The United States Of Punk
Earlier this year, you read our list of the best metal band from every state, and you got pissed that we didn’t include your favorite Hawaiian slam band. Then you saw us do it again with hardcore, and you were even angrier that we didn’t write about that vegan straightedge crew from Montana whose EP you ordered in the mail.
Now, get ready to get super chapped as we give you our carefully-researched, definitive, non-negotiable list of the best punk rock band from every U.S. state, along with runners-up for honorable mention, and a playlist of all the bands we could find on Spotify (which, in true punk rock fashion, makes those bands “fuckin’ sell-outs”).
And if you’ve got beef with a pick – let us know what you think on Twitter. (But be prepared for a fist fight in the parking lot.)
In the words of Rancid: LET’S GO!
Alabama: The Knockabouts
Formed in 1982, The Knockabouts were Alabama’s first entry into the punk and hardcore scene. The band genuinely channels the rage of acts like Black Flag and Fear, but do so with of the sneering slacker malaise that bands like Green Day later cashed in on. Tracks like Where’s My Vietnam and Aimless Youth express panic over living in the rural wasteland of a punk-hostile state, though if those are still a little opaque, their Skynyrd interpretation titled Shit Home Alabama spell things out pretty clearly.
Required Listening: On Suffering Remembered 7” (1995)
Honorable Mention: Cancerslug
Out in the state known as The Last Frontier, Anchorage punk rockers Clyng-Onz are the legendary punks to beat (and, it seems, the only game in town). The band’s sound incorporated weird cherry-picked influences of other punk staples, like the sarcastic announced vocals of Modern Lovers and the thin, driving tone of Stiff Little Fingers. The result is a weirdly satisfying band who might not have taken the risks they did if they weren’t from the edge of the world. And even if they sucked, honestly, they’re all Alaska’s got.
Required Listening: Lighten Up! (Split with the Psychedelic Skeletons, 1983)
Honorable Mention: Skate Death
Arizona: Meat Puppets
While their music varies from straightforward punk to countrified garage rock to dreamy alternative, Meat Puppets are easily Arizona’s biggest claim to punk fame. The Phoenix trio not only influenced heavy hitters like Soundgarden and Sublime with their unorthodox sound, they also appeared as a support act for Nirvana’s famous MTV Unplugged performance. The band’s wily sound and total lack of trend consciousness influenced the entire alternative rock movement, and made them indie darlings to this day.
Required Listening: Too High To Die (1994)
Honorable Mention: Blackfire, JFA
An ABC News profile on Meat Puppets, which describes them as “whacked-out interlopers on the Eighties punk scene.” Cool story, bro.
When Little Rock doom metallers Deadbird recommend a band, one assumes they’re pretty fucking sick. Trusty were one of the acts who helped establish Arkansas’ counterculture, especially at all-ages live music hub Vinos. The band’s melodic, energetic punk may not sound immediately like the kind of stuff that would inspire legions of depressive sludge artists, but their intenser moments are imbued with enough raw power for the connection to make sense.
Required Listening: The Fourth Wise Man (1996)
California: Dead Kennedys
California. Uber alles. California UUUUUber alles.
Required Listening: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980)
Honorable Mention: Descendents, Bad Religion
Colorado: Anti-Scrunti Faction
Though Boulder, Colorado, is now known as an infuriatingly crunchy college town, during the ’80s it was a progressive live music hub with a bit of an ugly side – the perfect place for a band like Anti-Scrunti Faction to form. Not only were ASF a huge influence on Colorado’s punk rock scene as a whole, but they were also one of the first queercore bands. Their binary-questioning lyrics, coupled with the furious vocals of Tracie Thomas and Leslie Mah (who went on to start Bay Area queercore legends Tribe8), made them loved by political punks and rockers examining gender as a new frontier.
Required Listening: Damsels In Distress (1985)
Honorable Mention: The Gamits
Connecticut: Poodle Boys
With a mixture of the Ramones’ in-your-face rocker attitude and the Velvet Underground’s off-kilter rebellion, Poodle Boys made a stir in the late-’70s and early-’80s, especially in the scene surrounding New Haven venue Ron’s Place. Their connections and swagger even got them briefly featured in LIFE Magazine. The band’s vibe feels weirdly relevant today, and tracks like What Can I Do? and Teenage Tragedy would make perfect soundtrack songs for road trip scenes in independent movies.
Required Listening: What Can I Do? 7” (Gustav Records)
The Poodle Boys’ video for Teenage Tragedy, circa 1980.
