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Warped Tour: Action for Political Movement

One place where the punk ideology attempts to remain pure is on the concert tour known as the Warped Tour (now known as the Vans Warped Tour). This tour was designed by Kevin Lyman in an attempt to give local punk bands recognition. The tour happens annually each summer and it usually consists of bands from small and independent labels. Bands that have broken through into the mainstream culture, such as NOFX or Rancid, will usually headline the shows and about forty other smaller and local bands will play throughout the day. Even though capitalistic corporations, such as Vans or Yohoo sponsor the tour, the tour itself promotes grass roots organizations. Besides the small and independent record labels, the tour also supports independent vendors and social activist groups, such as the Anti-Racist Action coalition.

When I spent the summer of 2000 traveling with the Warped Tour as an independent vendor I saw more clothing from Hot Topic then I could fathom. At first I did not realize the brightly colored pants and ripped up shirts were not entirely original. However, each day in a new city across the country I saw the exact same outfits. After about a week I actually started asking concert goes in each state where they got their red plaid pants and they would respond “From Hot Topic!” I then asked them how much they paid for them and the concert goers would tell me “Eighty dollars for the long pants with the suspenders on the back and sixty for the short pants without the suspenders.” I very quickly realized that these youths were not supporting the DIY punk mentality at all. Instead they were acting as aggressive shoppers. In some cities, the concert goers clothing may have been outrageous or rebellious in their conservative mainstream society, but here at the concert they were all basically wearing the same pre-bought clothing from capitalistic corporations. Therefore, the concert goers clothing had lost all of its punk ideology and ceased to be “punk.”

The Proposed Narrative

For my proposed narrative I would like to follow in the footsteps of Augusta Boal’s from The Theater of the Oppressed. When describing his work with the People’s Theater in Peru Boal describes how he uses the community to create the script. He has the group make suggestions about all possible reactions until one script is finally made. The one specific example that I would like to model, is this ‘invisible theater’ (Boal, p. 147). In the scene that Boal describes, the People’s Theater confronts an expensive restaurant about the price of the meals. In this scene one person is an instigator and refuses to pay for his expensive meal, while other actors (who act as customers) give the instigator money for his meal. These “fake” customers create a dialogue between the real customers and some real customers help pay for the meal while others are opposed to help pay for the meal. In the end the real customers are left in the restaurant with the “fake” customers to talk about what happened (Boal, p.143-147). In this invisible theater Boal’s actors never reveal themselves, however in my proposed narrative by the end of the script it will become obvious that they are actors.

Similar to Boal, I will need many people to create my proposed narrative. I will at least five people to create the conflict. The first person will be the “Authentic punk” and will be wearing a typical punk outfit made by herself/himself. The outfit will consist of the typical red plaid pants with safety pins in them and an old pair of black boots from a thrift store decorated with profanities. They will also be wearing a T-shirt that states “Fuck off you Fucking Fuck” that has been written on by herself/himself, along with self-inflicted piercings, such as a safety pin through the cheek. The second punk will be known as the “Poser” and will be wearing the exact same outfit, except their outfit will be entirely store bought. The idea is to have the authentic punk and the poser meet and get into a fight. The other three people will be dressed like average concert goers and will placed randomly around the scene of the fight and will prompt other “real” concert goers with questions. The fight will take place in front of one of the grass roots social activist tables.

The Script

(The authentic punk and the poser will walk from two different directions. The authentic punk notices the poser when they get to be about five feet from one another.)

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(With a tone of anger) Hey You!

POSER
(Confused, even a little scared.) Who Me?

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(A little more annoyed now.) Yes you! What the hell is this bullshit?

POSER
I’m sorry what?

AUTHENTIC PUNK
You’re clothes! Where did you get them?

POSER
Oh, just some store. (Now with a tone of sarcasm.) Why where did you get your clothes?

(Now the first FAKE CONCERT GOER turns to a real concert goer and says “Hey check this out they are wearing the same out fit I think they are going to fight!”)

AUTHENTIC PUNK
I MADE mine. This is such fucking bullshit. I hate POSERS like you who show up every year with your store bought punk paraphernalia.

POSER
Hey what the hell do you mean? I’m just as much a punk as you are, we are wearing the same outfit if you didn’t already notice.

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(Building anger.) No we are not! I went to a thrift store and I made these clothes. These are NOT the same clothes. Mine did not come from some fascist sweatshop they came out of my own head!

