It started a little over two weeks ago as a simple idea within an online community to get a few friends together in one place for great music and fun. Peaceful protest through art, they said. Freedom, they said. Evolution. Revolution. Just to prove we can, they said. And the The KerPUNK Festival was born. And it grew. And American and UK bands alike dropped everything and committed to it. And the online community grew, and excitement mounted, and suddenly #GreenDayFamily was trending on Twitter all over the world.
It was this Green Day online family that started the phenomenon that happened on Saturday and Sunday, January 21 & 22, 2012 in London, England. And this family of Green Day fans makes its second home at the http://greendayauthority.com fan site community forum, proving to be one more example of the power of the Internet and its ability to organize people from all over the world into action in a short amount of time.
Concert Organizer and Owner and Site Manager for Tony Anastasi said, "The key to this for me is transcending the barriers of the Internet. Through this community, I've seen the wonderful way that a group of people with similar interests come together and form such strong bonds that they are willing to travel across the world to see a show with them at the drop of a hat. That is a very powerful thing."
The KerPUNK Festival was in essence a reaction to the introduction in the United States of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is seen by many within the online community as a direct assault on Internet freedom, the very freedom that allowed this event to happen. "The power of the people I talk about being stronger than ever is going to face a big fight to maintain that power and freedom by the sounds of this," according to Anastasi, and this was their peaceful way of collectively organizing and protesting it.
The Festival was officially named by punk rock icon Larry Livermore, the music producer credited with discovering Green Day and giving them their start at Lookout Records when on Twitter a few days before the event, he suggested calling it The KerPUNK Festival.
And punk showed up in full force. The big draw was the headliner show by Prima Donna. Specializing in grime, Prima Donna was polished and ready to rock with a stage presence that would have fit in anywhere, whether it was the small venue atmosphere of drinking shots and gulping beer with the fans in-between songs to the more choreographed setting of an arena show with thousands in attendance. As Aaron of the band The Mystic Knights & The Cobras told me many times over the weekend, "They are the hardest working, nicest, best looking band out there right now." I couldn't agree more. These are true rock stars, with their newest album called Bless This Mess being released on Valentine's Day. Check it out. You won't be disappointed.
The Phenomenauts was pop-punk at its finest, with the best light show of the night amid flashing colors and smoke everywhere. With a futuristic theme and a blast from the past style, it was impossible not to dance the moment the music started, giving me flashbacks of high school in the 80s. Actually, I had flashbacks of Weird Science and, strangely enough, Duckie from Pretty in Pink. I have no idea why. I freaking love these guys and they are now one of my new favorite bands.
In an in-your-face pure punk explosion, The Mystic Knights & The Cobras were a free-for-all of music and dance where anything and everything goes that set the pit in front of the stage, and the rest of the audience, on a nonstop twenty minute frenzy.
For a break from the hardcore, Bryan McPherson came onstage with only his guitar and played a brand of folk music reminiscent of the Dylan-esque intensity of the 60s with a Bruce Springsteen-like content focused on the working man and the plight of today's America. Full of passion and heart, it was obvious this wasn't just music to him, but a very personal journey through his own demons.
The one word I can use to describe Adam Bones is cool. This was the coolest band at the festival. Very focused, very serious, with a Jimmy Hendrix iconic style, Adam Bones, lead vocalist, brought the audience punk rock that demanded respect. And the 12 Bores, who opened the show on Saturday night, brought them familiarity and acceptance. Sporting a mohawk and piercings, tattoos and black leather that defines the revered punk idea of individualism and being "different," this fast-paced, high energy rockfest set the stage for what proved to be a great weekend of music.
Combining punk rock with raunchy and sometimes political satire, Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children MacNuggits left me wondering if I wanted to laugh, think or dance. I chose to dance, laughing in the process, and decided to think about the lyrics later. They were just that good. Believed to be largely responsible for getting the majority of the bands to London, Bobby Joe Ebola earns his creds from the Oakland music scene.
And then there was Kepi Ghoulie. In the process of re-organizing his band, Kepi epitomized the spontaneity of the event by pulling in members from the other bands to play various instruments and proving the close-knit family all of these bands have become.
Which brings me to the biggest surprise of the weekend that came in the form of the California Bay Area teenage band called Fever Charm. To be honest, when I heard they were teenagers, I was expecting the usual high school basement band of shit, but a basement band they were not. On the same level as these other bands comprised of older, more experienced musicians, Fever Charm rocked out on alternative and punk rock eagerly received by the same fans who cheered for Prima Donna. Between their California good looks and exceptional talent, this is a band to watch. I expect big things from them in the near future.
The diversity of the music and stage presence of the bands only added to the general mystery surrounding the entire weekend. Even with the venue, which was undecided up until two days before the first show, it became a surprise treasure hunt within the city of London, a fly by the seat of your pants, be ready for anything, jump when they say go, intense spontaneous game requiring hardcore rock music fans to stay glued to The KerPUNK Festival's Twitter page for updates, ticket info and directions, as well as their Facebook page.
Held at The Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel in East London on Saturday and at Dingwall's in Camden Town on Sunday, which was announced in-between sets Saturday night, the entire weekend was a whirlwind of go with the flow and try not to stress it. And the excitement of the unknown only added to the phenomenon that this entire thing was organized on the Internet in a period of a week, with people flying in from all over the United States and Europe.
Though I didn't make it to the second venue on Saturday night at The Pipeline, it was where the UK bands played. They were The Paperjets and the Green Day Tribute band Dookie G Day. The Bay Area band The Copyrights was also scheduled to perform, but got turned away at the border. Nobody is sure why, but think it had something to do with a work Visa, or rather a lack of one.
Because Green Day was unable to attend, the fans had to be content with the cover band, as well as Kat Mitchell and Fever Charm covering Green Day's "Good Riddance/Time of Your Life" and "When I Come Around." And throughout the weekend, online radio coverage was provided by Lushie Radio
including interviews with the bands, giving more credence to the power of the Internet and the freedom of instant access. With protests like this, I'm almost glad SOPA has become such a huge debate. Almost.