Delaware: The Numbers
Very little is known about The Numbers, Delaware’s claim to punk fame. The band had a single album, Five Numbers, and the occasional recordings you can find of them sound like punk versions of classic rock acts like Meat Loaf. But as Wayne Campbell once succinctly put it, “Hi…I’m in… Delaware”, so this lesser-known band suits its home state.
Required Listening: Five Numbers (1979)
Florida: Against Me!
It takes a special kind of state to inspire its biggest punk rock export to write a song called Sink, Florida, Sink! Formed in Gainesville Rock City, Against Me! combines the boundary-pushing bravery and bone-deep melancholy of a man in a Tampa police blotter. And though their listenability has always made some hardcore punks grimace, their earnest lyrics and outsider politics have always set them outside of polite conversation. That frontwoman Laura Jane Grace came out as trans and is now a political firebrand only adds to the band’s punk rock credibility.
Required Listening: Reinventing Axl Rose (2002)
Honorable Mention: Hot Water Music
Anti-Heros aren’t just Georgia’s claim to punk fame, they’re also one of America’s most influential Oi! outfits. The band’s first two albums are considered must-haves by Oi punks, and their logo can be seen painted in White Out on many a leather jacket. They’ve long courted controversy by writing a song set to the tune of a Skrewdriver track (Skrewdriver, of course, being a well-known skinhead band), but the dudes have vehemently denied any support of the white power skinhead movement, going so far as to file suit against New Line Cinema for their logo being featured in the film American History X.
Required Listening: That’s Right! (1987)
One might not think of an island paradise as the perfect breeding ground for noisy rage, but Cringer proved that even the beaches of Hawaii could produce solid punk rock. The band’s grinding guitar sound drove their vibe of angry irritation, while their melodic solos and playful lyrics gave them a fun, party-along vibe with a slight ska sensibility. Fun fact: among Cringer’s past members was Lance Hahn, better known for his work in Bay Area punkers J Church.
Required Listening: Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo Chari Bari Ruchi Pip Peri Pembo (1996)
Honorable Mention: Black Square
Cringer playing a house show in 1991.
Idaho: False Idle
Another one of the younger band’s featured here, Boise’s False Idle may be the only Christian punkers on this list. Their music is a frenzied but listenable mixture of hardcore, old-school punk rock, and modern pop-punk that gives them an easy-in for the modern Warped Tour fan, while their uplifting and faith-based lyrics fare well with Christian rockers looking to go HAM. That said, though their music is definitely informed by their faith, the band focuses more on positivity than proselytizing, so listeners don’t have to put up with a lot of veiled references to “the one who’s there for me” or what have you.
Required Listening: Threat (2013)
Illinois: Naked Raygun
Few bands had the perfect mixture of notoriety and interesting music as Chicago’s Naked Raygun. While their earlier music is straightforward punk rock venom, it’s their later material, as they began to help push punk towards what would become alternative, that really solidified them as a band to know. If you want to talk about their influence, you can bro down with Dave Grohl, who has spoken in the past about how seeing the band when he was 13 changed his life.
Required Listening: Throb Throb (1984)
Honorable Mention: Screeching Weasel, Rise Against, Alkaline Trio
Indiana: Sloppy Seconds
Woof, the Hoosier State’s biggest punk export is a doozy. Sloppy Seconds from Indianapolis were always about sticking uncomfortable and hilarious topics right in people’s faces. I Don’t Wanna Be A Homosexual and Let’s Kill The Trendy ruffled sensitive feathers, while Ejaculation and Steal Your Beer championed the hard-partying every-perv archetype that bands like NOFX and Guttermouth made their bank on.
Required Listening: Destroyed (1989)
Honorable Mention: Zero Boys, The Gizmos
Sloppy Seconds’ Fifteen Minutes Or Its Free video from 1998.
Iowa: The Dogs
Not to be confused with the proto-punk band from Lansing, Michigan, Iowan garage rockers The Dogs were a sensation in their home state. Though their music might remind listeners more of The Stooges or MC5 than, say, the Casualties, their brand of fast-and-loose weirdo rock helped inform the landscape of Midwestern punk. Plus, with an album cover like that of the band’s 1977 EP Rot And Roll, they’ve safely entertained the kind of disgusting outsider art that punk rock bands dream of.
