Punk. It has morphed into many forms over the decades, gaining strength with defiance and sometimes, losing validity by those that hide deceitfully under its name. (I’m looking at you, Joel Madden). But despite the argument about what punk music is or isn’t valid and true to the founding ethos, it goes beyond a genre and into a way of life that has wired differing communities together across this vast globe. Punk-A-Billy began as a one-off night of music six years ago and grew into a bi-annual event that has taken itself up and down the east coast and provided a stage for over 100 bands upon which to thrash their wares. Mik Dare is essentially the man behind the bands and as Punk-A-Billy saunters into its final curtain call, he hints at an even larger project that the Punk-A-Billy crew are planning behind closed doors.
“We've got a great crew that have been involved with the festival over the last six years so I can't take all the credit, but I am basically the man behind bands,” Dare explains. “[I do] everything from booking the lineup to organising the sideshows and Australian tour for the international acts. The crew from Psychosis Promotions and Knoodle back me up with advertising, keeping the show alive on the day and keeping me sane, I couldn't do it without them.”
And there enters that sense of community that keeps it all rolling. I am compelled to find out whether Dare, a man who has been immersed in the punk scene for years, has any opinions on the changing face of punk and those that I presumptuously label as “imposters”. He is too polite to cast those aspersions, though, unlike me. “I actually don't believe I have the right to answer the question [of validity],” he says. “Everyone has their own ideals and opinions and I think it would be offensive of me to judge and typecast them. Punk is about having your say and making your own choices and who am I to say they're wrong?
“Punk has changed immensely since the ‘revolution’. It definitely still holds its relevance but it now has a lot of sub-sectors from the hardcore kids who believe in the old values of punk to the modern fashion victims jumping on the band wagon. I think the evolution of punk music has strongly contributed to the variations but the origins of the culture still reign true and as always the culture is still stereotyped in a negative way. Which kind of shows it’s holding its own place in society just as well it used to.”
Upon asking Dare whether Punk-A-Billy always had the focus of reinforcing a sense of community, it seems that the answer is a solid ‘yes’. But why is something that is so successful, hanging up its boots?
“Punk-A-Billy has always been for the bands. We, as the organisers, have never profited from it, we've even donated portions of the tickets sales to charity in the past so the financial aspect would never be an issue. Being a bi-annual festival, it basically means that from the moment one festival finishes we start booking the next and after six years it takes its toll, so we've decided to move onto a new annual project we have had planned for a while. It's still under wraps at this stage though. I also believe the festival has achieved what we set out to do and a change is as good as a holiday.
“We originally started Punk-A-Billy as means for people of all genres to come together and experience a mixed bag of music styles. Whether you’re a punk, skin, psycho, rocker or whatever takes your fancy, and over the years I think we've successfully achieved that as much as we could. Over the last six years we've had numerous suggestions on how we could improve things so hopefully we can utilise what we've learned into the new project and give the punters and communities exactly what they're after.”
As we discuss the idea of purist versus poser, I lighten things up by asking Dare, avid rocker, old school punk, what are his musically-based guilty pleasures?
“I'm a punk myself so guilty pleasures and any kind of secrets are pretty scarce ‘cause I say it like it is,” he says. “So the guys from Rehab For Quitters and Strawberry Fist Cake (who I'm currently in the tour van with) said to mention something about the hole in the back of my guitar which can sometimes make for guilty pleasure.”
Not the intention of the question but hell, it’ll give the crowd something to look out for next time they see Dare play.
Dare has been working hard at his festival for a long time and after the final show, a well-earned rest is in order. “After the finale this weekend I'm looking forward to a week of sleep and after that it's back to the bands. We've been speaking to a few international artists coming out later this year, through to mid next year. The ones I can tell you about are Evil Elvis (ex-KC & The Moonshine Band) in November and The Lucky Ones from Canada mid next year. So lots more touring and a whole lot more rock'n'roll to come!”
BY KRISSI WEISS
PUNK-A-BILLY FESTIVAL GRAND FINALE PROM NIGHT graduates at The Barleycorn Hotel on Saturday June 16 from 2.30pm, with The Australian Kingswood Factory, Strawberry Fist Cake, No Idea, Rehab For Quitters and many more. Tickets are through stickytickets.com.au or Café On Albert and Broken Glass Records.