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Pyrate Punx of the Puget Sound

Punk rock, heavy metal and sea chanteys are the common tender, antiestablishment counterculture is the creed

Pirates be cool (yarrrgh!)

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If you are on Facebook and have a few friends in the South Sound music scene, you've probably seen them. I did and became interested enough to investigate. For a few years, some folks calling themselves the "Pyrate Punx" have been putting on shows and camping trips. These events have been for both 21 and older and all ages - family friendly and rowdy. The fact that a group working together to make this happen seems cool enough, with chapters can be found in Tacoma, Olympia, Seattle, Bremerton and even in Aberdeen. Come to find out, there are chapters all over the world. A book has even been published, which includes a page for each chapter, its location and its mission. 

Diving deeper into these Punx, I can't say I agreed with all I was hearing. I also can't say that I disagreed. So you, the reader, are left to your own devices concerning these fun-loving mateys.

I spoke to a member of the Olympia Pyrates as well as someone who was involved in the creation of the Tacoma chapter. The difference of opinions between the two could start us down a drama-filled avenue, and that is not my intent. I'm here to report the facts only, folks.

Let's start with the positive. While talking to the Olympia representative, I asked a few questions to get some understanding about the intentions of these plunderers. What I received in return, in a sense, summed up a kind of punk rock Kiwanis Club. The main focus of the worldwide organization is the preservation of the local punk scene in each chapter's area. Members focus on booking shows and taking care of the booked bands by means of monetary compensation and providing a warm, safe place to stay for the night. Thanksgiving saw a few of the local chapters work together to have a feast for those without a place to go for the holiday. All good things. 

Some may be saying to themselves, "Hmm ... seems to me that this has been going on for a long time without any club or group participation."  And they are right: since the dawn of the local rock scene, someone has taken the time to arrange a venue, contact bands and book shows for local fans. This is nothing new, but the fact that a large group of people are working together with a common goal of "keeping the scene alive" is.

It's usually the work of one person, sometimes with a name to the cause and sometimes not, and he or she often ends up being hired to do it. The venue owners usually end up being involved, too, since it is their business. The Pyrates' approach is to keep things underground, leaving out venues that are businesses and sticking to house venues that have popped up in recent history. This allows those who can't afford a fixed-door price the ability to still squeak in and have some fun while those who can support the bands.

This brings us to the negative aspects. As mentioned earlier, the Pyrates seem to work together to keep their mission afloat. The chapters all operate individually, and each local chapter has a "leader."  These leaders organize their local Pyrates and have their fun. There is also a sort of central command post (for lack of a better term) in California.  There is someone there who all Pyrate Punx chapters report to, and he is the one who supplies their patches. Stay with me. ... 

Pyrate Punx are encouraged to "patch up," and they purchase their patches from California. Some, not all, of the chapters charge their members monthly dues. These dues keep the shows happening, pay the bands that come through and fund the cost of the show. This is where I see issues that could be problematic. Whenever a monthly fee is involved, that means business, that means people in charge, that means someone is making money - all of which take things right back to the way a normal venue works. It also seems to leave things open for finger pointing and drama. 

This leads me to feel old. I feel old because I was a punk pre-1992, and there is a BIG difference. Pre-1992 punks were not accepted in mainstream society. Punks were considered "hooligans," and our clothing and outfits earned us a place in the realm of Halloween costumes. The girls did not dress to impress; there was no "pin-up" style.  They dressed in a way that was "anti-hot" and formed groups like the Riot Grrrls.  As a punk boy, you could be assured you would be called faggot by the jocks and rednecks of the area and shunned to the fullest. We grouped together because it was very obvious who we were through our dress and personality. We were not like others, and we had fun in a way that most didn't. There was no need for patches or group titles. 

Post-1992, it is the opposite. If the movie The Breakfast Club were released today, there would be a mohawk-wearing, pierced, tattooed punk in the group. Punks have earned a place in the high school halls as a normal group. The Pyrates of today are separating themselves as the Punx that do, rather than the punks that look the part.

So I leave you with this. Whether you agree with the "club" aspect, the dues, the patches or anything else, the bottom line is that these peeps are trying to provide us all with a good time. You don't have to be a Pyrate to go to the shows or any of the events.  Your band doesn't have to be Pyrates to be booked. There are plenty of people involved that seem to be behind the movement 100 percent, and they are having fun doing it.  It could be a lot worse. Definitely.

Follow the Olympia Pyrate Punx at Tacoma Pyrate Punx can be found at, with a Feb. 8 show featuring Defiance, Generation Decline, Red White & Die, Super Nothing and Ten Pole Drunk at the Aurora House.

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