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"The only truth is music." ~ Jack Kerouac


Punks Pitching Tents Embrace DIY Spirit for Camp Anarchy

Punks Pitching Tents logo for Camp Anarchy 2019

Look back in love, a new day rises above
With the wind it comes to carry you back home …
~ Bryan Holland

Life is a journey full of discovery, filled with both memories and experiences we place within synaptic folders on this voyage with no clear destination.

Many times, the journey is filled with uncertainty and chaos, never knowing what will come as you take your next step. Along the way, you will have moments of camaraderie and joy to punctuate the dubious missteps we all have taken. At the end of the day, we all crave a sense of community and a feeling that we belong. Yes, it really is as simple as being part of a tribe.

And that, my friends, is the crux of the biscuit.

Such is the case within the music community. I’m not talking about the bands, although they play an important part with their songs and live performances.

No, what comes to mind is the “pop-up” coterie of fans from all points of the globe coming together and accepting one another based solely on their love of music. No matter their income bracket or status within their home community, the welcoming embrace from others is genuine.

This phenomenon will be on full display at Camp Anarchy, May 31-June 2 at Legend Valley just 30 miles east of Columbus, OH.

Credit: Terry Smith

One such group that has forged a faction within the larger community, although not excluding any that want to be part of the collective is Punks Pitching Tents, a group that exists online as a Facebook group, but will become reality for the festival.

The core people that have been doing their best to keep the 750-plus members of the group informed and excited is multi-national but not disparate. Nic Airlie is the founder, with Terry Smith, Jason Kiltz, Jamie Franz and Mac McNamara filling the roles of administrators of the Punks Pitching Tents’ online presence.

“Nic started the group during last year’s PID (Punk in Drublic festival),” said Smith. “I found it after the fact, trying to reconnect with the people I met during PID. It really started growing and Nic made us admins when this year’s festival dates were announced. Since then we’ve been working hard on expanding the group and making events that would bring us punks together.”

“In general,” Kiltz says, “I think people enjoy the group. We have had lots of people involved in planning things and participating in games. Not sure there was much more than a desire to keep in touch with each other and up to date on changes.”

“We definitely talk behind the scenes on topics we would like discussed in the group or some that would be fun to talk to the group about,” continued Smith. “Most people come to the group for information regarding the event itself which makes for some great discussion.”

“Especially after the whole NOFX debacle last year,” chimed in Kiltz, “we wanted to have an honest place where info could be exchanged.”

Credit: Jason Kiltz

Having been at the festival last year, the organizers seemed to do a very good job finding replacement bands and doing their best to keep the vibe as positive as possible.

“Absolutely!” exclaimed Kiltz. “Personally, I thought it turned out great, but honestly was super disappointed in the over reacting to Vegas. As a punk fan all that ran through my head for days was ‘When did Punk become so safe?'”

“I loved having the Descendents there,” Smith added. “Was very bummed to miss Me First & The Gimmie Gimmies. When everything went down there was a sense of panic, but they definitely made up for it in the lineup.”

Although there were myriad fans leading up to the festival that were vocal about not making the trip, the undercurrent of fan angst most dissipated by the second day.

“I side with the sponsorship (making the call to remove NOFX and Me First & The Gimmie Gimmies from the lineup),” said Smith, “it was too much too soon. I just wished it had happened sooner (in the week), I met several people who came from Europe strictly to see NOFX play and were already in the country when the cancellation happened.”

“Yeah,” Kiltz continued, ” initially people were flipping out about the reaction to the Vegas thing. As a fan who drove nine hours each way, it just was hard to take.”

Without missing a beat, Smith said, “I just wished that the sponsors had pulled out on the Monday, rather than the Wednesday and then NOFX cancelling on Thursday. By the time Thursday hit, most were already in the country or had already traveled quite far to be there. Certainly, at the time it felt like a huge gut punch.”

Credit: Nic Airlie

To be honest, I was amazed at the turnaround in attitudes between Friday and Saturday by those attending. While many still lamented NOFX not being part of their own festival, the fact that most everyone was able to refocus and enjoy the event spoke volumes about the resilience of the community.

Delving in to a quick post-mortem critique of last year’s event, the comments ranged from the expected “rules being too strict” and not being allowed to bring tent stakes and hammers into the campsite, to valid gripes of long lines to just get into the campsite.

