NYC Migra Punk Fest Wrap Up
by Lian Ladia
Co-founder of plantingrice.com
Taking a two hour train from upstate New York, we planned to stay in a cheap hotel in Koreatown, New York City. With Kadena, Huasipungo, Bay Area band Aninoko (the band includes members of Eskapo, As a Whole and Valley of Death), Namatay Sa Ingay, Material Support, Dog Breath, Escasos Recursos, (A)Truth, Lakras all coming together for one special night, we weren’t going to miss this show for the world!
The punkfest had already generated some noise on the internet with support from Asia to the U.S. with articles and announcements published on Unite Asia (https://uniteasia.org/new-york-city-host-immigrant-focused-punk-fest-march-3-back-hard/), The Village Voice (http://www.villagevoice.com/music/the-best-nyc-shows-this-week-run-the-jewels-migra-punk-fest-thundercat-9719113) and the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/goings-on-about-town/night-life/migra-punk-fest). But interest in the fest came mainly from the current political climate due to Trump’s migration bans, the anti-Trump rallies, and the re-emergence of neonazis, nationalists and white supremacists. Due to all of this, news of NYC Migra punk fest seemed to bulldoze into a rapid ball of fire. After all, where was I going to go to air my rage for the Dakota pipeline? How about the fear mongering border walls? The travel bans? Doesn’t all of this seem eerily similar to the Chinese exclusion acts in the U.S. during 1882? Nevertheless, this Filipino and Latino unity reminded me of another important part of U.S. history when Larry “Seven Fingers” Itliong and Cesar Chavez united to protest the grapes of wrath screaming “Si si Puede”, the motto of the United Farm workers of 1972, that affected changed for equal rights and equal pay for the people of California, which started a chain reaction of movements all over the world.
On the day itself – all the bands based in NYC like Material Support, Namatay Sa Ingay, Dog Breath were sharing resources helping one another to accommodate guest bands and their cohorts from San Francisco, while the rest of the crew took care of setting up equipment and merch. Like a well oiled machine, people helped each other out, volunteered, and watched out for each other. Organizers were tipped off that neonazis could possibly show up so in anticipation of some sort of confrontation, the event site, Silent Barn in Brooklyn, had ANTIFA security in case of anything that might break out that night.
At 6pm people quite a few groups were setting merch such as Aklasan from San Francisco, Tolerance Tapes (a new Pinoy punk tape label featuring Philippine bands and projects), Dog Breath, Material Support, Huasipungo, (A)Truth (NYC Anarcho Oi punk). Besides merch, leaflets and zines were being handed out by Antifa, Black Lives Matter with know your rights pamphlets, self-defense info and more. At around 7pm people, bands, friends young and old, punks, men/women of all races and color were coming in. People were grabbing merch and even exchanging merch (I know because I was amongst those selling merch), and then the show started with a surprise band, Escasos Recursos.
AJ Santos of NSI/Material support and organizer of the punk fest recollects some highlights of the night:
“No one was expecting the first band to play. Escasos Recursos’ frontman Levyn also plays bass for my band NSI and he asked me the night before of the fest if they could play. Not only did I let them play but they killed it and they set the tone for the fest. No one sat down, everybody went crazy throughout that entire night. We were expecting Nazis to show up and raid the show based on a tip off and some rumors from some people in the scene. They didn’t show up. Maybe it’s because of the banners and posters that NYC ANTIFA placed on every corner of the venue. Good Night, White Pride. That night was so euphoric that even if the Grim Reaper came, he would be thrown into the pit and crushed like a peanut. The Migra Punks knew it was their night, and nobody was going to take it away from us. Even though I am a member of Material Support, I still had goosebumps when Jackie (our singer) did a Know your rights training and played our song “Know your rights” in front of the people who needed this the most right now. I was reciting along line by line. Not only because I’m with them, but because I am one of them.”
Rupert Estanislao of AninoKo’s highlights:
“1. Seeing all the Redskins sing along to Kadena
2. Material Support played a perfect set that empowered the audience
3. Finally seeing Huasipungo live was amazing
Migra punks in New York needed to show the rest of the scene that there is unity amongst immigrants, a strong political aesthetic that is against imperialism/capitalism and that we’re fighting for the rights of marginalized people. AninoKo mostly plays the bay area and here, there is a culture of political activism in place. Some bands, more than others, are involved in activities outside of just playing and booking shows and are really integrating with the surrounding community in real ways that reduce harm and help affect change.”
Esneider of Huasipungo’s general impression:
“It was a far more inclusive and diverse crowd than your average punk show. Even at the Latino punk fest it can be more narrow oriented… this one had more of everything. I think that just like a very narrow spectrum of fests that have very strong and politicized themes (Latino punk fest, Smash it dead, The Feminist Punk Fest etc) it had a far more positive and welcoming environment. Regular fests for the sake of a fest/punk really does not interest me any longer.
1. The support of everyone that came down which made it a very positive event
2. The diversity in the crowd, women in the pit and up on stage
3. That every time we do a DIY event we demonstrate that it can be done. That punk and DIY are still viable ways of doing things.”
When asked about the origin of the NYC migra punk fest and why it was organized, Aj replied:
“The real reason why we organized the fest is because a Filipino thrashcore band from the Bay Area called ANINOKO, who happen to be our labelmates, told us they were playing here in NYC. So I gathered all my friends from the scene, asked everyone who had bands if they could play and they all said yes. The idea was to organize a fest that was a combination of an ABC NO RIO matinee, Latino Punk Fest and Aklasan Fest. With the help of the people involved in those collectives, we came up with Migra Punk fest. With the success of this first event, you can expect this to be an annual event from now on.
Just to set the record straight, I personally asked Esneider if we could name the fest Migra Punk out of respect for punks from the Bay Area who have already been using this term.”
As for the inspiring lineage of Migra punks in California, England Hidalgo, former Eskapo and TKNK member and who now runs Tolerance Tapes, mentioned that there is a wave of bands such as: SoCal (Rayos X, Tuberculosis, Poliskitzo), San Jose (Hit Me Back, Desmadre En Krisis) along with the older bands from the the Bay Area (Desobediencia Civil).
Rupert provided a background in San Francisco:
“Around 2009 (San Francisco) we had bands like N/N (Martin Crudos’s side project when he was living there), Outraged (Watsonville), La Grita, Masacre (San Jose), Say Bok Gwai (Cantocore) and our old band, Eskapo. To me it meant the term “migra punk” meant immigrant punk so when these bands started booking shows and labeling themselves migra punks, we as Filipinos joined the cause and participated in booking and playing a series of shows during the years of 09-11. “Migra” in Spanish has a different connotation, a negative connotation I believe. So I think we have reclaimed that word and made it something positive for us. Those bands we used to play in or with have since morphed into other bands like Y Que, Monte and AninoKo. More recently the band Say Bok Gwai have started playing again as well.”
By 11pm the show was sold out and thus regrettably a line of people were not able to get in. Inside, the attendees were tightly squeezed together and when mosh pits broke out in every corner there were times that we felt the merch table was doomed. But it was organized chaos, with anti-racist/anti-sexist/anti-homophobic lyrics that people were singing along to. There was an energy that screamed that this was a safe space and everyone in the room knew this was place where our collective rage turned into strength. Throughout the night we were united in the following sentiments: FUCK WHITE PRIDE, FUCK SEXISM, FUCK FASCISM AND A BIG FUCK YOU TO DONALD TRUMP!