A throwback to Peter Robinson College’s (PRC) glory days, Punk Goes to College was held at Sadleir House on Thursday, November 24th. The idea comes from a past event that was held annually throughout the 80s. This event, rebooted last year, was entitled “Jazz Goes (back) to College”. This year’s event took this theme of a lecture/concert series while tackling a grimier subject: punk music.
The night started with a series of four short lectures. The first of which was by the chair of both the English and Cultural Studies Departments, Dr. Hugh Hodges. He spoke on the origins of punk from the mid-70s forward and the ethos of DIY. His focus centred on how punk grew out of DIY practices due to the presence of technological innovation (cheaper access to studios), political complacency (the welfare state’s influence on the young), and sociological boredom (the sluggish nature of growth). His two most interesting arguments were that Johnny Rotten and Margaret Thatcher have some things in common (they both disliked the welfare state!), and that the raw emotion and energy of first-wave punk came more so from queer and female populations rather than the stereotypical Sid Vicious types.
The second speaker of the night was Eric Lehman, a grad student in the Canadian Studies stream, who talked about his life growing up in the Ottawa punk scene circa 1995. He spoke on this oft-forgot scene articulating the fact that although some scenes are remembered more than others, the scene lives on, in his words, “at least for those who remember it.”
Katie Green spoke next on Vancouver and its issues with maintaining cultural spaces. Katie is a PhD student writing her thesis on spaces and venues in the punk scene. Her short lecture was just a snippet of what she has been working on for the past few years. She spoke on venues as housing cultural identity, and when these spaces are demolished, a lot of communal identity is lost with it. Katie criticized the loss of these spaces, arguing that reorganizing music venues dismisses the necessity for marginalized groups to have shared spaces.
Lastly, Janette Platana read from her upcoming novel Some Of This Is True. Her novel is influenced heavily by her teenage years, and her feelings towards growing up as a punk in Saskatchewan. Her novel also had to do with spaces, but tackled the subject in a humorous way. The three spaces she presented were a high-school gymnasium, a venue in Saskatchewan called the Schnitzel House, and a student union hall. Each of these represented a home for punk culture, and in turn, helped to define her coming-of-age.
After the lectures, three bands played their own individual brand of the punk sound. Peterborough band Crazy Bomber played in a classically hardcore style. With lashing guitars, a vicious rhythm section, and the murderous scream of the lead singer, Crazy Bomber provided some much-needed energy after the mellowness of academia.
Next, Lucy and The Chain Gang from Oshawa played a blend of Riot Grrrl fury with hardcore technicality. Their Facebook page describes them as “ no bras, no balls, just a whole lotta bad ass rock n’ roll”.
Finally, Death Sticks performed. Their sound leans towards the modern DIY sound with a lo-fi production and hi-fi malaise. Their Facebook page describes them as “power slop”, with an interest in “anxiety”.
All three bands can be easily found on Facebook, Bandcamp, or SoundCloud.
The space itself is almost an extension of the punk aesthetic. Sadleir House was bought upon the closing of PRC. It has been student-owned and run ever since. Sadleir house is a DIY space. It is community-based and run by those within the community that it represents. With little bureaucracy to struggle with, the space itself is almost representative of punk values, and was therefore a great venue to host this event.
Not only was Punk Goes to College an informational and fun event, it was also an important one for the vibrant arts community at Trent and Peterborough. It is very peculiar to academically discourse about a genre such as punk, which seemingly rejects classical academia, while also presenting punk in its raw, live form. However, in Peterborough, music is performed mostly through a hub of students and academics. Therefore, critical discourse of punk is important in establishing a narrative for why the genre is necessary, and who and what it is working for, especially in the wake of creation. This event provided insight into the basis for, creation of, and performance of punk, and was therefore important to students, musicians, and academics alike.