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Reviving DIY Culture: How the Bay Area's punk and hardcore scenes are leading the way

Surprise Privilege singer and co-founder, Cody (behind mic), and False Flag since Pretty (behind Cody, to the left) during their last minute DIY BART show that brought out a big crowd.
Chris Parker
Surprise Privilege singer and co-founder, Cody (behind mic), and False Flag since Pretty (behind Cody, to the left) during their last minute DIY BART show that brought out a big crowd.

The Bay Area’s do-it-yourself punk and hardcore scene has a storied history, filled with tales of musical rebellion and underground activism. As it continued to evolve in the 80s and 90s, the Bay Area remained a hub of DIY activity, with bands like Operation Ivy, Green Day, The Offspring, and Rancid rising to national prominence.

Through its lively shows and community-led practices, the scene seamlessly captures the spirit of a community that has long been a vital part of the Bay Area's cultural landscape. A spirit that is kept alive through younger generations as they continue to foster the DIY ethos.

Picture this: it’s Friday, January 6th, 2023, and the young bands Surprise Privilege and False Flag took Bay Area public transportation by storm. Something that started as a joke ended up being one of the most talked about DIY shows to happen on BART as they invited fans to join them for a ride. An enticing journey that began in San Francisco at 16th street and Mission BART stop around 7 pm, soon made it’s way down south to Dublin, Pleasanton, filling up three train carts on its way back to the city.

“We spent some time together like walking around Market Street and exploring abandoned places,” said Cody, one of the founders of Surprie Privilege. “Then, I was like, we should just play on BART. And [Pretty from False Flag] was like –– actually, that's a really good idea.”

BART show attendees making their way into the cart with equipment and ready to rock out.
Chris Parker
BART show attendees making their way into the cart with equipment and ready to rock out.

Experiencing live music on Bay Area public transposition isn’t anything unusual, but what these bands did next was something new and daring. An act that others may have considered, but Surprise Privilege and False Flag executed the event to perfection. Well, as perfect as DIY can be.

Punk has always been about doing it yourself, and although some venues have been of great support to the scene, like 924 Gilman in Berkeley and CBGB’s in the East Coast, it’s important to note that those venues originated from the DIY ethos, which has always been the backbone of punk and hardcore culture.

The hands of BART show attendees holding on to the overhead, BART rail as the cart starts to get packed.
Chris Parker
The hands of BART show attendees holding on to the overhead, BART rail as the cart starts to get packed.

“In 2021––where the lockdown was lifted––a lot of people were like, you know, allowed to go outside, we started hosting a lot more shit shows in the park,” mentioned Cody.

Surprise Privilege and False Flag weren’t the only ones to witness and take advantage of the uptick of DIY shows happening throughout the Bay Area. Various young punk and hardcore bands are finding music venues less necessary as they increasingly rely on their own resources to put on shows.

“These kids took it upon themselves to like to create their own scene and create their own community within the punk community” shared Gregg Piva, host of the 2023 versatile punk and hardcore Oakland festival, 510 Grind Fest.
Piva was hosting an infamous Oakland DIY punk festival for two days that involved two stages and bands performing back-to-back for 5 hours straight. He painted a picture of a gate-kept punk scene in 2016 to a pandemic that furthered “blood pits and rage into the underground,” DIY scene, to what's now become people doing their own things.

“With this new breed of bands, and kids, and just the energy and the drive that they have, like, the future is looking f****** golden.”

From left to right, you see Cody from Surprise Privilege and False Flag singer, Pretty, in the middle of a packed BART cart, putting on show.
Chris Parker
From left to right, you see Cody from Surprise Privilege and False Flag singer, Pretty, in the middle of a packed BART cart, putting on show.

Although the culture of the DIY punk and hardcore scene will continuously change, it has not only documented the past and present but continues to inspire and empower new generations to water the spirit of DIY creativity and rebellion in their own unique ways.

This story was made to be heard, click the play button above to listen

This story aired in the September 14, 2023 episode of Crosscurrents.

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Arts & Entertainment Crosscurrents