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My experience at an underground Crust Punk concert in Philly – Crust Punk 101

April 20, 2012

Crust Punk 101

 A new friend of mine in Philadelphia, whose name is Wes, recently invited me to go to an underground crust punk (yes, you read that correctly) show in West Philly – a unique sect of sub-culture with fusions of mainstream rejection, radical politics, scavenger if not vagabond lifestyles, and varying degrees of heavy metal music, which I was previously unaware of. I obviously jumped at the opportunity.

Wes got into this style of music – and to a lesser extent this culture – when he was younger, and continued following it into adulthood. There are many in the crust punk community that fit the stereotypical mold better than he does, but I definitely see shades running through him, especially in the realms of trying to get by without working, his interest in and knowledge about bikes, and his radical Anarcho-primitivist (google it) tendencies.

You might say I have an inquisitive mind…if I was going to do this I needed some background info on everything crustie, so Wes came over before the show so we could discuss the topic at hand over a few beers.

Squatting in abandoned homes, adhering to a personal hygiene (or lack thereof) that would repulse suburban moms, getting by with little, exploiting the obscure niches that modern civilization spits out (doing things to survive that most “normal” people never even think about, much less consider doing), underground house concerts (literally, they are usually in the basement), dumpster diving, and a style of dress that entails the color black, sewed patches, and metal studs and spikes; these are some of the things, I learned, that embody crust punk culture.

What I found most intriguing is that, in general, the culture is inspired by a distinct and radical political consciousness, derived mostly from Anarchism. Many crust punks are strict vegetarians or vegans. They are anti-war and anti-military, and they are disgusted with the practice of vivisection (I implore you to google this). Lyrics in crust punk songs are largely devoted to these kind of very serious real life issues, which, as I see it, makes them way better than contemporary mindless hipster culture (but I digress)

We took off on bike to the cross streets near where the concert was located. That’s right, no exact address was given for this particular crust punk event: you have to go there and find it. This is apparently an attempt to keep it on the DL: an extra effort to thwart the police from busting it up. So here we are, biking around within a one-block radius of these cross streets trying to find the concert. We stopped for a sec to listen intently and could hear the faint but unmistakable sound of heavy metal playing!

We knew we were heading the right direction as the sound grew louder. We found ourselves outside of some type of industrial office building; this was definitely it. We tried to scout out our way in with no luck. After pounding on both the locked door and the garage door, we decided to give the street behind the building a try. On the other side of the block we could hear the music again, but we still couldn’t find the entrance. As we looked we happened upon a man cussing out a woman with kids on the front porch and telling her to get out of his house.

We tried the front of the building again. Score! In the meantime someone had put up a sign on the garage door that emphatically cut to the chase: “Call [the number].” Wes dialed it, explained himself, and next thing you know the garage door started going up.

We walked up the inclined indoor driveway and received a friendly greeting from our phone answerer. As we approached the top of the incline we became fully immersed in the all-encompassing loudness. Twenty-five or so crusties were standing in a semi-circle around the band, many shaking their heads to the music at an incredibly fast pace. Remember that type of multiple-choice question that asks you to select which of these things does not fit in with the rest? At this moment the correct answer would be me.

In the back there was a small table turned makeshift bar that had booze and mixers on it. Beer was going for the awesomely affordable rate of a dollar a can. I needed one and gladly tipped the guy a buck, which he seemed a bit surprised at.

I stood near the back. Wes was close by; he had run into an old friend. The music was blaringly loud and the lyrics were completely indecipherable, which firmly distinguished the crust punk genre from the politically and socially conscious hip-hop that I like listening to: as a rule to which there are exceptions, you can actually hear the words in my music! But to each his or her own…

One particularly crustie fellow – who was tatted and wearing an atrocious vest (and I write this with all due respect; I’m sure he would take that as a complement anyways) that exposed a generous portion of his body, and who had parts of his head shaved and other parts growing hair at length – began mosh pitting and bouncing around the semi-circle. Others followed suit. I braced myself for some action (I have been to a Rage Against the Machine concert). It was clear this guy had had one too many.

After a little while he stopped mosh pitting and resumed his rather violent and out of control style of dance that included aggressive foot stomps, his drink periodically splashing into the air, when all of a sudden, without any physical contact with anyone else, he slipped and bit the dust, exposing approximately a third of his big white butt crack.

It was at this moment that I officially completed the course: Crust Punk 101.


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One Comment
  1. A. Domonkos permalink

    Fantastic little article. I was carousing the internet, looking around for different angles on “crust punk culture,” when I happened upon this post. I’m writing a novel about squatting and all the sub-cultures that attach to it.

    I spent years going to shows like this, hitchhiking, sewing things to my vest, and spewing Stalinist ideology at anyone who could brave my stench. Even then, with all my gear and attempts to assimilate, I was like you, an outsider. I couldn’t pull it off properly, mostly because (aside from what my patches declared) I didn’t think the gutter was so great, and I had some lingering Irish-catholic tendencies towards hygiene and manners. Like all crust punks, I eventually cleaned up.

    You pretty much hit the nail on the head with this tale. If you’ve been to one of these things, you have basically been to them all.

    My only qualm is that your tale seemed to end rather abruptly. I would like to hear what you took from all this, if anything.

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