Pop Life

Blackmarket Syndicate: The Crime of Free Speech

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

Every morning I drop off the Kid With One F at her daycare. As I stumble out and get ready to head into the office I often spy an SUV full of drums and bearing a Blackmarket Syndicate bumper sticker. Since personal experience has taught me that the only reason people put band stickers on their cars anymore is to remind them of the band they are currently in, it made me curious what kind of group I was allowing my kid within 50 feet.

They're punk, in case you couldn't guess by that name, which ranks a 76 percent punk, 24 percent industrial on the With One F Genre/Name Possibility Survey (Patent pending). Like most good punk bands, they've got a heavily political bent, shouting out slogans of attack at the establishment of evil, but they've managed a clarity and articulateness that makes them stand head and shoulders above so many of their colleagues.

In general, angry punk bands loudly hating what the rest of us are usually content to simply quietly seethe at are more trouble than they're worth, but there's an authentic quality to the band's expression, especially on the anthem-like "Victorious," that manages to strip away the cynicism of commercial protest. Good stuff, man.

But that name...

Why the hell call a band Blackmarket Syndicate? What kind of self respecting punk band doesn't have a "The" in the name, anyway? And Blackmarket Syndicate sounds like a third-rate crime drama organization that a character played by Tom Selleck would stop by punching the leader out of a window or something.

I decided that I would stand for no such crime of a name without due explanation... I mean I asked politely because their bass player, Gaspar Hernandez, is a fucking tree of a man and I don't want to start a new career as an anal-based shoe rack.

"The band name came about from the sentiment that communicating ideas was not smiled upon in the modern world, and therefore anyone who speaks their mind is a criminal," the band shot me back in an email. "Blackmarket Syndicate is blazing your own trail and not taking the beaten path. It also means having to pay for a gallon of gas with pennies every once in a while."

Wow, that's actually the most coherent and well-thought-out band name explanation I've heard since I started this column. Most people just go with whatever they think will look good on a T-shirt and hope no one ever asks about it.

You can sort of see where BS is coming from. After all, punk is itself based in a lot of criminal culture. There are famous cases like the Sex Pistols stealing David Bowie's gear, all the way down to typical incidents of shows being shut down for riotous behavior and illegal drug use. Part of punk is being the edge against the throat of society, so why not label yourselves as outlaws of a certain type?

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner