Performativity, punk and politics

Yet again I found myself in the middle of a gig, when I should only be concentrating on the band, going ‘I need to write an essay’ and trying to remember all I can about performativity and Judith Butler. On thursday night I went to see Random Hand, Voodoo Glow Skulls and Leftöver Crack, which bought all my mixed feeling about performativity and watching punk bands together into one confusing issue.

Basically, I identify as feminist, anti-racist, pro-choice and queer, so the fact that Leftöver Crack are explicitly anti-sexist, racist and homophobic, anti- breeding and pro-choice has to be a plus point in thier favour, though the fact that they make amazing, interesting music is the real reason that I like them. However, I also sort of think of myself as a pacifist, and as liberal and vaguely leftist, but not as socialist or anarchist, and there is one issue that occurs in Leftöver Crack’s music, as well as that in other bands that I definatly don’t agree with, the extreme anti-police sentiment.

I’m sure for lots of people this wouldn’t be an issue, but not only can I not help analysing song lyrics, I also can’t help applying performativity to my actions, so, when I was in the pit singing along to Gang Control, ‘fuck the police, they’re gang control’, I was expressing violent anti-police feeling, whether I believed the words I was saying or not. It was an uncomfortable feeling, especially as I can’t deny the importance of that kind of communal expression of belief, because I totally teared up when the lead singer talked about hypocerasy in the music scene, and I meant every single word when I was singing along to Gay Rude Boys Unite. To an outisder I was passionatly singing along to two songs, they could not have known my mixed feelings, and if course it gets better, because performativity is all about the importance of repeated actions, and the number of times I have seen Sonic Boom Six and sung along to Piggy In the Middle, and so expressing, again, strong anti-police feelings that I don’t think I actually share, but fulfilling the conditions of the performative action, and I do believe that language changes things, word-acts can be as valid as physical acts.

This leaves me in an uncomfortable position, my love of the music of Leftöver Crack and Star Fucking Hipsters, and most of their beliefs, isn’t enough to outweigh my dislike of one branch of their expressions, as the rampant misogyny of Imperial Lesiure was. However, I don’t advocate the killing of police officers, in no way do I agree with that. I think this relates to the gap between the singer and the narrator of a song that I always end up writing about, perhaps I need to theorise some sort of parrallel gap for the audience of a song, but at the moment I can’t help but the very acts of singing and dancing along to a song validates it, and implicits to the world that you agree with the feeling expressed by it. This sort of theory about music seems to be shaping up to be my life’s work, I could at least write a dissertation for my MA on it, if not for a PHD, if I ever get as far as doing one.

Until then, there was one thing I noticed the morning after the gig (apart from the fact I really did appear to have scraped half the skin off my elbow and it was leaking yellow stuff), the tshirt I bought, the Gay Rude Boys Unite one, of course, advocates true unity, among others ‘gay, straight or trans’, I’ve never seen another band acknowledge the problem of transphobia, let alone use a gender-neautral pronoun for that matter, it appears that to hear other people really express believe in the opinions that I hold I need to venture further into what I always think of as ‘proper punk’, and be aware that more extreme beliefs in one area are likely to mean more exptreme beliefs in another area as well.

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