Free as fuck, all-ages, all-day, and all-inclusive: These are all terms I really like to see accompanying any punk fest and Punk Island had it all. More than 100 bands and more punks than one can count converged onto the ferry dock at Randall’s Island for a throwdown that went from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and then deep into the night no doubt with sanctioned and unsanctioned afterparties.
Mere days after the crowned corporate shill of punk Fat Mike embarrassed punks everywhere with his needless words, an event like Punk Island shows that the white male man-child that formerly ruled punk is now cancelled–replaced by brown, femme, and queer overlords that hope to make punk … well frankly, less boring.
As Fat Mike and those like him pine for the days when a white guy with green hair could say anything he wants and laugh it off as a joke, femme and queer punks like Al Rosenberg, Kate Hoos, and the rest of Punk Island’s organizers are letting them know that they will no longer support spaces that protect discrimination.
Not many festivals could go about putting triple digit bands onto 8-stages and avoid slapping trio after trio of emo bros up for their turn. But Punk Island did so by presenting an event where queer, brown, and femme participation seriously rivalled the white male participation. This is not to say punk scenes everywhere are fixed, but it is seriously encouraging to walk around a space as big as Randall’s Island and not be surrounded by stud clad white guys with mohawks.
Of course, it’s a great deal of fun to get out into a beautiful park and be surrounded by nice people and fun music, and Punk Island very much embodied that spirit in a lot of ways. Food and merch were cheap, the fest itself was free, and it was open for anyone. But even more than Punk Island being fun, it was an important event. A bunch of punks with no budget and only their wits to rely on put together a killer all-day festival on one of the biggest and most hallowed concert grounds in New York City.
Perhaps that doesn’t sound like an accomplishment to some. But to me it’s a reminder–nay, a rallying cry–to artists everywhere that the music industry doesn’t have to be controlled by Ticketmaster and Live Nation. That music festivals aren’t just for those who can afford it, and that punk isn’t just for the middle-class dads who buy tickets to Punk In Drublic.
Eleven years in, Punk Island is everything a punk fest should be. Sure, it was a dry event but a clever punk would have no problem discreetly tipping one back, and like the Facebook page said, “If you can’t go one day without getting fucked up, get fucked up at home alone.”
all photos by Jeff Schaer-Moses