Required Listening: Rot And Roll (1977)
Kansas: The (Mortal) Micronotz
Sometimes rocking the ‘Mortal’ qualifier and other times not, the Micronotz made big amber waves in the vast cornfields of their hometown, Lawrence, Kansas. The band were a major player in Kansas’ punk scene, rallying around Lawrence venue The Outhouse alongside acts like The Embarrassment. Not just simple cornfed punk boys, they also became acquaintances with Naked Lunch author and drug savant William S. Burroughs, who liked the guys enough that he wrote them some lyrics.
Required Listening: The Mortal Micronotz (1982)
Honorable Mention: The Rackatees
Kentucky: Nine Pound Hammer
One listen to Nine Pound Hammer, and it makes perfect sense that they hail from the home of fried chicken and fast horses. The band’s music is a combination of straightforward hardcore and good ol’ countrified rock, with lyrics about hillbilly assholes, fast women, getting drunk, living poor, crashing your car, and blowing shit up with your shotgun. The mixture is part of punk’s broader patchwork today, but during the Hammer’s early years, that combination of punk rock and country was relatively revolutionary, showing that you could like the redneck dickhead’s music while still hating the dickhead himself.
Required Listening: Hayseed Timebomb (1994)
Louisiana: Masters Of The Obvious
Though they’ve moved around multiple times over the years, Masters Of The Obvious (or M.O.T.O. to most) formed in 1981 in New Orleans. That said, the band’s upbeat and at times dreamy brand of punk rock stands in stark contrast to the humid swampiness of their hometown. Though incredibly prolific, M.O.T.O.’s music is kind of hard to find -– the band were disdainful of the CD format, and most of their stuff is only available on cassette. But hey, holding onto great music in dead formats is what old punks are all about, so a deep enough dive will turn up a treasure trove of early posi-punk.
Required Listening: This Corpse Is A Warning (1990)
Masters Of The Obvious performing It Tastes Just Like A Milkshake live in 1994.
Maine: Pinkerton Thugs
From the land of Stephen King come the Pinkerton Thugs, a hardcore band that went hard on the anarchy. How hard? The band formed the Anarchist Liberty Union, a collective designed to hand out literature and help organize anarchist gatherings. While the collective is now defunct, the band’s tight, driven ’90s trad-punk music still sounds fresh and exciting today, showing that even the frigid wastelands of America’s antenna can breed punkers with raging fires inside them.
Required Listening: End Of An Era (2000)
Honorable Mention: The Leftovers
Maryland: Angel Du$t
Though bitterly labeled as “girlfriend hardcore” by defensive traditionalists, Baltimore’s Angel Du$t have made waves of late for taking pop-punk’s madcap emotionality and feeding it into the speed and drive of hardcore. Meanwhile, the band’s videos for tracks like Toxic Boombox and Headstone give them an artsy edge that gives their breakneck irreverence a little more nuance. All of this makes them Maryland’s modern punk heroes (and for the record, Bad Brains and Minor Threat are hardcore bands from D.C., not Maryland, so you can take a deep breath and calm down).
Required Listening: Rock The Fuck On Forever (2016)
Massachusetts: Dropkick Murphys
When you think of Massachusetts, you don’t think of the Berkshire Mountains or Martha’s Vineyard — you think of heading to Boston on St. Patrick’s day to catch the Dropkick Murphys destroying a crowd of wasted blue-collar punks. And true to their reputation, Dropkick have stuck to their guns, playing raucous Celtic punk that perfectly embodies working-class Irish America. While the band have gone on to spread their message of clinking beers and struggling to get by all across the globe (even your idiot cousin knows that song from The Departed), they’ll always belong to Massachusetts’ first and foremost.
Required Listening: Sing Loud, Sing Proud (2001)
Honorable Mention: The Unseen
That Murphys song we all know.
Michigan: The Stooges
This entry will have lot of armchair music experts scoffing that Iggy & The Stooges are actually “proto-punk” or what have you. But that’s like how Lemmy insisted Motörhead wasn’t metal — it sounds official on paper, but then you listen to the music and you know it’s bullshit. The Stooges’ guitar sound on tracks like Penetration and I Wanna Be Your Dog is punk rock’s electric snarl and back alley grime personified. And there’s only one town where that could’ve gestated: Detroit, Michigan, the place where American rock and roll first busted its knuckles.
