American punk and hardcore is firmly rooted in the New York scene, from the Ramones and New York Dolls at CBGB in the 1970’s to the 80’s hardcore surge of Agnostic Front and Sick of It All at ABC No Rio. But things have changed, and New York isn’t quite the same city that it was forty years ago. Things are more colorful now. Announcements on the subway are delivered electronically and easy to understand. People aren’t afraid to walk around on the streets at night. Flamboyantly dressed themed gangs don’t terrorize the five boroughs, and the island of Manhattan has yet to become one large maximum security prison. Hell, there’s even a Whole Foods Market that just opened up right on top of the Gowanus canal. To put it bluntly in punk rock terms: New York has sold out.
However once you break past the Disneyfied surface, you’ll find that New York still has a heart and soul that bleeds and screams “punk rock”. The following bands might not all brandish the same familiar haircuts or studded jackets of yesteryear, but they are armed with a diversity of sounds that keep the spirit of the scene alive and kicking.
You’ll notice that this list focuses on currently active bands, almost all of which have formed within the last decade. Yes, obviously NYC has the best punk scene once you take its history into account, but these ten bands prove that the Big Apple is still not a city to mess with.
You can read the list below.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Chumped started making waves upon the release of their self-titled EP in late 2013. Like many great punk acts before them, Chumped’s mission statement is simple: drink and write songs about feelings.
02. Up for Nothing
Brooklyn’s best kept secret. It’s high time that we spill the beans and let the rest of the world in on them.
03. Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine
I spent a few years convinced that no one over the age of 16 enjoys ska. That was before I had listened to Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine. With lyricism akin to The Gaslight Anthem and The Lawrence Arms, combined with all those upstrokes and brassy sections, these guys could make ska cool again for people of all ages.
04. Morning Glory
Then again… maybe ska just isn’t cool. Long live Revolution Rock!
05. House Boat
It’s weird that it took me this long to get to a band with Mikey Erg in the lineup. But hey, better late than never.
Swearin’ actually left Brooklyn for awhile, relocating in Philadelphia, but it’s easy to forgive them because they put out fun tunes. And they’ve also kind of moved back in Brooklyn now.
NYHC is a style that gets aped on a pretty regular basis, but the bands that do it best are always the bands that are actually from NYC. (Okay, fine. Backtrack is from Long Island and not NYC. Shut up and mosh, you nerd.)
08. Iron Chic
There’s nothing that I can say about Iron Chic that hasn’t already been said. Yo, get into it already.
Worriers was originally formed by Lauren Denitzio (of The Measure [SA]) and Mike Hunchback (ex-Hunchback, ex-Night Birds, Screeching Weasel). But now it’s mostly just Lauren and whichever friends of hers are currently available (like Mikey Erg). They’re political and rad, but they only push the latter in your face.
10. Jeff Rosenstock
Remember Bomb the Music Industry!? They were cool. It was sad when they broke up. So sad that Mike Park cried when he introduced them to the stage this past January. It’s a good thing Jeff Rosenstock is still putting out new music. It’d be a downright shame if he didn’t.
This list was originally meant to be capped at ten entries, but these next four artists are just so good that they can’t be looked over. If you want, you could think of this list as an album, and the following are the bonus tracks.
11. Skinny Genes
Ace from House Boat (and formerly of The Steinways) sometimes sings songs, but not nearly as much as the other guys. Skinny Genes is Ace’s solo project and he does all the singing. And all the everything else.
Do you like Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine but wish that they sounded even more like Dead to Me or The Lawrence Arms? Sketchy may be right up your alley!
13. Night Birds
Much like Swearin’, Night Birds isn’t entirely located in New York, with a good chunk of the band coming from New Jersey. A part of me feels weird including them, but at the same time consider this counterpoint: Night Birds!
14. Freya Wilcox
Dirty, bluesy punk rock and roll. The Australian-born Wilcox has the voice of a raw, whiskey-soaked angel. What are you waiting for? Just hit ‘play’ already.
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