by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "T & lt;/span & hey wear makeup and girls' jeans," says Prostates' bass player Connor, who looks like a young Tom Petty. He's enumerating some of the reasons he hates emo.
"I don't really care about that," replies Matt, the iconically punk drummer, taking a more politic stance. "It's just what they're saying in their songs ... talking about killing yourself."
"They're increasing the suicide rate of all teens," chimes Connor. The Prostates -- none of whom are out of high school, with the youngest attending Greenacres Middle School -- dress like proper gutter punks, all studded leather, tight pants, band patches, anti-racist sloganeering scrawled on their clothing. One old promo photo shows a former member rocking a bowler hat, looking positively droogish. Matt has perhaps the longest, most perfectly fashioned Mohawk I've ever seen. The fact that there's a uniform for punk (studs, patches) just as there's one for emo (mascara, wrist scars) isn't lost on these kids.
The makeup isn't the problem, it's all the smearing. The Prostates don't cotton to whining about social awkwardness; they're more into social justice. They feel it's far more important to assert individuality, raise political awareness and reject religious dogmatism. It's narcissistic, they believe, to piss and moan about your personal problems when there's so much wrong with the world.
When framed like that, the differences between the genres seem insurmountable, and indeed their ideological aversion to emo is such that the band's MySpace page states flatly that the band was formed to combat it. They got together because 1) "there was a lack of punk in Spokane" and 2) they were "sick of seeing emo grow to what it has." The irony, though, is that it was exactly that kind of reaction against punk's hypocrises that helped create emo in the first place.
By the mid-'80s, in the seminal Washington D.C. scene, punk and hardcore had begun escalating the violence and small-mindedness they'd originally been created to fight against. A group of the same punks who had helped to define American punk and to create the hardcore sub-genre -- Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye among them -- reacted by turning inward.
Though quite different stylistically from what we now recognize as popular emo (the types of bands and sentiments the Prostates rail against), the bands that emerged in the wake of the D.C. area sea change -- most notably MacKaye's Embrace, Guy Picciotto's Rites of Spring and later MacKaye and Picciotto's immensely influential Fugazi -- were deeply introspective and are credited with beginning the slow roll that would eventually see emo kids like Panic! at the Disco explode sales projections.
Still, you get the sense, even if the Prostates knew this bit of history, it wouldn't lessen their aversion. "It's slow, and they whine and they bitch. It's like, get to the point -- no one wants to hear about the girlfriend you broke up with. It's been done before," says frontman MikeyC.
Punk's been done a few times, too, though. And, as this latest reaction from emo back toward punk (the Prostates, Deadones USA and a handful of other bands being Spokane's version of a national movement) suggests, even though they won't want to admit it, punks and emo kids hate each other because they're working toward the same goal.
Though emo tries to do it by stating what they are (weepy, sentimental) while punk does it by railing against what they are not (fascists, bigots), both are passionate attempts to carve out a niche of personhood in a world of social alienation and personal fragmentation. Sure, there's still some kick-ass punk being made and some great emo, but it's the bands within these sub-genres who understand the intersection of punk and emo (and folk for that matter: Fugazi, Bright Eyes) -- those who speak against outward injustice while battling inner demons - who are ultimately the most compelling.
These guys are still young, though, they'll figure that out.
The Prostates at Fat Tuesday's with All In Favor, Small Town Nation on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 7:00 pm. Tickets: $5. Call 489-3969.