Required Listening: Raw Power (1973)
Honorable Mention: The Crucifucks, The Suicide Machines
Minnesota: Dillinger Four
Minneapolis’ Dillinger Four always flew a little under the radar compared to their mid-to-late-’90s contemporaries like NOFX and Less Than Jake, but the band was deeply influential on all those punk rockers ready to look below the surface-level Warped Tour Acts. Their crashing, melancholy, melodic brand of punk, mixed with their hilarious song titles and use of old-timey samples, helped establish an optimistic approach to depression and disappointment that continues to inform the genre today. There’s just something about those small town big cities that makes punk beautifully sad.
Required Listening: Midwestern Songs Of The Americas (1998)
Honorable Mention: Hüsker Dü (winner on our Hardcore Map), The Replacements, Babes in Toyland, Code 13
Mississippi: Bass Drum Of Death
Though now based out of the Big Apple, Bass Drum Of Death was started by frontman John Barrett as a one-man band in Oxford, Mississippi. And in all fairness, one can’t attribute the band’s biker-y garage rock entirely to New York — it’s impossible to miss the influence of the American south in BDOD’s languid, sneering rebelliousness. The band’s sound continues to evolve with every release, though, so we’ll see if they could even be considered punk in five years.
Required Listening: Rip This (2014)
Bass Drum Of Death’s Get Found video, circa 2011.
Missouri: Maximum Effort
There’s something about Maximum Effort’s frantic, stripped-down sound that seems to suit its home state. While Missouri is considered part of the south, it’s got one foot in the Midwest, and St. Louis seems to stand outside the stereotypes of either region. Similarly, Maximum Effort have a twanging, almost rockabilly-ish guitar tone, but their vocals and drumming possess an urgency that feels distinctly hardcore. Given just how awesome the band is, and considering that punk is so often best when it’s reactionary, one has to wonder if St. Louis is either amazing to live in, or if it totally sucks.
Required Listening: Money, Lies, And Media Reels (2017)
Honorable Mention: Trauma Harness, Doom Town, The Pubes
While Montana’s inclusive-yet-diverse scene allows for plenty of bands with punk influences like the Skoidats and Go Hibiki, it was Billings’ own Coldsnap-9 who went hard in the paint and played balls-out punk. Their mix of snottiness and catchiness was perfect for the late-’90s and early 2000s, taking things both one step angrier than pop-punk and one step more fun than crust or Oi. The band may be new to punks outside of Big Sky Country, but their jaunts with Warped Tour have cemented them in Montana punk rock lore.
Required Listening: Victim Of A Small Town EP (1999)
Honorable Mention: Go Hibiki
Nebraska: No Thanks
Of the younger bands on this list, Omaha’s No Thanks might be the spookiest. Their music has quite a bit of shimmering goth rock to it, as well as occasional moments of looming menace. But it’s their stripped-down sound, presenting these dark shows with stark, honest rock’n’roll, that makes them all the more powerful. Maybe all the corn gives them a Stephen King-ish vibe.
Required Listening: The Trial (2018)
Honorable Mention: Snake Island!
Nevada: Cobra Skulls
You can hear Reno, Nevada, in the Cobra Skulls’ music — the band’s Quentin Tarantino-ish twang and warble that makes one think of the desert. And while they later moved to the Bay Area, that sense of countrified, steer skull-strewn edge remains throughout the band’s career. Sadly, the Skulls broke up in 2013, but they’re still the only Nevada band we really want to listen to other than 7 Seconds (which we’d already selected for our hardcore list.)
Required Listening: Sitting Army (2007)
Cobra Skulls’ Eagle Eyes video, circa 2011.
New Hampshire: The Queers
No one’s saying you have to like The Queers. Frontman Joe Queer’s statements about Black Lives Matter and his support of the police officer who shot Michael Brown are highly controversial and stand against much of what punk rock was built on. That said, there is no denying that they’re hands down the most famous punk band out of New Hampshire, so they make this list (some might argue that G.G. Allin should’ve gotten this entry, but we’re saving him for the United States Of Weirdo Racists With Poop On Them).
Required Listening: Beat Off (1994)
New Jersey: The Misfits
Sure, we also chose the Misfits for our United States Of Hardcore map, but guess what? It’s our list, and we’re including them here, too. They’re that important. The Misfits single-handedly created horror punk, and their catchy-ass riffs and gigantic woahs inspired pretty much every punk rock band that formed after 1990. These days, the classic line-up is selling out arenas, but let us never forget that it all started with a bunch of movie buffs wearing eyeliner in the Dirty Jerz.