“The search lines on Friday night lasted over four hours,” said Smith, with Kiltz immediately adding, “The list goes on. Hell, Terry missed the whole show Friday because of the searches at the entry gate.”

“Yes, they definitely went a bit too far on some of their rules,” Smith continued, “and so far, it seems like some rules have been relaxed because of our good behavior last year.

“I do feel a huge reason the event was as successful as it was, was due to the people we made connections with throughout the weekend. The fans are what made it amazing, and well… the music.”

Although the rules are there for everyone’s safety, it did seem a bit ironic for a punk rock festival. The inconsistencies in how vehicles were searched as they entered the campsite made for some pissed-off punks. To the fan’s credit, their displeasure was not taken out on people or property.

Credit: Terry Smith

“But you also can’t have pre made meals,” said Kiltz. “Ridiculous rules.”

“We got our fuel tank taken even though they were the approved ones,” Airlie said unhappily. “We were not able to cook food all weekend.”

“We were 10 minutes (getting searched),” said Kiltz, “but the car next to us said they were 45 minutes, just them. Guys (security) looked under their hood and through their clothes. I expect the same things this year.

“It seems like they have some old-fashioned idea of punks and punk rock.”

I’ve seen that a large part of what they do is educating other fans on the do’s and don’ts of the event based on their collective experience from last year. The analogy that comes to mind is that they are filling the roles of tribal elders to the Punks Pitching Tents tribe.

“Yeah,” Airlie said humbly, “that makes sense, but for me it mostly just about making likeminded friends.”

“That’s a nice way of putting it,” Smith added. “We answer what we can through the groups collective experience and what is known from the site itself.  Others have shared their responses to questions from the event facilitators. Definitely the Do’s and Don’ts.”

“Nic is our creator and ultimate arbiter,” exclaimed Kiltz, “but Terry is our leader and glue.”

Credit: Jason Kiltz

“Awww shucks,” blushed Smith, “I’m more an unofficial PR rep. We definitely all share in the spirit of friendship and having a great time. Things like the Trash Panda mascot, meet-n-greet and costume party are just little ways to bring us together.”

Airlie admits the core group of administrators has become close over the last seven months, while also realizing that the friendships made are not superficial. One thing they lament, when it comes to getting information to the fans, is wishing they had more insight into the event in order to do what they do even better.

The journey to camp is of varied lengths for each of the administrators. Smith is coming from Ontario, Canada, with Airlie making the drive from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Franz is making the trek from Niagara, Kiltz is heading north from Charlotte, NC, and McNamara is flying in from Breckenridge, Colorado.

“Last year,” Airlie said, “I made a group meeting on Friday. It was the first time I met Mac and there was a dude from Germany.”

“Australia, Germany, Austria, Sweden,” chimed in Smith, “and a few from the UK and all over Canada and the United States.”

“There aren’t a lot of us punks,” McNamara said with a laugh, ” but when a lineup like that gets announced…. the passion for the music and the lifestyle brings us all together.”

While what McNamara espoused may be cliché, it cuts to the core of the weekend. It’s about more than just music.

Credit: Nic Airlie

“Honestly,” said Airlie, “the camping part is the most fun for me. Just a bunch of people doing exactly the same thing. You can walk up to anybody and they are a friend.”

The day before last year’s festival commenced, Airlie said there were approximately 100 members of the group. With 750-plus members currently, they have no idea how many will undertake the journey to this year’s event.

“I hope that the festival has learned from past grievances,” Smith concluded, “and remedies some of them. But I also hope that it keeps growing and allowing punks from every generation to be able to enjoy a festival. Most of us won’t attend a ‘insert mainstream show here’ since they don’t appeal to us.

“This show gives us an opportunity to celebrate the music, the punk culture and I can’t wait to be there.”

Although Airlie and McNamara are the only two from the core group to have previously met, the rest are eagerly anticipating the embrace of the others upon arrival.

Whether you are an introvert or the life of the party, this group will welcome all with open arms. As each of them journey through the wilderness of life’s myriad twists and turns, for one weekend they can feel like their home.

Because, there is a sign that reads “Punks Pitching Tents” dead ahead…

Camp Anarchy takes place May 31-June 2 at Legend Valley in Thornville, OH.

The Offspring – Days Go By

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