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Raw is The Heart of Philadelphia: The JUMP Response to Vice.

February 5, 2014
Nona

Nona

Text by Beth Ann Downey. Images by Jessica Flynn.

The Internet blew up yesterday for many of us who follow music in Philly when Vice’s Dan Ozzi wrote a love/hate diatribe for our city, describing his love of our punk scene and loathe of everything else. Ozzi cited a number of bands, including a bunch we’ve covered (Ex Friends, Cayetana, Restorations, Little Big League) as the reasons why our punk scene is “Philly’s greatest asset,” despite his general description of the city as an “unrepentant shithole of a city where humanity goes to die.”

In some regard, he’s right. Our city is not perfect. We have a failing school system and fatal shootings over the unknown contents of a purse. A bridge and a $5 toll are all that separate us from one of the most dangerous cities in America, for years running.

Ozzi hits another thing right on the nose – it’s art and culture, like our music scene, that are helping our city still shine and thrive (see the music and politics story from our winter issue for more information). Being a fan of pop punk myself, I ask almost every band I interview how being from Philly helps inspire them and shape them as artists. Easy access to great musicians, the ability to play shows for appreciative audiences and just the mere exposure to a competitive but supportive scene top the list for the responses I receive most.

It’s funny that while writing his piece, Ozzi didn’t seem to draw the conclusion that the best music has historically been made in the face of hardship. Our generation may not be participating in Civil Rights rallies or battling in Vietnam, but we fight our own individual wars against student loans, a difficult job market and a world that never slows down – in a city that could stand to clean up its act a little.

Ninety-eight percent of the punk musicians I’ve met in Philly make little or no money from their music. Most of them work service industry jobs, or have developed a completely different career aside from making art. Living in Philly gives them the ability to live on the cheap when it comes to food and amenities. Playing shows in other major cities like Baltimore, New York, D.C. or Pittsburgh are just a van ride away.

cayetanajump-9small

Cayetana

Though they may come for these amenities, they stay for the community. The great thing about the Philly music scene in general is that no matter how big it looks from the outside, it’s still small to us. Like-minded musicians can still easily meet, come together and collaborate. Their biggest fans are usually also their best friends.

So here’s what I have to say to Dan Ozzi. Thanks for the kind words about our “punk” bands (though from the comments, it seems your piece struck a chord with a group very wary of any mislabeling of the genre). You certainly did your homework and recognized some of the best. I’m sure they’re very grateful.

And sure, New York is great. Many of our musicians move there in order to work with a well-known producer or for a better shot at being noticed. But don’t think for a second that any of these musicians would be who they are without Philadelphia. We may have our share of uneducated members of the population, as well as rowdy sports fans, but we’re also a city full of real and honest people who are proud of who we are and the things we create.

Real is the heart of punk, and raw is the heart of Philadelphia. Your backhanded compliment just goes to show that living in a place with heart is the true fuel for culture, creativity and community.

Swearin'

Swearin’

6 Comments
  1. XOXO permalink
    February 5, 2014 12:16 pm

    “Our generation may not be participating in Civil Rights rallies or battling in Vietnam, but but we fight our own individual wars against student loans…and I lost my iPhone charger for a few hours which was a total bummer.”

    STOP! No need for comparisons, generalizations or justifications. Hardship is universal and timeless. We feel your pain.

  2. kevin minutes permalink
    February 5, 2014 3:36 pm

    No one was pissed they shit on the city we were pissed they didn’t know dick about punk. Nananaexfriends or whatever is indie rock bullshit.

    • Tim permalink
      February 8, 2014 5:34 pm

      I couldn’t give a shit about these bands but the bullshit he spewed on the city is what agitated most people.

  3. Geo permalink*
    February 5, 2014 4:25 pm

    Actually, many people were annoyed by the tone of the Vice story.

  4. Kevin Seconds permalink
    February 5, 2014 4:27 pm

    @Kevin Minutes, Is it possible that there are different varieties of Punk Rock out there besides just the bearded HxC bro variety you listen to? It’s not the band’s fault people reacted negatively to the article.

  5. Danager permalink
    February 5, 2014 7:48 pm

    Cheers

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