By Michael Blain
After punk rock’s heyday in 1977, the punk music scene rose and fell many times in short bursts all over the world before it eventually lost steam. The anarchist vibe present in the screams of the oppressed musicians seemed to indicate that they were consistently losing out on what they were fighting for. Punk music can be much more closely identified as a movement than as just a musical genre. Not that the bands do not play a semi-structured form of music but technical proficiency was never the main objective. Typically, a successful punk band has an iconic and memorable lead singer, a guitarist who can play power chords, an average bassist and on some occasions, a very talented drummer. Most of the concerts in the old-school punk scene, even leading into the mid-nineties in the United States, were typically free because the bands felt it was more important to come together as a scene and speak their minds than it was to turn any sort of profit.
This is actually where the persistent problems came from. Some bands couldn’t retain the roots of standing firm against the greedy music industries and would separate themselves from bands who could not allow themselves to sell out to the higher-ups who wrote large checks. Even well-known bands such as Chumbawumba started off as an anarchist, gritty, hardcore punk band, and when they made their debut, multi-platinum album of pop rock, they did so as a joke. The joke was on the music industry and mainstream audiences, and from an outside perspective, there may have not been a more ‘punk’ thing they could possibly have done than to subvert popular music — something they did not believe in — and make millions of dollars from it. Most punk bands do not see it that way however, and think that they gave in to the dark side of the music industry.
Las Vegas fits into this scene recycling story a little bit differently than other cities. Obviously, there is too much glitz and glamour present on the Vegas strip to sustain a true punk scene that has no interest whatsoever in making money for themselves, let alone for a concert venue. Even places down in the Fremont district charge covers for shows billed as ‘punk’ that are far more inflated than the free, no cover or donations-accepted shows that I saw in Cleveland in the latter half of the nineties. Bands that used to be loyal to the punk scene play at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay sometimes, but their crowds are far from anarchists. Come to think of it, the closest thing to a genuine ‘punk’ show I have ever seen in Las Vegas was when Atari Teenage Riot played a free concert behind the Royal Resort just off the strip. But if a band has to come all the way from Germany, like ATR did, in order for a real movement to be alive for just one night, it does not bode well for the overall Las Vegas punk scene.