, punctuated by disciplinary troubles at St. Louis University High School. By the early '90s, Gaynor had become an accomplished comics artist with his zine Funkapotamus. The emotional depth and sharp humor of his cartoonishly drawn tales of suburban frustration attracted notice in the alternative-comics scene, and to this day he enjoys friendships and working relationships with cartoonists ranging from Jessica Abel to Alexander Zograf. He's already edited and published Flying Saucer Attack,a well-received anthology featuring stories about a catastrophic alien invasion; in January he plans to launch Bogus Dead, a similar volume about a zombie uprising. Both use horror themes to tell tales full of insight and humor, from a wide variety of indie-comics all-stars.
Of course, all this means little to bill collectors; Gaynor always had to work a day job to fund his drawing habit. In 1995, a collision of commerce and commitment gave birth to the first version of the Punk Page. "I had a chance to get a job making Web sites for Jeff Parks, who's now the owner of the Creepy Crawl," Gaynor says. "He'd seen my comic books; he liked my artwork. So I started making Web sites, and it immediately occurred to me, since I was all into punk at the time, to make a Web site about the local punk scene." Gaynor maintained the site for about two years, but it was too labor-intensive for him to keep up. "I'd have to put up every band page myself," he says. "I'd have to go to a show, talk to a band, get their names and the names of their records and stuff, and then type it all in and make a separate Web page for each band. It was just too time-consuming."
The site fell into disrepair for a time, and another, unrelated St. Louis punk site served the masses. But as Gaynor learned more about programming, he began to see how much he could improve his old site. He revived the St. Louis Punk Page in 2000, in a new turbocharged version, still without any kind of recompense for himself. "I was able to make it all automatic, where the bands could come in, get a password, make their own page and make changes to it." Bands, including many that were long defunct, flocked to set up pages on the site.