— Ian MacKaye
We spent the better part of last weekend at Ladyfest Boston - a communally organized event dedicated to representing women in music and the arts. Vibes ran high, crowds ran posi, and bands ran loud, with many fitting along the punk/hardcore spectrum. And that’s cool. Punk’s good for a revolution.
Not for nothing, almost all the folk musicians we spoke to on our “tour” told us they were heavily influenced by punk. Punk is the sound made by the energy released when you’re deconstructing an inadequate world. Punk is about possibility. Punk is the soundtrack of a community brought together by politics, passion, and an appreciation for drinking cheap beer and crashing into each other in sweaty basements.
But sometimes people chill out. Or get sad or old, or tired of screaming, or move to neighborhoods with stricter noise ordinances. Sometimes bands break up. And then, sometimes, people start up folk projects.
Is history simply a matter of events that leave behind those things that can be weighted and measured - new institutions, new maps, new rulers, new winners and losers - or is it also the result of moments that seem to leave nothing behind, nothing but the mystery of spectral connections between people long separated by place and time, but somehow speaking the same language?
If the language they are speaking, the impulse they are voicing, has its own history, might it not tell a very different story from the one we’ve been hearing all our lives?
What remains irreducible about this music is its desire to change the world. The desire is patent and simple, but it inscribes a story that is infinitely complex - as complex as the interplay of the everyday gestures that describe the way the world already works. The desire begins with a demand to live not as an object, but as a subject of history - to live as if something actually depended on one’s actions - and that demand opens onto a free street.
The music came forth as a no that became a yes, then a no again, then a yes: nothing is true except our conviction that the world we are asked to accept is false. If nothing was true, everything was possible.
Greil Marcus, from Lipstick Traces. Written originally about punk. I’d say it more than applies to a lot of folk today.