Punk Black To-Go: September'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. 

This month, Von Phoenix reminisced about Atlanta’s very first Punk Black festival in 2015, while looking forward to their next annual fest in November. The first Punk Black Fest took off with an auspicious boost. Inadvertently scheduled to overlap with the annual Afropunk festival in Atlanta, the latter found itself canceled due to predicted rain (which never fell). Disappointed festival-goers made an easy pivot to the fledgeling Punk Black fest, providing a turnout beyond the organizers’ wildest dreams, complete with mosh pits and stages rushed by excited (possibly inebriated) fans. 

September highlights:

Nightlife – A Baltimore band specializing in what they call “soulpunk.” Phoenix narrowed it down, saying, “I would honestly put them in a mixture of really cool, old school ’90s, ’80s R&B combined with, like, metal.” The unusual flavor combination works surprisingly well. Featured track “New Low” presents initially as a sparkling, slickly produced modern R&B ballad, but crunchy, distorted guitars march in on the chorus and upend all expectations. Follow Nightlife on Instagram at @nightlife_xo.

Gutcheck – Self-described as “metallic hardcore,” Gutcheck is a five-piece outfit local to Atlanta. “Gutcheck is a great name for them, because they give you that feeling, that metal feeling that stands up the hairs on the back of your neck, or just punches you in the gut, but in a good way. You start getting that sort of stank face,” said Phoenix. Featured track “I Matter” attacks with blast beats fierce enough to safely assume the involvement of a double kick pedal, and a giant guitar sound lunging underneath primal scream vocals that declare, “There comes a point when silence becomes betrayal.” Gutcheck can be found at @gutcheck.atl on Instagram.

Play Center – A punk-focused band well-versed in old-school aesthetic, Play Center incorporates early rock and roll rhythms as well as ’90s grunge and post-punk into their special blend. Featured track “2020” sonically embraces classic guitar tones reminiscent of bands like The Who and The Ramones, with swaggery lead vocals and harmonized refrains. More from the band Play Center can be found on their Instagram, @playcenterband, or at www.playcenterband.com