For black punk musicians, New York’s Afropunk is the crème de la crème of festivals, and four years ago, guitarist Von Phoenix was gunning for his shot on the big stage. Phoenix and his band, Howling Star, hosted a show in their hometown of Atlanta to garner votes for Afropunk’s Battle of the Bands. The lineup featured rock bands of color, and the competition was so well-received by attendees that it was evident to Phoenix: Atlanta was in dire need of its own version of Afropunk.
“Four years ago, there definitely wasn’t a lot of diversity in Atlanta’s rock scene,” says Phoenix, who is a co-founder of Punk Black, an Atlanta-based collective championing punk musicians — and other creatives — of color. “There’s still a general rock scene in Atlanta right now, but I feel like one of the main scenes for rock music in Atlanta is Punk Black.”
Phoenix and the core Punk Black team organize roughly 25 events a year, most of them concerts promoting rock acts of color. This includes a festival series that’s set to make its debut in D.C. on Saturday at The Pinch. Punk Black’s expansion to the nation’s capital — home to some of punk’s most celebrated acts — was a no-brainer, according to Phoenix.
“D.C. has always had a really cool punk scene, and a lot of the bands that we’ve worked with that we’ve brought down to Atlanta — like Throwdown Syndicate — have told us that we should throw a show in D.C.,” says Phoenix, who anticipates Punk Black’s D.C. festival to be an annual event.
Throwdown Syndicate is one of eight bands playing Saturday’s show at The Pinch. All of them are rooted in rock — and feature musicians of color — but each act has a distinct style.
“Even though Punk Black is growing, we try to stick to our guns of developing artists and making sure we’re about community,” Phoenix says. “That’s something I’m pretty proud of.”
The Pinch, 3548 14th St. NW; Sat., 5 p.m., $15.
Meet 3 of the bands performing at Punk Black DC Fest
Eight Inner Gates
Song to mosh to: “Break Bonds”
Slipknot, Korn, Linkin Park — in the late ’90s and early 2000s, practically every third song you heard on the radio was by one of those bands. And you can hear their influence on rap-metal outfit Eight Inner Gates. The Newport News, Va.-based band’s cathartic doom metal and nimble rhymes shine on “Break Bonds,” from its eponymous 2017 EP.
Song to mosh to: “King of K.I.N.G.S.”
Throwdown Syndicate’s groovy metal music sounds like a rallying cry, a protest to denounce government corruption and society’s ills. The D.C. band’s songs, such as the hard-driving “King of K.I.N.G.S.,” unabashedly call out these abuses of power and serve as a call to action for listeners.
Eat the Cake Band
Song to mosh to: “Liquify the Music”
Eat the Cake Band packs a whole lot of soul into its musical stylings. The members of this all-female act out of Baltimore know how to rock, but they switch things up a bit by adding buoyant raps and melodic hooks to the mix. Listen to “Liquify the Music” and you’ll see how they achieve this feat effortlessly.