Required Listening: Static Age (1978)
Honorable Mention: The Casualties, Bouncing Souls, Saves the Day, The Gaslight Anthem
New Mexico: The Eyeliners
Nevermind that Albuquerque’s The Eyeliners are an all-girl pop-punk band, or that the members are all sisters, or that they developed their fun, snotty sound in one of the union’s more uneventful states. What we need to focus on is something rare in punk rock — the drummer-vocalist! Yes, frontwoman Laura Baca is singer and drummer for the Eyeliners, proving that not only can women do anything, they can do everything.
Required Listening: Here Comes Trouble (2000)
New York: The Ramones
The Ramones aren’t just a punk band that changed how rock and roll would sound forever, they are quintessentially New York. The matching names and leather jackets, the made-for-radio faces, the lack of pretension or posturing — all of these are responses to the Big Apple’s grit-peppered face in the 1970s. By reflecting their surroundings through spunky, overdriven rock’n’roll, the Ramones showed the world that punk was more than a fashion statement, and that the music could be fast, angry, and yet enjoyable as Hell.
Required Listening: Ramones (1976)
Honorable Mention: Television, Suicide, Patti Smith, Jawbreaker, Leftover Crack
Ramones playing live at CBGB in 1977.
North Carolina: Superchunk
Chapel Hill’s Superchunk are an example of a punk band everyone knows from different eras. On the one hand, their classic material was pivotal in bridging the gap between indie rock and punk. On the other, recent albums like 2013’s I Hate Music and this year’s What A Time To Be Alive gained critical acclaim and introduced a whole slew of new listeners to their eerie suburband sound. Of course, it also helps the band’s reputation that frontman Matt McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance co-founded Merge Records and released seminal albums by bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire.
Required Listening: Foolish (1994)
Honorable Mention: Zegota, Antiseen
North Dakota: The Lone Boners
If you’re going to put the word ‘boner’ in your band name, you ought to be from a town with the word ‘dick’ in its title. Of course, that’s not why The Lone Boners of Dickinson, North Dakota, are the obvious pick for ND’s punk forerunners — it’s their rough-yet-listenable music, with its scratchy vocals, jump-along breakdowns, and faint J-punk influences, that makes them the representatives of their state. In the land of polka, it must be nice having a band like this playing locally.
Required Listening: 3 Done Got Lost (2016)
Ohio: Rocket From The Tombs
Oh, we got that name right. Some more recent fans might not realize that a certain San Diego punk band of note took their name from bootlegs of Cleveland’s own Rocket From The Tombs. Though not as famous as that band, and mostly known for its members going on to play in Pere Ubu and Dead Boys, RFTT’s proto-punk sound and dark lyrics were pivotal to developing American punk’s unique atmosphere of vicious rebellion. And honestly, their version of Ain’t It Fun is the better one.
Required Listening: Life Stinks (1990)
Rocket From The Tombs performing the original version of Ain’t It Fun, later made famous by Dead Boys.
Oklahoma: Los Reactors
Another example of an iconic punk rock band who also happen to be the ONLY punk rock act from their town, Los Reactors hit is big in the late-’70s and early-’80s with their combination of speedy rock and high-strung synth organ. The band’s big hit, Dead In The Suburbs, also helped establish American punk’s depiction of just how weird and alienating quiet middle-class life is. Though in many ways a punk rock footnote today, the band’s music continues to be revived in the form of several compilations, proving that fame doesn’t matter so long as some punk at a label always remembers you.
Required Listening Dead In The Suburbs (2004)
Considered the fathers of the Pacific Northwest’s punk scene, Wipers’ legacy can be heard throughout the genre’s history and on into the modern day. The Portland quartet’s spooky-but-patient brand of mid-paced rock inspired a legion of alternative and indie bands doing their best to sound meaningfully disaffected. Among these, of course, was Nirvana, whose love of Wipers is audible on haunting asphalt anthems like Come As You Are and Lithium. That the band came from a city currently experiencing a boom in doom metal makes a lot of sense.
Required Listening: Land Of The Lost (1986)
Honorable Mention: The Thermals
Pennsylvania: The Dead Milkmen
There’s an old saying that Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Mississippi in between, and one can hear that in the songs of the Dead Milkmen. Strangely enough, this Philly quartet might be the band on this list that most modern punk and indie bands are trying to bite off: their jangly guitars, nasal vocals, and lyrics about the importance of ultra-normal bullshit have been copied by thousands of bands trying to capture that middle-of-the-road sound. But no one has done it with quite the same earnestness as the Milkmen, and their nerdy outsider’s outsider vibe lives on in the snotty smirks of Philly’s punks.
