Punk’s not dead! It’s just making a comeback

In Markt Centraal, a historic market hall in the middle of Amsterdam, a new music label will be launched tonight: Wap Shoo Wap Records. The gigantic hall has been converted into a kind of mini festival, including the mini Ferris wheel, known from De Parade and there is ‘Punk Pizza’ from the Houthoven. The common denominator of those present, a mix of people in their twenties, forties and even fifty-somethings: the love for dirty punk and rock ‘n’ roll, for beer and rebellion. There is old-fashioned popping and a group of beautiful girls share a self-brought bottle of wine. The insta-perfect world of influencers, fillers and expensive brands seems far away, here you see pink and green dyed hair, smokey eyes, panther print and vintage motorcycle jackets. The atmosphere is friendly and elated at the same time. Visitor Melle van Baardwijk (26) greets one well-known person after the other: ‘In recent years, the catering industry in the city has become a big one, run by the same group of people, where you drink oat milk cappuccinos and espresso martinis, and everyone has the same outfit, but there is also a large group of young people who have nothing to do with it and who yearn for these kinds of frayed edges.’

Copywriter Charlie Vielvoye (29) also experiences the same: ‘Due to the gentrification in the big cities and the housing crisis, more and more young people are realizing that they are the losers of the system. There is more to worry about and the need for music and culture to rub off is growing. On evenings like this I always feel a certain connection. You really experience it together, something I sometimes miss at house and techno parties where it’s more everyone for themselves.’

The fire of punk – raw music, often with socially critical lyrics – seemed to have died down in recent years. Since the 1970s, the music movement has spread through England to America and the rest of the world, taking many guises, from oi to hardcore and fun punk. The current had been declared dead several times, but rose again just as often. In recent years it seemed to be mainly a music movement for old men with bands from long ago, who went on tour again to provide for their retirement.

But then came corona, young people became frustrated and out of boredom bands were formed again with music and lyrics that express the frustrations of being locked up. Music made with acoustic instruments, not produced with computer programs. During the pandemic, brand new, young bands such as Tompoussy, Asbest Boys, Asociaal Kabaal and The Covids entered the rehearsal room and recording studio. The lyrics, with titles like no, no, no and No Cancer Duration Cancer Home (Tompoussy), Curfew and No future (Anti-Social Uproar) or Gone and nightlife (The Covids) are about what is happening now and causing indignation: the housing crisis, racism, climate, depression and the long waiting lists in mental health care. Or the desire to finally be able to party hard after two years of pandemic.

Wap Shoo Wap

In Markt Centraal, the public is eager to see Doctor Velvet and The Covids play. Founder of Wap Shoo Wap Records, Gilian Profundo P. (40) plays in surf band The Phantom Four and used to play in punk bands The Works and The Anomalys. Before corona, he organized punk and rock ‘n’ roll parties, including in Pacific Parc and the Skatecafé. There he got to know the musicians from the bands that he now releases on vinyl through his label, and for which he organizes tours throughout Europe. ‘During the lockdown period, the idea arose to start a record label with young Amsterdam bands with the motto: Mess Around to the Mokum Sound. I recorded a single with Doctor Velvet and we put out young punk bands like FuckFuckFuck and The Covids. We also re-released the 1978 punk classic by the Dutch band Ivy Green, after which the label is named: Wap Shoo WapI’m sure We’re Gonna Make It† I myself grew up in the late 90s with performances in squats, something happened everywhere. Due to the squatting ban and the advancing gentrification, the places disappeared from the city. Also in places like De Melkweg and Paradiso very little punk and rock ‘n’ roll was programmed and the scene was aging. But now all kinds of things are bubbling up among young people and there is renewed interest in punk and rock ‘n’ roll. There is a lot of frustration and a lot of desire to party, and that comes through the music that is being made again. Everything has been ironed out, but young people clearly have a greater need for raw and real again.’

When Doctor Velvet starts playing in Markt Centraal, catchy rhythm and blues, hard rock ‘n’ roll with punk influences, the audience doesn’t wait a second to let loose. There is wild dancing and jumping and afterwards there is loud shouting for another song. A group of young guests have Jack Daniels poured down the throats by frontman David Grutter (22). Grutter, a white T-shirt and leather pants, looks like a contemporary James Dean, he understands where all that wild energy comes from the audience: ‘After two years of corona, people are craving live music. The kids here have every reason to let off steam right now, not just because of the pandemic and not being able to party, but because of everything going on at the moment, from the housing and climate crisis to the war in Ukraine. The world is going to shit, so now everyone wants to party like it’s the last time.’

