I recently went to a DIY event that was advertised to start at 2. (I’m not going to give any specifics about this event because I don’t want this to come off as a hit piece). It wasn’t unreasonable to assume it would start a little late but I showed up right at 2 anyway. There would be three performances, all about an hour long with a ten to fifteen minute intermission in between each one. The organizers were not new to this kind of thing. In fact, they run multiple events per month and to my knowledge have been doing so for over ten years. Again, it was advertised to start at 2 but didn’t get started until after 3. The first performance was well over an hour and the intermission which should have been 15 minutes tops turned into half an hour. The second performance took an hour and a half. Do some math real quick with me. If the event is supposed to start at 2, has three hours of performances with two 15 minute intermissions then the whole thing should be done around 5:30. Even being generous, the whole thing should be done around 6, right? The SECOND performance was done at 6:30. At that point, I left. I had made other plans and had assumed that I would be able to see all three performances AND get to my other plans for the evening.
So we need to talk about punk time. If this is a new phrase for you, it’s a term used in the DIY community to refer to how things never start on time. Standard practice seems to be that music will probably start 45 minutes to an hour after the advertised start time, but I’ve been to countless shows where starting 45 minutes late would be a miracle. Depending on what kind of shows you go to you might see some Facebook event pages that proudly exclaim, “NO PUNK TIME.” This simply means, “We’re going to start on time!” but that’s not always a real guarantee.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older (i.e. not in college anymore) and I have lots of shit to get done every day but I just don’t have time or patience for this anymore. The problem is that an event that should take 2 or 3 hours at the max ends becoming an all night affair. It’s exhausting and I honestly suspect that it has a lot to do with why some DIY communities are really successful and others aren’t. If you want to be able to see a whole show you need to block out an unrealistic amount of time.
You might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “We start the show when people get there and if we have to wait that’s just the way it is.” I’m gonna call bullshit. People who regularly go to shows learn very quickly the idiosyncrasies of how a particular space is run. The best DIY community in the world is in Hattiesburg, MS and one of the reasons that the shows there are consistently great and touring bands continue to book shows there is that shows start on time and people show up. If you start a DIY space and from DAY ONE start your shows at the time you advertised (come on, even 15 minutes late is totally cool) then people will learn to show up on time.
The issue of punk time relates to a greater issue of respect. If you’ve been given a platform to showcase your work, and even one person has shown up to see what you have to offer, then you owe them the respect of doing your job. That means showing up on time, putting on the best performance you can, and then taking part in the rest of the show. The toughest part about going to see DIY shows is when a band isn’t “bringing it.” And let’s be crystal clear here. I’m not saying that every band needs to be full of wild virtuosos. I’m not even saying that every band needs to be particularly good at their instruments. But I do think that every band, every performer, every artist needs to seriously and deeply care about what they’re doing. It’s not fun for anyone to be forced to watch some dudes fuck around on stage for 35 minutes. If you’re going to show up and do a Dead Kennedys cover set or whatever, that’s fine, but you better have done your homework. Know the words. Know the parts. Be ready to sing your guts out. Otherwise don’t waste my time. Respect your audience enough to give them something interesting.
I’m not particularly concerned or interested in conversations about the state of punk music or rock music or I guess any sort of music in general. But the state of art as a whole when it lacks respect for its audience is deeply concerning to me. Why is that most people kind of drift out of DIY scenes as they get into their late 20’s and 30’s? It’s not because they get boring or have different priorities (well to be fair that’s sometimes true) but it’s mostly because people eventually don’t have the time or patience to give six plus hours of their time to see a total of like 90 minutes of music. So fucking cut it out with this punk time shit. If you’re running a space or a show you 100% have the power to make punk time NOT happen. If someone shows up and has missed the first band then they’ll either learn that they should show up on time at the next show or they’ll just always be late.