POSER
(In a defensive tone.) They did not come out of a fascist sweatshop they came from the PUNK section. Well, that’s what the sign on the wall said at least.

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(With a condescending tone.) Yeah I know what the sign on the wall said. I also know that those pants cost you eighty bucks. Just because you are wearing the same clothes as me does not make you a punk. Excess ain’t rebellion! That just makes you a poser, this ain’t no fashion show asshole.
(At this point the Poser attempts to walk away and the Authentic Punk grabs the Poser by the shoulder) Hey wait! I ain’t done with you yet!

(Now one of the second FAKE CONERT GOERS turns to a real concert goer and asks them “What is going on?”)

POSER
(The poser throws the authentic punks hand off their shoulder and shouts) What the hell do you want now? Get the fuck away from me!

AUTHENTIC
(Now standing in front of the Poser and getting close to their face they shout) No! I want to know why you buy into all that corporate bullshit. I want to know why you think it’s ok to give money to companies who beat fourteen-year-old girls. I want to know why you waste your money!

POSER
(The Poser backs away and throws their arms up in the air and shouts) All right! All Right! I admit it! I am a POSER! I like shopping at the mall! I like looking cool! Hardly anyone at my school dresses this way so I am considered cool!

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(Could look at towards the crowd with a bit of disdain) Dressing punk doesn’t make you cool, moron.

(Now the third FAKE CONCERT GOER turns to a real Concert goer and says, “Can you believe this Poser?”)

POSER
(Now the Poser is fake sobbing) I know I know! But I like giving money to organizations who exploit human rights! I like watching MTV! I like having no creativity and letting other people dress me!

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(The Authentic punk is trying to console the Poser now) Dude it’s ok man just chill out all I was saying was…

POSER
(The Poser pushes off the Authentic Punk and grabs the Authentic Punk by their shoulders) No man! It’s not ok! I’m a sheep just like everyone else! I will probably turn into a yuppie one day and have the 2.5 kids, the mini van and a dog!

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(The Authentic Punk now grabs the Poser by the shoulders) No way! It could never get THAT bad! Get a hold of yourself man and listen to me! There are steps that you can take! To start off with stop shopping at the mall.

POSER
(The poser looks wide-eyed and scared now) No not the mall! Where will I buy all of my things if I can’t go to the mall?!

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(The Authentic punk is speaking sternly now) Listen, man, I know its hard, but you have to start somewhere. Start making your own things. Start questioning everything and then you will be able to think for yourself one day.

POSER
But do you really think that’s possible?!

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(The Authentic punk now looks at the Poser with complete confidence) Of Course it is man. That’s what the punk scene is all about.

(Then maybe they hug or shake hands, and walk away.)

Sequence of Impacts

This is the basic idea for the script. However, because this will be conducted in a public space a number of different things may occur while the performance is happening. First off someone might call security and the scene will end. However, none of the merchandise people or the vendors have walkie-talkies that are connected with security. Therefore, by the time someone does get security the fight will have already finished. This means if anyone tries to break up the argument it will be a concert goer or one of the vendors. Lets say that a concert goer steps in to help the Poser at the beginning of the fight after the Poser tries to walk away. The script could be amended to go something like this:

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(Now standing in front of the Poser and getting close to their face they shout) No! I want to know why you buy into all that corporate bullshit. I want to know why you think it’s ok to give money to companies who beat fourteen-year-old girls. I want to know why you waste your money!

REAL CONCERT GOER
(They may try and pull the Authentic punk away from the Poser they could say) Hey leave her/him alone man!

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(Could still be angry) Hey no man! I want to know why that kid over thinks it’s cool support sweatshops!

(If this lead into a real fight with the concert goer then the three fake concert goers could jump in to help.)

REAL CONCERT GOER
(Could try and calm down the Authentic Punk and say) I don’t know man. You just need to chill out.

POSER
(Walking back over to the Real Concert Goer and the Authentic Punk and cold say in a condescending and pissed off way) You know what man I admit it I am a POSER! I like shopping at the mall! I like looking cool! Hardly anyone at my school dresses this way so I am considered cool!

(This would then get you back into the dialogue.)

(The Real Concert goer may be surprised by this and take their attention away from the Authentic Punk and start to question the Poser too.)

A second reaction people might join in and start to harass the Poser as well. They too may shout things such as “Go home you stupid Poser!” and then the poser could respond to that by then accusing them of being posers also. They could say:

POSER
Oh what, you think you are so high and mighty yourselves? I know you got those pants and the same store I did, wait didn’t I see you there on Tuesday?

