Punk Black To-Go: June's music recommendations

Von Phoenix of "Punk Black" talks about some of his favorite artists of color. (Aki Ikejiri)

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. 

Among other vibrant punk scenes, this month, Punk Black pays tribute to New Orleans in honor of the collective’s upcoming Punk Black NOLA Fest, taking place at Gasa Gasa and Queenly Conjure from July 2-3. Phoenix shared a tale of touring through the city years ago. “We were super young. We bought a $500 van,” he said. “It broke down so much that by the time we got to New Orleans, we had to play on the streets of Bourbon Street just to make money for gas and repairs and stuff to get back home … It’s crazy because all of my trips to New Orleans are magical.” 

June highlights:

Kawaii AF – One of the featured artists at Punk Black NOLA Fest, the band Kawaii AF gets their name from the Japanese word for “cute,” explicitly emphasized. Their selected song, “2007 Called, They Want Their Jeans Back,” bursts with throwback pop-punk anthemic joy. The lyrics are downright funny, an awkward memoir of fashion-policing and unrequited love: “In 2007, I felt so abandoned / By my lack of a fashion sense /Asked, ‘Was I masculine / As the models inside of the Hollister?’” They’re on Instagram at @kawaiiaf_official

We Don’t Ride Llamas – “An amazing, evolving and really universal sound. We’ve seen their glow-up, and it’s been crazy, intense and inspiring,” said Phoenix. Featured track “Venus and Mars” struts with laid-back, coquettish vocals by lead singer Max over guitarist Chase’s wafting, reverb-heavy intonations before launching into a funky, quasi-scat chorus. The four-piece from Austin, TX, is truly on the rise, with an upcoming stack of tour dates supporting Courtney Barnett across the Eastern US this fall. Follow their journey at @wdrll on Instagram. 

Alenia – Phoenix attested, “They have the kind of music that makes you want to build little mini-mosh pits … I can definitely see them growing to be a really huge band.” Featured track “Bow to None” blends trap, trip-hop, industrial goth and black metal with eerily textured, tension-building verses that erupt into crunchy, guttural guitar-punctuated refrains. Their style, “nu progressive metalcore,” is sure to disrupt the scene of their hometown Chicago with an upcoming appearance at ChicagoFest 2022. Check out @alenia.chicago on Instagram for more.