For my birthday recently, I went to my first cowpunk concert. This was a shock to me on many levels, starting with the word cowpunk. Much to my surprise, cowpunk is a real word and not something my husband made up. You can’t really blame me for accusing him of inventing words in English since his family invents all kinds of words in their native German. German not being my native language, I innocently use these words with the general German-speaking population. As a result, approximately 74% of German speakers I’ve encountered since meeting my husband over 15 years ago think I’m completely nuts.
With the concert around the corner, I was determined to do some fact checking before dropping the word cowpunk in an effort to sound relatable….only to show up at work the next day with a broken nose and fewer teeth. Lo and behold, according to Dictionary.com, cowpunk derives from the term cowboy-punk and is “a musical style combining country-and-western with punk rock.” Wikipedia goes on to describe cowpunk as “a subgenre of punk rock that began in the UK and California in the late 1970s and early 1980s.” Imagine what Johnny Cash would sound like on Speed, and you’ll get the general idea.
So how does one end up at a cowpunk concert? In my case it is completely related to my age. For some strange reason the older I get, the crazier my taste in music gets. I used to listen to only mainstream Top 40 music in high school and college. Sometime in my 30’s I switched over to alternative music and by my 40’s I found myself secretly head banging in traffic to really disgruntled people. (Clearly I have anger issues.) Along the way I also discovered Social Distortion (or “Social D”, as the fans say). For those unfamiliar with Social D, it is a punk band from Southern California that was formed in the late 1970’s and is still irate and going strong.
As my birthday approached, I looked for ways to distract myself from the reality of aging. I’m not debating that turning a year older is better than the alternative, but getting older is hard to swallow. These days my birthday is just another reminder that I probably shouldn’t have thrown out that Botox discount coupon.
I started looking for local events taking place on my birthday weekend. Last year we went to a comedy festival, which really helped take the edge off. A few minutes into my search, I discovered that Social D was playing on my birthday at a small, local venue. Going to this band’s concert would certainly have a dual benefit. Not only would I fit in with all the outraged people (they were angry about social injustice and I was angry about wrinkles), but unlike a pop music concert, I wouldn’t be the youngest in the room. How can you feel bad about your age when the lead singer has 10 years on you? My birthday was starting to look up.
My husband was quickly on board with my suggestion. He was only vaguely familiar with Social D but likes alternative folk and country music. It was during this discussion, that he dropped the aforementioned cowpunk word on me. Apparently this is the more precise definition of the punk genre the band represented.
As we drove to the concert, I found myself increasingly curious about this cowpunk movement. For example, what do cowpunk fans look like? As I found out there are four categories of cowpunk concert-goers:
- Middle aged people wearing jeans and t-shirts, obviously hiding the fact that they like cowpunk (me)
- Young, retro, rockabilly girls who drink too much and pass out on your husband’s feet before the concert even begins
- Gray-haired, aging punkers with faded tats and reading glasses
- Random guy blasted back from the 80’s with a blue Mohawk and combat boots. Probably doesn’t deserve his own bullet point, but he was too entertaining not to mention.
Most interesting, however, was the band itself, who looked like they had just broken out of prison to play the concert. Despite the impressive neck and face tattoos, the 53-year-old lead singer is actually a vegetarian who skateboards and likes cats.
I had a great time at the concert and have been listening nonstop ever since to Social D on the way to my office job at a financial institution. In fact, I’m even considering getting a few neck tattoos so I can intimidate IT into providing me with better quality data for my PowerPoint presentations.