By Jordan Latham
I showed up at Mosswood Park in Oakland at 1pm this past Sunday. It was a beautiful weekend, perfect for an outdoor music festival. The location was convienient, it was easy to find parking, and not a long walk in. It was my first year attending this event, and I was excited about the line up.
The first band I saw was The Death Valley girls. They had a good sound, their banter between songs was nervous/nerdie and endearing. The Soda Boys had great energy. I might have enjoyed The Fadeaways the most. Halfway through their set I realized I had a couple tracks of theirs on a unmarked mixed CD somewhere that I loved... Light bulb moment I guess.
I am a Bay Area transplant. When I moved to Oakland at 22, I carved out a social life by doing what I've done everywhere I've lived: I found the punk rockers. Like most cities with a rough edge, in Oakland they weren't hard to find. But in the years that followed, the tech companies moved in. The minimum wage skyrocketed. San Francisco across the Bay became more expensive to live in than average people could afford. By way of being pushed out of San Francisco, the "Middle Class" moved into Oakland, bought houses, remodeled them and put up gates. Gates to keep out... Oakland.
This sounds off topic, but while enjoying the bands at Burger Boogaloo, this narrative is all I could think about. In the past, Punk music festivals would spit me out gross, sweaty and bruised. Feeling that high you get off spending a great weekend with your friends. Because even if they were people I had never met, I always felt a common bond with other people of that Punk scene. People who were drawn to Punk Music for the same reasons I had. We were young poor and angry. It was a common denominator, all being kids who had bit and scratched and fought to be who we were.
The crowd at Burger Booglaoo was the cleanest, pre-packaged, most vanilla versions of punk rock kids I have ever seen. Yes everyone was tattooed. But these were not ugly, embarrassing stick and poke, back alley tattoos. This is the stuff done by artists, that is flawless, and pretty, in no way offensive, and most of all EXPENSIVE. The economics of living in Oakland in this day and age have flipped punk rock on its ass. There was no edge, no violence, no anger, no camaraderie. The crowd listening the Dwarves at Burgar Boogaloo would be horrified to hear those lyrics spoken. They might have been terrified to know that this band which is trendy to "like" is in no way shape or form politically correct. The contradiction bothered me. And every girl with a raven tattoo taking a selfie further dampened my mood.
To be clear, I am a mom now in my late 20's and don't even drink alcohol anymore. I spent my teens and early 20's in the skinhead/hardcore scene that is the most extreme expression of violent factions of punk rock. And my tattoos are down right rough, bordering thinly on flat out bad. Maybe I'm projecting my expectations on what constitutes a punk show too heavily. But I left feeling very affected by the crowd, and the change in what type of person attends a punk show in Oakland in 2016. It's a class issue. A change in one of the core factors that I identified with when I moved here.
It's an over all shift in Oakland, housing prices and land value make it impossible to ignore. This park (Mosswood) would never have been considered safe for an event like this as little as three or four years ago. The crowd and location were striking examples of how a city shifts when the money moves in, and the personality moves out. I had such mixed feelings. I really enjoyed the bands!
I love that Oakland is a place where we can throw a punk rock music festival during the day in a public park. That said, everyone who lives here has watched Oakland become less grungy and not as funky. Money moving in over the past three years has sterilized large sections of the city at a time. A yuppie bar goes in on a rough block and it spreads from there. For me witnessing this play out under the title of "punk" was personal, and it felt a little like a loss.
Burger Boogaloo was a really fun line up of bands. Shannon and the Clams are local, and do not disappoint! I will go again next year. The folks who put on this event do a great job.
But as far as the crowd, there's lots of good light for the best SnapChat and Insta shots. And this new brand of punk rocker, well they don't even litter. Just shoot me.