To a casual viewer, punk rock flyers and gig posters can be as violent, messy and discordant as as the music they advertise. But to David Ensminger, who's been these paper artifiacts since at least the 1990s, the flyers are a part of the history and folklore of the punk culture. His new book, Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation, explores the DIY tradition of the street art from the 1970s on, as well as the participation of several subgroups of the punk culture.
"The books looks at the participation of women, lesbians, black people, subgroups that usually don't get included when you think about punk," says Ensminger, Rocks Off's resident punk specialist who has recently reviewed Peter Case and TSOL. "It's usually associated with groups that are mostly white, mostly male, mostly middle-class."
The 330-page book includes some 130 images and will launch on July 9 at Domy Books. Ensminger will also present a short documentary about punk culture, specifically what he calls "the rite of initiation": That single moment in a person's life, whether it was at a show, hearing a song on the radio or hanging out in a record store, when his or her life was changed by punk. The punk movement, he says, isn't just about listening to a certain kind of movement, but about participation in a vibrant, defiant culture.
"What I'm interested in is 'where does it lead?'" says Ensminger, who teaches humanities, composition and folklore at Lee College in Baytown. "Where does it take you? Were you turned into a vegetarian or did it lead you to print a fanzine?"
The film features interviews with members of Chumbawumba, the Epoxies, Dag Nasty, Strike Anywhere and Lifetime. Ensminger recalls his rite of initiation, when his older brother came home from college on a break.
"I was nine or 10, and he came home with piercings, funky hair, a drug habit and great records, and to me, I became that person," he says. "I'm an 11-year-old learning to play drums to Iggy Pop and the Stooges records, then I'm making art and fanzines and flyers. It led me down that path."
Besides playing drums in the Biscuit Bombs and No Love Less, Ensminger finds himself using the DIY ethic in his lesson plans as a teacher for the past 15 years.
"I encourage my students to be empowered," he says.
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7 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at Domy Books, 1709 Westheimer. The launch will include a panel discussion with members of Mydolls, Really Red, Party Owls and photographer Ben DeSoto.
Scroll through for some iconic DIY images, all courtesy of Ensminger.