Monday, May 31, 2010

Mark on the Dance of Days

"The first thing to say is that I knew about the D.C. punk scene long before I came here. I grew up in one of the most rural and economically depressed areas in Montana and punk gave me the awareness of possibilities outside of what I knew. I am very proud of where I come from and I learned a lot there, but at the time, it felt like hell to me. Punk music, starting with the New York scene and Patti Smith and then the London scene with Sex Pistols and The Clash, gave me a reason to live. These were young people, more or less my age, creating this angry music that was ultimately so full of life. They were not waiting for change, they were going to make it themselves. 

"Punk music helped me go to college. College was not one of those things that everybody did where I grew up. It was extremely optional. I wanted to study things that I believed in and become an activist. I wanted to change the world. That is why D.C. grabbed me. When I left college, I was very career oriented and came to Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. It was a pipeline into the establishment, for the better or worse. 

"I was from a small town, so coming here was very overwhelming. I had never seen homelessness or racial segregation, and it just tore my heart apart. My crisis became even more profound when I went to Central America in 1985. The poverty there was at a whole new level and there was an ongoing war where the U.S. was not playing a positive role. At school, I was being trained to be a mid-level functionary in this system that was supporting these policies. I knew that I could not go forward in the direction I had just spent tens of thousands of dollars for school. At the time, the only thing that made sense to me was the D.C. punk scene. It was about doing things yourself and having a positive mental attitude. So for the second time, punk rock revolutionized my life. 

"It was at that time that I thought that someone needed to write a book about the punk music scene here. It was an incredible story that mattered a lot to me. I get New York and London, but D.C. as a punk rock center, it seemed so unexpected. I wanted to share the story of how this happened. I started doing research in 1986 and the finished product came out in 2001. The D.C. punk scene and its continuing influence around the world is an astonishing an inspirational story. 

"Punk music is a chapter of D.C. that many people don't know about, but more people should. People think that this is a buttoned-up town where we only import culture. There is a part of that stereotype that is true, but D.C. played a huge role in punk and rock music and exporting a positive mental approach towards living and tackling problems to everyone who could hear our music. For people who don't like punk music, that is cool, but you should try and embrace the spirit. This is a city built out of big dreams and D.C. punk is just another amazing representation of that."

Mark Andersen is the author of Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital. He is also involved with We Are Family, which is a senior citizen support network.


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