Thursday, December 17, 2009

Death of a Punk House

Posted By on 12.17.09 at 03:55 PM

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The Washington City Paper has a great new story on the Kansas House, a punk house in Arlington, Virginia, just outside D.C., that lasted for 13 years before it finally got sold to a development firm in October. As writer Aaron Leitko describes it, "It was a messy place, the basement in particular. An astute punk-rock archaeologist could probably have found junk down there dating all the way back to the early '90s." Having stayed at the Kansas House a number of times on trips through D.C., I can corroborate that statement big time. In fact I vaguely remember seeing some nude Polaroids there, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were the same ones Leitko says one of the house's last tenants discovered while cleaning out that basement.

The Kansas House was one of several legendary, long-lived punk houses in Arlington, a suburb that offered a cheap and safe alternative to D.C. proper—whose neighborhoods in the 90s were either ridiculously overpriced or incredibly sketchy—while still being handily tied into D.C.'s public transportation system. The bulk of Leitko's article details Arlington's most prominent punk houses and what they contributed to punk culture (as well as to the culture at large). Those contributions include Dischord's massively influential DIY ethic, the Simple Machines Mechanic's Guide, which launched a thousand indie labels, and the Riot Grrrl philosophy born at the Positive Force house.

Apparently Arlington's gentrification has priced DIY punks out of the area. It's a shame, but considering that we live in a world where major labels are being eaten alive by swarms of DIY indies and where pop stars are dissecting the patriarchy from the heights of the Top 40 charts, I'd say that mourning that time and place should probably take a back seat to appreciating what the people who were there actually accomplished.

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