Punk Island is back! After two long years away (no) thanks to the pandemic, the free, all ages, DIY festival made its triumphant return in 2022 with a theme of Memorial and Revival. To say this fest is near and dear to my heart would be an understatement: I have a deeply personal connection to it because I poured thousands of hours into it along with (a little bit of) my blood, my tears (once or twice), A LOT of sweat and even more love. I spent nearly six years as an organizer on the festival from 2016 onward, first running the Hoosatron stage, later taking on many of the behind the scenes logistics and serving as the lead organizer before my retirement earlier this year. I also played in five different bands over the years and always photographed to document each year.
So yes, my love and commitment to this fest runs very deep. This was my first year not playing since 2015 and my first year going back as purely a fan. While I do miss many of the aspects of the moving parts of making an event like this happen, it was nice to enjoy my retirement and just take the day in. I was thrilled to be there to support the many friends I have made over the years at the fest, see my fellow organizers (as well as some new ones) carry the torch, and to get to talk to more people and make new friends. Erica Camponeschi, a longtime fan and supporter who was sidelined with Covid this year, said on Facebook that she was disappointed to miss the fest but added “know that I have been thinking of y’all today, and of all of the ways we met, set by set, stage by stage, year by year.” I can’t think of a more apt way to describe how I feel about all of the memories and friendships this festival has brought to my own life too; Punk Island has always been about family and community to me first and foremost.
The fest looked different this year from past years, a smaller affair held in Brooklyn’s Maria Hernandez Park rather than on Randall’s Island which had hosted the fest from 2017-2019. In the past the fest had included up to nine stages led by different organizers, simultaneously going with close to 100 bands throughout the day. This year saw two alternating stages—Memorial and Revival—and a much smaller lineup with the organizers saying on Facebook “we wanted to come back at a smaller scale and work our way up to what we once had pre-pandemic.” Several zine vendors and local community organizations were also onsite, North Brooklyn Mutual Aid and FentCheck offering harm reduction information along with Narcan and Fentanyl test strips, with workshops on sex worker advocacy from Sex Workers Outreach Project among others. These resources and organizations have become an important part of the programming in recent years and have made it much more than just a music festival.
And while much more than music does happen at Punk Island, it does remain at its heart a music focused event built around an eclectic lineup of artists. Every year fans from near and far come for the wide range of bands that play, touching on everything under the punk umbrella you can imagine—hardcore, pop punk, ska, folk punk, queercore, crust, grunge, noise—it’s all there to be enjoyed by everyone. This year I got to see so much more of the fest than I used to, since I didn’t have a stage to manage or a set to play. I was able to catch almost every band and I absolutely loved reveling in the unbridled joy as everyone moshed, danced, skanked and shouted along together. Winter Wolf drummer Nate Harris stated on Facebook after the fest: “Punk Island was amazing and needed,” and I couldn’t agree more.
In a day full of heavy hitters, highlights for me were acoustic Mariachi folk punks Pancho Villa’s Skull, who made the trip from Pontiac, MI special for the fest; NJ grunge rockers Shut Up, who really let that early 90s Seattle influence fly; surf punks Depresión Tropical who brought summer at the beach vibes; hyper punks Motel Portrait who were totally new to me and had a very entertaining and exciting drummer; and the always super fun Ratas En Zelo, who got the entire crowd bopping along to their infectious accordion fueled jams. Kartel was also another big one for me as they had long been on my list to see but I kept missing them. I was thrilled to finally catch their set which closed out the day, whipping the crowd into a final frenzied crescendo with their potent dbeat hardcore.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my friends and fellow organizers who I always delight in seeing: Twee punk greats The Loneliers who, along with their DIY collective The Pigeon Pack, were instrumental in making my stage run in 2018 and 2019 and who are now full organizers themselves. Winter Wolf never ceases to amaze me with the level of intensity they put into their performances and they dialed it up to 1000% playing an explosive set. The Dilators, featuring Brooklyn Transcore organizer Sawyer Season, was the band I was perhaps most excited about, having recently made their live debut, taking the fest and the Brooklyn scene by storm. Suffice it to say that I am so lucky to have such incredibly talented and passionate friends who are doing such vital work as musicians and organizers. I can’t wait to see what they all do next.
The Loneliers (photo by Kate Hoos)
Winter Wolf (photo by Kate Hoos)
The Dilators (photo by Kate Hoos)
Another big highlight was the memorial wall which was included to honor those who passed away over the last few years. Some opted for tributes to musicians like longtime Punk Island fan, supporter and performer, James “Lunchbox” Giunta (Exit 17) who passed away in 2017, and Alec Ballie (Choking Victim, Leftover Crack) and Jack Terricloth (World Inferno Friendship Society), who both played the fest in 2019, and who both passed away during the pandemic. Others chose to memorialize friends, family, or beloved pets. PI organizer Sawyer Season said she wanted to include the memorial wall because she “wanted to give people a chance to express that sense of loss together, and I wanted us to be able to lift those names up as our ancestors who are watching over us and protecting us punks.” This was one of my favorite things from the fest and I was quite emotional seeing it progress throughout the day as names were added and lives remembered.
James “Lunchbox” Giunta
Punk Island is truly such a wonderful and essential event for the New York music community. I will never not love it or feel an indescribable high after heading home; this year felt perhaps even more potent after everything it took to get us here. Lead organizer Antonio Rodriguez was jubilant after the event saying “This year Punk Island was perfect! After two years of absolute bullshit, it was amazing to get everyone in the community back together for a day of revival. I kept running into people that I hadn’t seen in years and reconnecting.” He went on to add “The absolute high point of the day for me was The Dilators set led by Punk Island organizer Sawyer Season, their whole set was vital and electric. And they absolutely killed a cover of System of a Down’s “Deer Dance” who’s chorus: “Pushing little children with their fully automatics, They like to push the weak around,” has never felt more relevant. The second I heard them playing I ran straight into the pit, my first in five years, and sang along. They ended their set by saying that “Punks not dead, it’s just a girl now.” Rodriguez also made mention of the memorial wall stating “The theme of this year’s Punk Island was Memorial and Revival and I think that it really came through.”
Punk will never be dead when the community comes together and thrives through events like Punk Island. The organizers, the bands and the fans pour their hearts and souls into it each and every year. And though the world is fucked up and hard, sometimes almost unbearable on many days, at least we can find an oasis like this together to hold each other up and find the joy we all so deserve.
Scroll down for pics of the fest (photos by Kate Hoos)
PUNK ISLAND 2022
Depresion Tropical (photos by Kate Hoos)
The Dilators (photos by Kate Hoos)
Jo Mercado (photo by Kate Hoos)
Kartel (photos by Kate Hoos)
The Loneliers (photos by Kate Hoos)
Mosey Jones (photos by Kate Hoos)
Motel Portrait (photos by Kate Hoos)
Non Residents (photos by Kate Hoos)
Pancho Villa’s Skull (photos by Kate Hoos)
Raddigan Brothers Noise Experience (photos by Kate Hoos)
Ratas En Zelo (photos by Kate Hoos)
Shut Up (photos by Kate Hoos)
Skappository (photos by Kate Hoos)
Winter Wolf (photos by Kate Hoos)