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'Punksacola' Celebrates Pensacola's Punk Culture

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The cover to "Dance Party With...", the first full length CD from the band This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, one of Pensacola's most successful punk bands.

A year long celebration of punk culture in Pensacola opens Friday, July 20 at the TT Wentworth Museum.  It's called PUNKSACOLA: Reflections of a Subculture. Scott Satterwhite, an English instructor at the University of West Florida is one of the co-curators of the exhibit. He says there is a long history and strong connection to the punk scene here in Pensacola, partly because it breaks down the barriers between the artist and the fan. "It breaks down the barriers to the point where anybody can play punk. That it doesn't take too much to be able to play punk music. You learn three chords. There (are) bands that don't even go that far (and) just learn one chord. Or just play with the top string. I've seen bands with only one string on their guitars. It's very different than most other forms (of music), and because of that, in punk we like to often have the bands play on very low stages and quite often no stages at all. And it puts the band along with the audience and outs everybody on the same level."

This will be the one of the first exhibits of pop culture at the Wentworth Museum. Lowell Bassett, Chief Curator and Director of Collections for the UWF Historic Trust which operates the museum, says plans for the exhibit began to take shape about a year ago when he saw a documentary on punk culture in Pensacola made by Ian Hamilton, a student in the UWF Public History program. "He was receiving a lot of memorabilia from (the) different people he was interviewing (for) this oral history of the Pensacola punk scene. At that time we were saying 'Wouldn't it be neat to try to put together some sort of exhibition based on this and show your video'. And that was kind of the genesis of it. But Ian left, he moved up to Massachusetts. I think he got into a PhD program up that way. And left me. And he was in that scene and I was not. And I knew that the only way this was going to be successful and be authentic is to reach out to people who really knew that scene and were in that scene and are still in that scene."

And that’s when Scott Satterwhite entered the picture. He is Co-Founder of the 309 Punk Museum Project in Pensacola. He says the beginning of the punk movement in Pensacola goes back almost 40 years. "Punk in Pensacola starts roughly in the late 70s. I don't think we have a specific date for when punk first happened here. But there was a punk club here in Pensacola called McGuigans Speakeasy, and roughly that's usually when people say that this is about where it began."

The exhibit will feature ephemera from the beginnings of the punk movement in Pensacola, including advertising flyers for bands that were passing through before they became well known. "It's still fascinating to hear that Green Day came through here before they were (famous)" said Bassett. "Black Flag, Henry Rollins you've seen him come through here early on. And so I'm seeing some of these flyers that have pictures of these guys on them and they're babies! It's just amazing to see. REM came through McGuigans I believe or Sluggos (and) they're doing hand written flyers. It's a real treasure trove and a look back seeing what came through Pensacola before they made it."

PUNKSACOLA will be on display for 12 months, and some items will be on display for the entire run. However Lowell Bassett says there will be changes and additions as new material becomes available. "We've had people almost every other day knocking on the door, just coming forward saying 'I heard this thing go out on Facebook or on social media and are you guys looking for stuff like this?'. And they bring in these zines or these flyers." Bassett says this shows the excitement, interest and the need for an exhibit like this. "That's what excites me as a historian, as a person who deals in history and cultural history."

PUNKSACOLA: REFLECTIONS OF A SUBCULTURE will run at the TT Wentworth Museum in downtown Pensacola through July 20, 2019. There will be an opening reception during Gallery Night this Friday from 6 until 9pm, with punk performers playing both inside and out on the steps of the museum.