Arizona’s Folk-Punk and DIY Scene

The folk-punk and DIY genre tends to remain underground, but when it springs up every now and then, it's sure to please.

Joseph Rivas, Columnist

Punk rock for the most part is dead, but from time to time a local music scene will pop up and bring back certain punk ideals and practices. The newest incarnation of punk culture is folk-punk, or DIY, and currently Arizona is home to one of the largest scenes in the Southwest. Bands such as Andrew Jackson Jihad in downtown Phoenix and artists like Pat “the Bunny” in Tucson have gained a massive cult following and are staples in the folk-punk and DIY world.

The band Andrew Jackson Jihad is comprised of the lead singer Sean Bonnette and upright bassist Ben Gallaty, their songs are some of the most truthful and heartfelt songs I’ve ever heard. Their lyrics are that of a man spilling his emotions and thoughts honestly and with little fear of judgement. Even though the accompanying instrumentals are not revolutionary, the bare-bones sound complements the brutal honesty of Bonnette’s singing. But it’s not for everyone. Some might find his singing out of key and strained voice off-putting, but if you can look past that, it’s nothing but pure brilliance and honesty.

Pat “the Bunny,” or Pat Schneeweis, is one of folk-punk’s greatest lyricists, playing in many bands starting with Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains and, most recently, Ramshackle Glory. Schneeweis has a body of work worthy of respect, and his music has evolved over time to reflect the place he is in mentally. His earlier work was sardonic, rude, crass and appallingly honest, reflecting his nihilistic attitude. But his newer work, under Ramshackle Glory, shows his new outlook on life and reflects the thoughts of a man who has been through rough times and grown tired of being the things that he was. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard a musician change his outlook on life in the form of his music as clearly as he does, and it’s definitely worth your time based on that alone. However, just like Andrew Jackson Jihad, it’s not for those who are put off by low production values and shaky vocals.

If you don’t know what DIY is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The basis of it is that bands are doing everything for themselves with as little external help as possible. Promotion, booking shows, and clerical work is done by the band itself, and all shows the band plays are all ages and have reasonable door prices. It’s selfless in a way that’s refreshing, the de-emphasis on monetary gain makes the whole thing seem far more genuine and honest in comparison to “regular,” bigger music events.

Now, folk-punk is just as self explanatory as DIY. It’s an eclectic mix of traditional folk music such as English, Irish, and other forms of European folk music infused with punk vocals, attitude, and ethics. This hybrid genre has over time grown bigger and has received a surprising amount of mainstream recognition; but unlike many other underground genres folk-punk has stayed true to what made it great in the first place.

Both genres and scenes are astonishingly loving. At first glance they seems hardcore, angry, violent, and rough, but they’re surprisingly gentle and charitable. Both genres have an unspoken code of conduct and that’s to simply help each other out whenever possible, and to treat everyone like family. When you go to a folk-punk or DIY show, that’s exactly how you’ll feel. This level of humanitarianism and egalitarianism is what sets this apart from any other music scene I’ve engaged in and it’s values have impacted my life and will play a crucial role in how I treat others and see the world around me.

If either DIY or folk-punk interests you, do some research and find local shows and support local artists. This scene is open to anyone and everyone, and you’ll definitely have a great time.