Doctor Velvet had just been founded when corona broke out: ‘We couldn’t perform anywhere, that was very frustrating, but the advantage was that we had all the time to do things right and rehearse a lot. We sent a demo to Wap Shoo Wap Records who signed us right away, and now we’ve released our first single and clip and more singles and a tour of Europe are on the way.’

Rock ‘n’ roll and punk, it’s never gone away, says Grutter, but it has sometimes gone through lesser times than it is now: ‘The DJ culture dominated the nightlife for years. Now you see places where live music can be heard, such as here in Markt Centraal, run by the Vollaers family, known for the former Pacific Parc, Club de Ville and the April Feesten. They stand for preserving the fringes of the city and give young bands a chance to perform and have a party. Just like with blues café Maloe Melo, which is no longer certain of its existence due to the advancing gentrification. Owner Jur is almost eighty, but he lets us and other young bands perform in his pub. We must ensure that these kinds of places do not disappear from the city. The scene is relatively small in the Netherlands, especially if you compare it with Spain, Italy and Germany, but it does feel like we are at the beginning of something that is getting bigger and bigger.”

‘In the Ukraine war I focus on unearthing and verifying footage of minute-by-minute developments on the battlefield’

Covid at The Covids

Also in the audience in Markt Centraal is Hang Youth’s Abel van Gijlswijk, who comes to cheer The Covids together with bassist Kaj. A week later, irony, a Hang Youth post appears on their social media channel about a canceled gig: ‘Covid contracted at The Covids.’ Last October, when the corona measures allowed it, the Amsterdam punk band Hang Youth with frontman Abel van Gijlswijk (31), also rapper, author and actor, was in the Patronaat in Haarlem. Hundreds of Gen Z kids sing the one-minute protest songs with a wink, on topics like the royal family (The king is a sausage), Mark Rutte (I don’t give a kidney for nothing Rutte 4 and Two Rooms Not A Good Idea), conspiracy theorists (You Already Have A KK Big Chip In Your Pocket) and capitalism (You Don’t Hate Monday You Hate Capitalism), word for word and wholeheartedly. Not long after, the band did the performance over again in a sold-out Paradiso. The band of the four childhood friends, founded and also stopped in 2015, came back at the end of 2020 and then exploded via live streams and Spotify. Van Gijlswijk: ‘It was immediately clear that we had hit something. Our fans, young people, will soon be disappointed when the world collapses, they cannot buy a house, have no pension and no livable planet. The world is on fire and no one is doing anything about it, that’s how many young people feel. There had been no new loud noises in the music for a while, like: “STOP, FAK THIS!” We make candid statements with catchy music, with sing-along slogans we say everything that everyone has wanted to hear for a long time and that politicians do not dare to do.’

During the pandemic, Hang Youth was invited on radio, TV and YouTube channels and during corona it played during a cordon off of the Zuidas by Extinction Rebellion, at the Woon Protest in Westerpark, and on Leidseplein, for the eviction of the squat Hotel Mokum. . This summer they will headline all major festivals, from Pinkpop to Lowlands. The late Henny Vrienten from Doe Maar invited the band to play together on national TV and named singer Abel van Gijlswijk as the last rebel on stage: ‘He has something we’ve all kind of lost: fighting spirit and an alert view of society.’

Ivo ‘Trash’ van Rijswijk (37) is also very activist, who has been active in the Dutch punk scene since he was fourteen. He programs punk bands for the Patronaat in Haarlem, the annual festival Punkrock Ruined My Life and Vorst in de Grond Fest during Koningsnacht, as a counter-reaction to the royal family and has his own punk label. Van Rijswijk: ‘I remember how I called the song with my fist in the air in the 90s Church and state of the Dutch punk band Human Alert was singing along. From that moment on I knew: this is my tribe. The shared love for raging noise, idealism and social involvement has always been entwined in the punk scene. Punk stands up for the underdog, for animal rights and fights against capitalism and neo-liberalism. The music sounds aggressive, but punks are very sensitive people, who want to make the world a better place. During corona, many good young bands arose, such as Asbest Boys, Spetterpoep and The Covids, who put on monstrously good shows.’

Curious about the rest of the article? You read it on Blendle.

In the article you can read more about the comeback of Punk and Rock ‘n Roll. ‘The tone is a bit less militant than when I was sixteen, a bit more, and the fashion is also less outspoken than in that time, you don’t see mohawks anymore, but basically it’s about the same thing: acting against the established order. During corona a lot of freedom was given up for safety, that freedom is now being taken back and you need punk for that.’

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