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2012 - The Year in Punk Rock

Punk Rockers Making Headlines


From music to politics, punk rock was all over the news in 2012. Here are the stories that caught our eye this year.

1. Pussy Riot

Courtesy of the Band
If there were any stories that represented the intersection of punk rock and politics in 2012, it's the story of Pussy Riot. Three members punk rock feminist collective and band were arrested after a protest performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. After sitting in jail for months, they were eventually sentenced to two years for charges of hooliganism, with one member being released on appeal. Despite massive support worldwide, the two women are currently in Russian labor camps.

The women of Pussy Riot are being used as examples to the Russian people as to how the government will deal with dissenting voices, while the group, which quite possibly will herald in the second coming of riot grrrl, has vowed to continue its political activism.

2. Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan allegedly stabs current members

Cro-Mags Recordings
Founding Cro-Mags member Harley Flanagan was arrested after an incident at a Cro-Mags show at Webster Hall resulted in two members of the band suffering knife and bite wounds. Although it was originally suggested that Flanagan had instigated the attack and was the only one armed, later news revealed that Flanagan had also sustained a knife wound, and his statements were that he was jumped by members of DMS, and that any injuries he inflicted were in self defense.

3. RIP - Kelley, Davis, Sly, Kirsch

©Nicole Lucas
Some solid voices from both the early and current days of the punk scene left us this year. Mike Kelley of the legendary Detroit band Destroy All Monsters died in January at his home in South Pasadena, CA on January 31, after an apparent suicide. He was 57.

A few short weeks later, he was followed by Michael Davis of the influential punk band MC5, who passed away at 68 due to liver failure. In addition to his unmistakeable contributions to punk rock while in the MC5, Davis was also a member of Destroy All Monsters. However, the band had a wildly fluctuating lineup over the course of its existence, and Kelley and Davis were not members at the same time.

In July, No Use for a Name frontman, Tony Sly passed away in his sleep at the age of 41. Sly had been a member of No Use for a Name since 1987, and the band had been a staple on the pop punk scene, with a slot on the first Vans Warped Tour. More recently, Sly had launched a solo acoustic career beginning the release of is album 12-Song Program.

December saw the passing of longtime and prolific Bay Area musician and activist Sarah Kirsch from the rare genetic disorder Fanconi Anemia. Kirsch had been a longtime member of Bay Area punk bands, both as Sarah and as Mike (the name she lived under before coming out as transgender), including Baader Brains, Fuel, Torches to Rome, Bread and Circuits and punk rock supergroup Pinhead Gunpowder (where Kirsch's bandmate was Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong). She was 42.

We would like to extend condolences to the friends, families and bandmates of all our deceased punk brethren.

4. Baghdad's Emo Murders

Chris Hondros/Getty Images
In March, it was being reported that Iraqi teens in Baghdad were being singled out and stoned to death for the crime of embracing Western styles and sporting emo, punk or goth fashions and haircuts. Death tolls were listed as anywhere from at least 14 to at least 100. And while the government never went so far as to advocate the killings, it issued statements supporting the mentality driving the persecution, equating emo with devil worship, and calling for its elimination as it is " detrimentally affecting the society and becoming a danger."

5. Spanish Punk Band Ardor de Estómago Charged and Fined for Insults to the King

Ardor de Estómago
Charges were brought by the Spanish punk band Ardor de Estómago (Heartburn), a three-piece from Segovia, for comments that they made against the Spanish king in their song "Una Historia Real" (A True Story). In the song the referred to Spanish King Juan Carlos as a "bastard" and a "son of a bitch," and referenced historical events suggesting that the king was responsible for the accidental shooting of his brother and being involved in the 1982 attempted Spanish coup.

The band was charged with insulting the king and found guilty, for which each member was fined 900 euros. And while it's a more civilized verdict than that faced by punks in other countries, it still sends a message about the intolerance of the Spanish government for political expression.

6. Tom Gabel of Against Me! becomes a women

© Nicole Lucas
Against Me! vocalist Tom Gabel took a courageous stand in May when he told Rolling Stone that he planned to begin life as a woman. Gabel, who suffers from gender dysphoria, felt that it was important that, as a celebrity, he was open and honest. As he began his transformation and began to live as Laura Jane Grace, he continued to tour with the Cult, playing to receptive audiences.

7. John Lydon keeps punk out of the Olympics

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon refused an invitation for his band to appear at the closing ceremony 2012 Summer Olympics and, while many assumed that it was due to the fact that band wouldn't be paid for it, he went on record later with comments criticizing the government for hosting an Olympics they couldn't afford, as well as their poor handling of the riots.

Not only did Lydon's refusal mean that his band wouldn't perform at the program entitled A Symphony of British Music, it helped ensure that no punk band would fill that slot, with the closest representative of the era being a performance by Madness.

8. Sikh Temple Shooter tied to Racist Hardcore Scene

Label 56
In August, 40-year old Wade Micheal Page walked into a Wisconisn Sikh Temple and opened fire, killing six and critically injuring three before being shot and killed by police. As newscasters scrambled to find details on the shooter that would shed light on this tragedy, it readily became apparent that the attack was racially motivated, as it was revealed that Smith had been in two racist skinhead hardcore punk bands.

While Smith's history is tied to the punk scene, it's in name only. Since its inception, the white power movement in punk has been a blight on the scene. A sound and a scene that was created in order to provide refuge for a disenchanted youth, punk is about inclusion, and racist bands and ideals have little room. As everyone likes to say what is and isn't punk with varying effectiveness, I think it's safe to say that white power ideals really aren't punk.

9. Aceh Calling - A benefit for the punks in Indonesia

Evacuate Records
While the arrests and "re-education" of the punks in Indonesia was a story from 2012, Michael "Mike Virus" Rothstein of Evacuate Records ensured that the plight of the Aceh Punks would remain prominent as well as making an effort to help them with the release of Aceh Calling. Aceh Calling compiled 72 bands from all over the world who donated tracks to the album, all proceeds of which went toward getting music to the punks in Aceh, as well as clothing and food. Not only does it provide them with great music, it helps assure the isolated scene that the punks of the world know about them, and that they're not alone. For that reason, it may be the most important album you buy this year.

10. Jim Lindberg returns to Pennywise

Epitaph Records
After a well-publicized departure back in 2009, original Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg announced his return to the band this year. On August 21 of that year, Lindberg posted a statement that appeared to take the remaining members of the band by surprise, to which they replied a few hours later that Pennywise would continue, ultimately with Ignite frontman Zoli Teglas.

The reasons for the departure were due to the stress of being on tour and trying to be a father, as filmed in the documentary The Other F Word, which did a good job capturing Lindberg's attempt to be a father and frontman, and feeling like he couldn't do both. Now it appears that he has reached some sort of internal compromise, and announced that he's back.

11. Andrew WK Comes Out - As a Brony

©Nicole Lucas
2012 was a big year for Andrew WK. While celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of I Get Wet with a two-disc deluxe edition of the album and an anniversary tour where he performed I Get Wet in its entirety, the man who perfected party rock also came out - as a Brony.

Andrew WK revealed that he was a member of the "Brony" subculture - grown men who are fans of My Little Pony. Considering himself to be "the living embodiment of the positive, party pony, Pinkie Pie," he did a motivational speech at anterlot Gardens in Ohio, during a My Little Pony fan convention.

While I wasn't there, I'm sure a nation of My Little Pony fans learned to party hard that day.

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