By Greg Price
Perhaps it’s a sign I never want to grow up…or perhaps it’s a sign I likes what I like.
I have jokingly (perhaps not joking) been told I am too old to be rocking out to punk music. I guess one certainly could make that comment given the crowd you saw at last Wednesday’s Real McKenzies show in Lethbridge.
There was a sprinkle of people in my age range, but I was definitely the minority. And about as punk as I was in my dress was an Anti-Flag T-shirt compared to the studded bike jackets, multiple pierced and multi-coloured hair I saw of a healthy portion of the crowd.
But that is what is so great about the scene, people were simply there to enjoy the music no matter your age or fashion sense in a crowd that had its diversity.
And how can you not like The Real McKenzies with its Canadian Celtic sound infused in the frenzy that is punk? Bagpipes, kilts and electric guitar, all while singing about home, the plight of the average man and drinking establishment good times.
And the average man he is in lead singer Paul McKenzie, often seen mixing with the locals in the three times I’ve seen his show, posing for pictures, sharing stories and libations, with his loved one by his side as the opening band played.
Hovering around his mid-50s, if I’m not supposed to be listening about social unrest in my 40s, does that mean a Paul McKenzie should not be singing about them in his 50s. Of course not. By thst logic does it mean there is a certain age you reach where you should stop caring about certain things?
Having not been exposed to punk music until my college days, I’ve now been exposed to the stylings of The Ramones, Anti-Flag, Descendants, NOFX, Rise Against, Dropkick Murphys, Face to Face, Refused, and SNFU among many. I still like your regular Top-40, but to me it’s the punk music that keeps me grounded when people start focusing too much on First-World problems in which Top-40 music can certainly be entrenched in. The irony is not lost on me of a top-40 Pop Tart singing through collagen-injected lips about how real they are…sporting fake eye lashes, a fake tan and fake breasts.
And the great thing about punk music is you don’t have to go take out a second mortgage on your home just so you can sit out in the nosebleed seats to see the ant-like figure of Britney Spears or The Rolling Stones.
For $20 bucks, I could have stood among the frenzied mosh pit (now that’s something I’m too old for), within arm’s length of the band, enjoying my discounted drinks while rocking out with my buddies side by side. Any momento I wanted in the form of a record or T-shirt was just as affordable and nowhere, was there to be seen, a table in which the leader singer was sitting, asking for $100 for signatures or pictures with him. He was quite willing to pose for a selfie with anyone who asked with a big grin on his face.
Until a punk musician moves over to a ‘major’ label, I can’t imagine they are making as much money as other musicians in more mainstream music, but it still seems to be enough for The Real McKenzies who look like they are really enjoying what they are doing.
And it’s not as if there isn’t some self awareness with the band that they probably could have pursued more ‘meaningful’ pursuits had the quest been seeking the almighty dollar. The ultimate is making hordes of money while doing something you absolutely love. But if a choice has to be made between the two, The Real McKenzies would prefer the latter.
“I used to be a lumberjack, and I’m OK with that,
I wore suspenders, little panties, and a bra,
I used to be a socialist, a sort of communist,
Now I’m a pessimist and I don’t care at all
I could have been a minister, a holy predator,
A man of faith you really wouldn’t want to meet,
Perhaps a Scientologist, just as a hobbyist,
And start a cult that’s turning people into sheep,
Pour decisions, a pun,k musician just ain’t as cute at 53
I have forsaken money makin’,
Yeah, you still wish you were me.”
From The Real McKenzies’ 2005 Album, 10,000 shots
I’ve traveled to Las Vegas numerous times, Philadelphia, Calgary and southern Alberta to see several different bands, to see live punk music and I’d encourage anyone to take in the experience just once in their lives, just to broaden their exposure to more types of music.
If you would like to be eased into some of the more radio friendly punk songs, I can give you some suggestions.