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Destroy Boys in Arizona (And Why Punk is Going Right)

I know I've noted before that we're California transplants, and since we moved to Arizona during a pandemic, we've just barely started to experience the AZ concert scene. I grew up in the punk and emo scene in SoCal....let's say a few years ago, so I didn't know what to expect from the crowds in a new town. In the Inland Empire, we always talked about how different it was to go to a show in Riverside versus Orange County or all the way up in Northern California - what did Arizona have to throw at us? Spoiler: it's been a good time.

These stairs are iconic, from the Nile theater in Mesa, AZ - they lead you down into the exact type of sweaty basement that emotionaly prepares you for a punk rock show. And I mean this in the best way possible.

First off was The Umbrellas. They brought us San Fransisco newer wave, 70s feeling sad kid rock - a good way to ease into the night. Definitely a sound that you would want to take home and play on vinyl.

They also had the prettiest gear, if you were ready to nerd out on it.

Next up was Jigsaw Youth. Now, when I tell you that I love to hear women and nonbinary humans taking up some screaming vocals, I cannot stress that enough. If you're ready for some heavy music that isn't male-dominated, this is your next favorite band.

They also resonated pure joy and thankfulness in their performance. No egos. No better-than-you attitudes. Heavy music while wearing pink fluffy sandals and making sure the crowd was properly hydrated. All heart and no filler.

Finally, we had the honor to see the headliner - Destroy Boys. They've been opening their performances with info on mutual aid programs local to the venue they're at. For us in Arizona, they had a speaker share about - a nonprofit aiding to give Queer and Trans people in AZ an opportunity to receive quality foods.

This is a reminder that the core of the punk scene is unity - caring for one another and keeping each other safe. And I know I keep mentioning that I was a bit older than most of the crowd watching the show that night (and probably older than the bands themselves) - but it was a beautiful thing to see this core value being spoken about so passionately. And not only for a couple minutes, but as a thorough reminder throughout the show.

I can tell you the music was great. I can tell you the energy was high. I can tell you that everyone in that room was dancing and singing and picking each other up and checking on each other. I can tell you that Destroy Boys kept an eye on the fans and if anyone seemed like they were in trouble, they would slow the show, have everyone step back, and even made sure everyone got back phones and keychains that got away from them in the rhythmn of the crowd.

I can, and did, but that wouldn't be the message I want to leave this on. I feel like a pivitol moment for myself, watching these kids likely 10-15 years younger than me scream their hearts out, and singer Alexia said "let's start a pit of queer, nonbinary, and trans people". I stood there at 31, as a nonbinary photogapher that ran my time through a punk scene that never really mentioned people like me. I was in shock, and I'm not too proud to admit that my eyes welled up.

The fact that Destroy Boys are out there shouting about safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people, about creeps not being welcome, about helping with mutual aid if you have the means is everything I wanted to find in the scene when I was a teenager/young adult. And I am so glad that this next generation gets to have all of those things and gets to sing and dance in these safe spaces. It's easy to say I left The Nile Theater with a new favorite band that night.

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