José Esteban Muñoz

“Performing the Punk Rock Commons: Queer Germs”

The great paradox of any punk scene is the ways in which it can simultaneously foster a sort nihilistic individualism and an often-transformational sense of communitas. This presentation is culled from a larger project that considers the performance of a punk rock commons that emerged from the Los Angeles Punk scene of the late 1970’s and early 1980s. In this presentation I want to re-imagine and, to some degree, re-function the history of the early Los Angeles punk rock scene in an effort to better understand what queer negativity might mean. I will propose that we can see the negation that is negativity as something that can be strangely utopian while simultaneously dystopian. It can represent conterminously both innovation and annihilation. I want to talk about the desire, indeed the demand, at the heart of punk, for “something else” that is not this time, this place, with its stultifying limits and impasses. This demand is for a dystopia that functions like the utopian. To that end, this paper’s central presence is the tragically doomed punk icon Darby Crash and his legendary band the Germs. Darby Crash is one in a sequence of queer oddballs and madmen about whom I have been thinking and writing about. His often quoted demand for more, “Gimme gimme this, gimme gimme that” is the semi-articulate demand for a world that is not the world he lived in of California in the late 1970s or Ronald Reagan’s America. This paper will look at documentation of live performances by the band and the ephemera that functions as the band’s queer remains.