When you think of Trinidad what comes to mind? It could be “Carnival” or “where is that?” but chances are it’s not “Punk hotbed”… and you know what, you’d be right.
But having been in Port of Spain less than 24 hours (and most of those sleeping), I am here to tell you that this place has a bit more punk vibe than you’d think for a small Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela.
First and foremost there are my boys from “Anti-Everything”, a really, really good punk band from close by St. Augustine. Now granted, I cheat a little bit when speaking of these guys because I researched the scene before I came and found the guys’ MySpace page (MySpace is still good for something I guess) and we hit it off online a few weeks ahead of my arrival.
It helps that Trinis speak English, but let me tell you when you factor in the accent with the insane amount of slang, I still only understand about 50% of what is being said. In other words, I understand Trini about like I understand Spanish.
But Randall from Anti-Everything is so cool he insisted that he pick me up from the airport and take me to my hotel, even though I landed around 1 AM and he had class the next day. Talk about a cool cat.
We stopped off for a local “Stag” beer (ladies, order this in Trinidad if you want to raise some eyebrows. It’s marketed aggressively to men on the island) and Randall filled me in on the punk scene in Trinidad and Tobago and guess what? It’s really, really small!
Well, hell.. everyone says that about their scene, even in punk hot spots like Bogota, Medellin or Los Angeles and New York City. By definition of being an underground culture, punk is bound to be small in relative terms.
But in Trinidad when Randall means small, he means small. The island is famous for it’s carnival, it’s steel pan / calypso style music and it’s diversity.
There are East Indians, Africans, tons of Asian influence as well as the occasional white, Caucasian like me. The religions range from Hindu, Muslim and all colors of the rainbow of Christian. Despite the fact that I stand out much more here being a white dude, I get stared at MUCH less than in other countries, like Colombia. Maybe people are more used to diversity here and that would apply to things like Punk.
But in an island that is inhabited by a little over 1 million people, the punk scene by definition, once again, is going to be small.
However, I’m here to tell you it’s more punk than you think…or since you probably didn’t even think about punks being in Trinidad, let me revise that statement, “its more punk than I thought”.
Cases in point:
1) Anti Everything – Already covered above.
2) Social Distortion – when I see a Social D shirt in NYC I get excited. But here I am in Port of Spain and who passes me but a completely tatted up, hardcore punk looking dude wearing a Social Distortion wife beater. I was so excited I wanted to hug the guy but thought better of it and said instead “hey man, Social D! they are great!” and he looked at me like I was crazy and kept walking. Hey, I said Trinidad is more punk than I thought, not friendly. Good thing I didn’t hug him.
3) Johnny Cash – Roughly 20 minutes after making an ass out of myself to the random Social D. fan, I am walking to my hotel and what do I hear cranking out of one of the houses, but good old Johnny Cash. Now when you say a place is punk, your probably thinking Sex Pistols, Ramones, or maybe the newer stuff like NOFX, Pennywise or Bad Religion. Well, me too. But you never can tell til you get to a place and of course, Johnny wasn’t a punk artist per se, but he was one influential cat to all genres of music including the aforementioned Social Distortion among others.
Now these are random observations from a guy LOOKING for signs of a punk life everywhere I go. I’m part anthropologist, part filmmaker, part fan and part curious traveler. I don’t know why this interest me so much but it does so I’m making a film about it “Punktology”, and granted I’m taking my slow, sweet time.
But when I first arrive to a place like Trinidad, the 1st day is crucial. That is when my senses are on overload and hyper aware. They’ve yet to be lulled to sleep by the routine that eventually falls into place everywhere I’ve ever been. My survival instinct is on high alert.
“Is this dangerous?” “Should I be walking or taking a taxi?” “Holy shit look at that crazy character” “Oh man, did he see me staring?”, “Just smile and say good morning”, “Don’t be that a..hole tourist”.. these are typical stream of consciousness thoughts of about 0.03 seconds of my first day in a country. And I love it.
In the afternoon, I hooked up with Randall and some of the other guys from Anti-Everything who took me to Maracas Bay about an hour outside of Port of Spain to experience the beach and to sample the famous Shark and Bake sandwich (worthy of the hype I might add). And while punk rock and beaches don’t seem to naturally mix so well, I like punk and I like beaches and we’re in Trinidad so I’m going to experience both to the best of my ability.
On the way up we mostly talked about what life was like living in Trinidad and tried to get out of the destructive path of this incredibly polluted automobile that was in dire need of an exhaust overhaul (passing this guy was not an option, roads are incredibly winding).
Oh did I mention Trinis drive on the other side of the road, with the steering wheel on the RIGHT hand side, I’m still wigging over that cause I eventually have to rent a car and remember to stay left is so anti-well, anti-everything I’ve ever experienced driving (sorry). I’m not a great driver when the steering wheel is on the right, excuse me correct, excuse me again, North American side of the car so this should be interesting!
But on the way back we got a chance to discuss the punk scene some more and Randall and I know some of the same people including the really burgeoning Puerto Rican Punk scene (I’m coming soon guys, hang on). He turned me on to a compilation CD of some of the best punk in countries you wouldn’t expect (like Trinidad) and I can’t wait to give it a listen.
Randall’s a really smart cat and the guys I’ve met from Anti-Everything are super cool and laid back (all Trinis are so far). I’m gonna go limen (hang out) with the guys over the next few days and of course an interview for Punktology as well as a rehearsal or even studio session (they are currently recording their 2nd CD) is in the works here so I hope you’ll stay tuned as my Trinidadian experience continues.