Panache and often politics were on the gritty ground floor of the Punk movement. Loud guitars and scorching vocals only amplified the attitude. Songs were short and layered with a blitzkrieg of sound and emotion. Every moment counted. Punk’s aggression of the late 1970s was sharply contrasted by the commercial success of Disco.

Punk was as dramatic as a high-speed swerve on Du Sable Lake Shore Drive.

In Chicago, circa 1977, punks and gays were dancing into the early morning at the underground Le Mere Vipere, while several blocks south an elite crowd was getting their Disco on at Faces on Rush Street. Life was moving to different beats. Something had to snap.

The best thing about Chicago punk is how it flew under the radar of scenes in Los Angeles and New York. Chicago punk musicians had more room to experiment. The first punk wave included Tu Tu and the Pirates, Naked Raygun, and the Effigies. When Chicago punk was “discovered” by record labels and Billboard magazine in the mid-1980s it morphed into Alternative Rock. This evolution embraced the same DIY attitude as Punk, opening up a landscape for Urge Overkill, Smashing Pumpkins and Wilmette’s Fall Out Boy.

Far away from the city, the punk movement was becoming equally fertile. Late 1980s Peoria punkers Despondent Youth and Bloody Mess & the Skabs (punk and thrash) were noticed by national publications like Maximum Rock n’ Roll. Bloody Mess even found his way onto the Phil Donahue television show. Bands like the MC5, Black Sabbath, and the Who made sure to include Peoria on their itinerary.

Punk drummer Martin Atkins (Nine Inch Nails, Pigface) has recently opened a small Museum of Post-Punk and Industrial Music on the South Side of Chicago. The delightfully splintered post-punk era includes Industrial, Grunge (Punk and Metal) and an Indie guitar-driven ethos that defines much of today’s rock n’ roll.

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