Five years ago, today”s headlining punk bands were opening shows for today”s “has-beens.”

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Uni/Universal Records

Some bands change their sound, some change their intensity, but all maintain their strong cult following. And although their listeners find their single humorous, this song touches upon a significant worry plaguing most punk bands: Play for ourselves, or the contract.

Over the past 10 years, punk has attempted to make itself fairly more mainstream. By releasing singles to be played on the radio, signing on to soundtracks, even playing background music for teenage video games, these bands strive to promote their name in an industry that pretentiously perceives them as just a bunch of boys playing their guitars in their moms” basements.

A classic example of short-lived radio success is Goldfinger, who released their first single in 1997, “Here in Your Bedroom,” yet they saw no fruit from their labor until their newer single, “Superman,” started playing on “X-Games” soundtracks all over the country. Yet unfortunately, their best music shall never be played for the public singles of their newest album, such as “Pick a Fight,” or even “Counting the Days,” don”t fit the cookie-cutter mold of pop-punk the radio industry has in mind. This smoldering of creativity truly leads to a less-than-original sound, as well as less-than-quality singles. When Sugar Ray released their wretched waste of album space, “Fly,” Atlantic Records was most certainly laying the smack down on Mark McGrath, for the rest of 14:59 sounds nothing like that teeny-bopper, beach party blow-out crap.

Reel Big Fish is another example of a band that has yet to release another single for over half a decade yet, their shows still continue to sell out.

Instead of concentrating on legitimate music, major record labels force their artists to produce a sound that could potentially start a new genre, or trend. Looking for the Backstreet Boys in a band like Rancid is purely a mute point. Yet this money driven pressure jeopardizes the talent of the group, straining them for a fleeting, number one single like “Ruby Soho,” thus leaving the rest of their albums on the back burner. The singles Fenix TX released two years ago came and went, although radio stations attempted to re-release them this past summer in celebration of the release of their newest album. The popular and edgy single, “Total Mortal,” created by A.F.I. was masterfully butchered by Dexter Holland of Offspring in an attempt to boost their tour following their release of Americana. Yet, as these B-side bands mature, their sounds transform as well, causing doubt in the minds of their listeners.

The threat of selling out to a record label looms over the heads of every punk musician, as well as their fans. With bands like Incubus molding their sound from an intense “Certain Shade of Green,” to a weaker more melodic “Pardon Me,” their newest upcoming release has vultures circling overhead, anxiously observing their audience”s feedback. Bands like NOFX have completely denounced all radio play, especially last summer when they formally requested that their single “Bottles to the Ground,” never ever be released over another radio station again. This gutsy move made punk”s truest intentions known to their fans the passion and power of their music lies not within their record contract, but in their live performances.

The fervor and gusto resonating in their live shows is clearly evident as tons of sweaty and bruised teens come pouring out of mosh pits and theaters decked out in Converse tennis shoes, spike covered belts and very dashing, jet black hair. These are the audiences who focus on the music and the energy as opposed to the $11.99 Best Buy charges them for their groups” latest production. Stocking their websites with video clips and latest releases, these are the bands that connect with their fans, using their music, allowing every teen home on a Friday night to feel loved. “Tis this underground following that maintains the deep-seeded angst and diversity punk is so fondly known for, and prevents the radio stations from unifying all singles into one large mass of guitars all playing the same four chords.

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