Days of Punk | Fashion


Punk Festivals: Capturing the Spirit of Rebellion Through the Years

The DIY spirit of Punk Festivals has been a fundamental foundation of punk rebellion through the years. Discussions and arguments over which was the “first” punk song, band, club, and festival continue to be the subject of heated debate.

In 1974, the music rebellion exploded at CBGB OMFUG (an acronym by the owner that meant Country, Blue Grass, Blues, and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers) on the Lower Eastside of NYC. Bands featured on the now-hallowed stage space featured The Ramones, New York Dolls, and through the years Patti Smith, Blondie, Television and a who’s who of the punk scene. These performers proudly referred to themselves, their music, and their fans, as PUNK.

Joey Ramones photographed by Michael Grecco.

Everyday a Punk Festival

In 1976 what was billed as the “First European Punk Rock Festival” was held in France. The Sex Pistols and The Clash were scheduled to play at the festival held in Mont de Marsan but bowed out in a dispute with organizers.

This First European Punk Rock Festival featured Eddie and the Hot Rods, a London Pub band. The Damned were the only recognizable punk band of the original guard to appear, the rest of the “punk” bands were local DIY bands who shunned corporate rock. The festival proved that the spirit of rebellion was alive and growing.

Although the title was technically correct because it was the first punk festival presented in Europe, it was not the first for PUNK. That honor belongs to CBGB which held a month-long festival in the summer of 1975. The CBGB Punk Festival featured 40 DIY bands that represented the rebellious spirit of rock and captured the attention of the Village Voice (The Voice), at that time it was an underground free newspaper, not the corporate behemoth that it became in later years.

CBGB (PHOTO CREDIT: The New York Times)

The CBGB Punk Festival and The Voice article put New York Punk on everyone’s lips. The bands that played at the festival along with regular players in CBGB anointed the punk scene into the realm of serious art.

Punked for a Cause

The rebellious driving chaotic rhythms and existential lyrics of punk music were in direct conflict with the deep pockets of corporate rock promoters and record labels. Punk staked its place in the music festival scene with a series of free festivals called the Deeply Vale Festivals in England, 1976-1979.

Festivals that were free and dedicated to political causes and changing society fit in with the ideology of PUNK. Rock against Racism festivals were held from 1976 -1982, while Rock Against Sexism began in 1978, both are examples of Punk Festivals that capture the spirit of rebellion.

Among the festivals to feature punk or morph into punk-centric showcases is the longest-running festival, Warped Tour. It earned a reputation as the longest-traveling rock festival running from 1995 through 2019 with venues across North America and Australia.

Cheers to Punk

Rebellion Festival, held since 1996 in England, is a testament to the punk rock that emerged from the clubs in Boston, NYC, and London. It is a living epitaph to the punk that Jello Biafra, lead singer of the Dead Kennedys acknowledged when he said, “Punk Rock will never die until something more dangerous replaces it.”

Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys photographed by Michael Grecco.

Michael Grecco was an ever-present artistic photographer who documented the growth of punk. He captured the New York to Boston club scene as well as timeless candid portraits of the rebellious spirit of punk. He has curated a special collection of his photographs in the Days of Punk, an essential punk tome. Selected works by Michael Grecco are available as high-quality prints in discerning galleries around the world.