Music in its purest form is the ultimate communicator. It transcends the manifestation of life in all forms. It can be like a time machine – it can take us to the best or worst moments in our life while impacting us here and in the future. We all grew up with our favorite bands and songs as kids, and that will always be a part of us no matter who you are.
That said, we all have our favorite genres of music. Thanks to Fat Mike, the catalyst of all that is cool came up with a place that was missing. Sure, there are many places to go to be entertained: Disney, Universal, and Sin City. What we didn’t have was a place to celebrate the moments we had with punk rock as our muse.
Luckily there is now a place we can all come to and commune with our past and look forward to the future with: the Punk Rock Museum.
Depending who you are, there are a few opinions of when and where punk rock was given birth or evolved. It’s an academic statement to suggest it was a byproduct of DIY garage bands from the ‘70s. Others will say the roots of punk go back to the ‘70s Detroit – it being the epicenter, cue in MC 5 along with Iggy and the Stooges and boom off we go. Whereas many look to bands like the New York Dolls, the Ramones, Minor Threat, Social Distortion, Black Flag, and X.
Meanwhile across the pond, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Bauhaus, The Damned, Buzzcocks, GBH, and The Adicts were making waves too.
Since then, punk rock has splintered off into a variety of sub-genres: Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Operation Ivy / Rancid, Bad Religion, and of course NOFX are the culprits that provide the soundtrack to the punk rock story.
Last week I was honored to be one of the first media members to get to tour the museum, and it was a surreal experience. When I go to a museum of any sort I am somewhat detached. It’s a review of history, hence why it’s called a museum, I guess. Often, I see things that are 50, 100, 500, 1,000 to 65 billion years old. Therefore, it is very hard to feel a kinship to the topics of any museum I have ever visited. This time, it was very, very different.
As I pulled into the front lobby, I immediately noticed some memorabilia in the entrance; nothing over-the-top, just enough to peak an interest. Immediately, because you know the topic, you feel at ease. Depending on which tour you took, you got to walk the grounds with some of the artists depicted on the walls; a very cool feature. I was allowed to wander on my own, and to my amazement, I found myself there for hours.
The museum is not like anything I have ever experienced or could have imagined. I was not at arm’s length from the subjects of the displays, it was for lack of a better description the “story of my life” (thanks Mike Ness) through photos and memorabilia.
The museum is split into two floors, and the exhibits are broken down by the initial punk rock legends that you would expect, such as The Clash and Ramones. Then it has splintered just like the genres and has specific sub-genres sections, geographic areas of punk, so if you are from DC or New York, there’s a section just for you.
For me, I loved the ska-punk section. Immediately I was enthralled to see Rancid, Big D and the Kids Table, Reel Big Fish, Mustard Plug, Fishbone, The Interrupters, and local favorites of mine – The Vandals, Social Distortion and Pennywise all front and center. And there’s the Pennywise garage you just have to see.
This tour was no longer just a story on punk rock, it was a story I could tell; a story about our lives through our sonic heroes. I re-lived moments in my mind of when I saw these bands for the first time. The shows, venues like CBGB, the festivals: Warped Tour, Punk Rock Bowling… you name it, these bands have been there for us.
Then, you could go and see the guitars some of your sonic heroes used. If you love MxPx, Wasted Youth, The Bronx, Suicide Machines, L7, The Untouchables, DEVO, Billy Idol, The Cramps, Misfits, The Offspring, and Blink (just to name a few) of the great bans featured at the Punk Rock Museum, this place may just be for you.
AND, after your tour you can hang out at the bar where you never know who you might run into, maybe Fat Mike or Billy Idol. I was fortunate to speak with Fat Mike recently, and we discussed the museum and how it came together and how it has impacted its visitors. Mike said that he felt there was something missing, and while there are other kinds of museums out there, there’s nothing capturing the life experience that the punk rock lifestyle embodies, until now.
With his ability to turn all he touches to gold, he embarked on this journey with a little help from his friends; behold, we have the Punk Rock Museum.
Mike also said there are no Grammy or Billboard awards for punk rock, yet it is so important to so many people. You get to remember and immortalize the bands you love, it’s very emotional, I’ve seen people come and walk through the museum two to three times and you see smiles and tears. It’s a museum of five decades of punk. We were all the dorks and misfits in school, and we are inclusive of everyone, so you get to see bands from everywhere.
In the end, if you love punk rock, or music in general, this is a destination, a mecca so-to-speak for the masses. My time there was magical – I don’t say that lightly; my sonic soul has never been moved like that before.
If you want to know where music has been and where it is headed … The Punk Rock Museum is a must visit.