Cyberpunk

Though technology plays the villain in many punk-rock dystopias, the St. Louis Punk Page strengthens the local scene

Gaynor was also able to add a message board to each band page. He decided not to spend his time micromanaging the boards, leaving them as wide-open free-speech zones, and they rapidly drew crowds. The fact that an average of 200 new messages appear on the site every day suggests that the punk youth of St. Louis appreciate this hands-off approach. "I definitely think it's important for people -- kids, especially -- to have an arena where they can discuss things where they're not under surveillance by anybody," Gaynor says.

Although he admits that the message boards sometimes degenerate into lunkheaded attempts at juvenile humor, Gaynor sees it as a price worth paying. "It's so easy to write a bad word and hit 'enter,'" he says. "But it's also pretty easy to ignore that stuff, and sometimes it adds up to an amusing spectacle." Of course, not all adults are thrilled by the idea of an unsupervised online forum for their kids. To keep the site out of trouble, Gaynor will step in, in certain cases, to delete something particularly offensive. "Just about a week ago," Gaynor says, "I got an e-mail from an angry parent who had discovered that his family was being slandered on one of the pages in a fairly obscene manner. I was happy to take the stuff down; it was just a bunch of obscene things about this guy's mom. I never edit the site unless somebody specifically asks, and I also don't let people retract what they say. I hope that balances it out, restrains people a little bit."

Not all of the message-board posters are minors. Several pages have drawn grown-up punk veterans eager to swap tales of their bad old days. "I'd say once a week I get an e-mail from some old punk person from St. Louis who's really excited about it," he says. The pages for bygone bands such as Mean Guys From Hell contain stories like this one: "... He pulled a .22 caliber pistol, loaded with blanks, from his sock, shot into the audience several times, then aimed at his head and shot once more, falling to the floor. Naïve about blanks, he was surprised by the powder burns he received on his neck."

The historical aspect of the site is important to Gaynor, who's interested both in the history of pop culture and in local history. The site features an archive of old punk fliers from the private collection of Jim Utz (Vintage Vinyl advertising and promotions director and longtime scenester). Gaynor would like the site's history section to grow, but he's already been surprised at some of the things he's learned. "Finding out about the Welders was cool," he says. "An all-girl punk band from the '70s from St. Louis -- that's kind of unusual."

Unfortunately, Gaynor's dream of putting old St. Louis punk music online has been hard to realize. The site features links to MP3s that are located elsewhere on the Web, but no music resides on its servers yet. "One of the things with putting music on the Web is that it takes an enormous amount of space to store it," he explains. "If anybody out there knows of anyone that wants to host it that would be fairly stable, please let me know."

Anybody got a few megs for the kids? It's the old punk plea for mutual assistance in a brand-new form. If Jerome Gaynor has his way, the punk ethic may mutate and evolve, but it'll never disappear again.

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