AUTHENTIC PUNK
(If for some reason a fight broke out between the Poser and a real concert goer then The Authentic Punk could get in-between the two and draw it back into the dialogue)

The three Fake Concert goers in the crowd will also directly engage real concert goers in a dialogue. The impact of the dialogue will be different with each person the Fake concert goer interacts with. By asking them questions such as “Hey what happened?” or “Can you believe this happening?” will get different reactions every time If the real concert goers tell the fake concert goer that the Authentic Punk thinks store bought clothes are cool, the fake concert goer could say something to the extent of:

FAKE CONCERT GOER
No way man! I thought that guy said that he was going to kick that kid’s ass because he is trying to imitate him (or her)!

Even if this had not have happened the real concert goer would be interested in watching the dialogue a little more closely. The fake concert goers could even take the posers side to provoke the real concert goer. They could say something such as:

FAKE CONCERT GOER
Hey I don’t know why this girl/guy is picking on that kid. I think her/his clothes are pretty damn cool.

The real concert goer may disagree with the fake concert goer and tell the fake concert goer that they are in fact the moron.

Measuring the Means of Impact

The first way to determine whether the dialogue had any impact on the concert goers would be by the amount of people who stopped to watch the fight. If the Poser and the Authentic Punk had no audience then virtually no message would have been communicated. However, if there were to be an audience then concert goers would have heard the dialogue. If many people had stopped to watch the dialogue, there are a number of things that could accrue. If the concert goers who heard the dialogue agreed with the Authentic Punk then they may start making their own clothes, or in the spirit of punk ideology, they may start ripping apart old clothes and remaking them into something new that challenges norms of society. This could be measured in a few ways. The first way would be to see if kids at punk concerts were wearing store bought clothes similar to one another. If they were all wearing different but still outrageous, home manufactured clothes, then maybe the message got across.

Another way to measure the means of success would be by setting up a web site linked to one of the grass roots organizations associated with the Warped Tour, possibly the organization that the scene was acted out in front of. Youths who are already interested in social change could read the script and decide to act it out on their own. Depending on many “hits” (times the site is visited) and how many responses that are emailed to the site, could be a way to measure the impact (Bill Talen, Jones Diner, December 13, 2001).

On a larger scale, other ways to measure the means of impact would be to see if the sales for major chain stores, emphasizing in punk fashions, went down. Another way would be to see if the fashion industry gave up on exploiting the punk subculture. However, this would probably lead the fashion industry to exploit another subculture in its place.

Oppositions

The underlying theme of my proposed narrative is to have punks stop shopping at capitalistic corporations. This goes against the whole economic structure of the United States. For example, after the fall of the World Trade Centers in New York City on September 11th, 2001 fewer people were traveling to New York City. Because of this decline in tourism, the mayor of New York, Julianne, commanded the residents of New York City to start shopping more because the city was not turning over enough capitol. A capitalistic nation is based on a set of beliefs where you need to spend money to make money. Having youths stop buying “rebellious” clothing would dampen the fashion industry.

Not only is having youths stop shopping a conflict with the social structure of the economy, but it is also a conflict in the ways in which music and youth rebellion are linked. In the twentieth century most popular music movements have been linked with fashion. For example, when teens saw the Beatles in concert guys started growing long hair. Today in any specific music genre there is an entire set of fashions to accompany the subculture. At a Gothic or Industrial concert, such as Nine Inch Nails, kids will be wearing all black and at a hip-hop show many of the concert goers will be wearing baggy pants. As Dick Hebdige describes clothing can be used as a signifier of meaning. For subcultures based on music, clothing is a way in which youths identify themselves. Fashion industries eventually pick up on this and if the subculture gets enough media recognition, like the punk subculture in the late seventies, they will exploit it.

Conclusion

While other subcultures do not want to be exploited by the fashion industry either, the punk subculture in particular is one that has firm beliefs against capitalism and exploitation. The movement has progressed over the last twenty years through shocking people with music and fashion, to creating a home for leftist activism groups. Through the notion of do-it-yourself (DIY) ideology the punk movement has done whatever it can to run away from capitalistic corporations. Even though most people do not have any say in what fashions will be designed each season, people do have the choice not to shop. My proposed narrative is yet another way for punks to run away from capitalistic exploitation.

Click here to go to the Warped Tour’s offical website

Click here to go to the Anti-Racist Action’s offical website

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