Rockin' Around the Tree: 'Punk Black' contributor gives music recommendations for the holidays

Von Phoenix is the president and co-founder of Atlanta’s cultural and media phenomenon, Punk Black.

Aki Ikejiri @yojpgirlaki

On Punk Black To-Go, “City Lights” music contributor Von Phoenix brings us highlights from artists of color performing in various music and art arenas — many of which break stereotypes and expectations. Phoenix’s mission with Punk Black is to create a radically inclusive space for BIPOC artists, musicians and cosplayers, expanding the vocabulary of what it means to live in the punk world. This month’s edition serves up a selection of today’s can’t-miss radical creators on the edge of the BIPOC scene. 

This month, Von Phoenix reminisced about performances from his much earlier years, playing in the parking lot of a Big Lots store near his parents’ house in Lithonia, Georgia. “We used to play there all the time, for change, basically. We’d play for, like, six hours and make, like, 50 bucks,” he recalled. “We sounded like a band that had just started, but people still showed us love.” The parking lot gigs brought Phoenix and his friends into contact with the band Guilty Verdict, who years later would go on to perform at the first Punk Black cosplay event, a “Star Wars” themed show. But back at Big Lots, the musicians from Guilty Verdict challenged Phoenix to a spontaneous guitar battle. Phoenix speculated that if that guitarist had brought then the skills he brings to his music today, “He would’ve murdered me. He’s such a phenomenal guitar player.”

December highlights:

The Txlips: “Super-veterans on the scene.” This Atlanta-based group performs alternative rock that sprinkles in blues, soul and grudge under the guidance of leader Gabriella Logan, also known as Guitar Gabby. Her music under Guitar Gabby was featured in the Netflix original film “Wendell & Wild” by groundbreaking writer/director Jordan Peele. Phoenix shares that song, “Another Tear,” a proud, drums-forward headbanger whose gritty guitars form a powerful contrast to Gabby’s moody vocals, delivered with cool aloofness and control. More on the Txlips can be found on their Instagram.

Kokutan: An industrial hard rock outfit dabbling in ambient electronica. The project is a newer creation with guitarist Mateo, also known from his work with Samurai Shotgun, as well as lending his social media and management savvy to Punk Black. “Really dope people, really dope band. I know you’re going to love them as much as I do,” said Phoenix. Featured track “Polluted” chugs into your headphones with fierce guitars driving a heavy backbeat, while coy vocals tease ideas of cosmic curiosity: “Galaxies collide / Our ancestors survived / When you’re wondering why / Look up to the sky.” Follow Kokutan on Instagram here.

Razortail: Atlanta punk, “but with another edge… like a double katana,” as Phoenix put it. He also warned that any listeners at home might want to keep an eye on their pets, because the music has a 100% chance of instigating a mosh pit. Featured track “Consequence” offers blistering scream-singing and a gut-punching drum performance. More from Razortail can be found on Instagram here