Required Listening: Big Lizard In My Backyard (1985)
Honorable Mention: The Menzingers, Anti-Flag
The Dead Milkmen’s Punk Rock Girl video, from 1988.
Rhode Island: Downtown Boys
The name may say “’70s disco act”, but Providence’s Downtown Boys are straight-up awesome political punk. The band’s frantic incorporation of horns and singer Victoria Ruiz’s screamed Spanish and English instantly set them apart from the hardcore crowd. That Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto produced last year’s Cost Of Living speaks to the kind of attention their music is drawing within the scene.
Required Listening: Full Communism (2015)
South Carolina: The Frantics
The Frantics from Clinton, South Carolina, never quite blew up, and their material takes a little digging to find. But the rewards are considerable — snotty, stripped-down punk rock that mixes to straightforward rage of Oi with pop-punk choruses and danceable rhythms. Though the band might have fallen into punk’s periphery of late, their past tourmates include bands like AFI, Mustard Plug, and Bouncing Souls, so it’s safe to say they helped put South Carolina on the punk map.
Required Listening: She’s A Drag EP (1996)
South Dakota: No Direction
Little is known about Sioux Falls punk rockers No Direction, other than that they’re terrific. The band’s excitable, jangling approach to punk definitely showed influences from Dead Kennedys and the Dead Milkmen, while their minimalist art is far more reminiscent of New Wave acts like Blondie. That said, the band remains South Dakota’s most legendary (read: only) claim to classic punk fame, so we made sure to include them here.
Required Listening: self-titled (1983)
Leaders of the garage punk revival of the ’90s, the Reatards (whose name probably wouldn’t fly these days) took a fuzzy, sleazy, grit-under-the-nails approach to rock and roll. The band, originally a one-man project by guitarist Jay Reatard, took punk rock off of its artistic pedestal and brought it back to its funky, dirty roots. As a result, the Reatards have become much-loved underground darlings, and reissues of their work were dropped in 2011 and 2016.
Required Listening: Teenage Hate (1998)
Honorable Mention: Teen Idols
Texas: The Marked Men
Of the modern punk bands terrorizing Texas, Denton’s The Marked Men are our favorites. Though the members’ previous bands like The Vomit Punx and E-Class were a little dirtier and lower to the ground, the Men’s sound has a jangling, carefree vibe to it that makes you think of dangling out of a passenger seat window on a Texas highway. Each of the four members of the Men also have other projects going on, too, so the band’s material is a solid gateway drug into Texas’ punk rock scene.
Required Listening: Ghosts (2009)
Honorable Mention: The Dicks, Butthole Surfers
The Marked Men at Fest 13 in 2014.
Utah: Problem Daughter
These aren’t the Mormons you’re looking for. Salt Lake City’s Problem Daughter play a rough-around-the-edges form of pop-punk that’ll get stuck in the grittier parts of your head. The SLC four-piece claim their sound “smells like a sweaty basement show, tastes like cheap beer on a lamp-lit porch and feels like not wanting to go home at the end of the night.” That sure smacks of self-promotion, but with song titles like Alda, Small Things, it’s hard not to love these dudes. If the band’s catchy-as-the-Dickens music wasn’t enough, their logo is the perfect tattoo for any Utah-based punk (sort of a midwestern version of the Jersey Crimson Ghost tattoo).
Required Listening: Fits Of Disorganized Boredom (2016)
Honorable Mention: Zombiecock (solely for their name)
Vermont: Johnny Hobo And The Freight Trains
The first major recording project of anarcho-punk lifer Pat The Bunny, Johnny Hobo And The Freight Trains were the kings of acoustic punk, shouting raw, angry songs about homelessness, alcohol and despair without the aid of distortion. Even without electric guitars, the Battleboro, Vermont, band exudes a sense of raw honesty that plenty of punk bands miss entirely. Their best music exists on demos and splits, and the band’s cynical approach to lyrical storytelling can be heard in the work of punk rock icons like Jeff Rosenstock.
Required Listening: Anarchy Means I Hate You (2003)
(NOTE: See our Maryland entry RE: Minor Threat and Bad Brains)
It’s one thing to hail from a city, but another thing entirely to write much of your music about it. That’s what Richmond’s Avail are all about, with tracks like Deepwood, Lombardy St, and West Wye referencing their hometown. The band’s speedy, riffy approach to blue-collar punk rock is also interesting when considering that their city also houses thrash acts like Municipal Waste and GWAR (Avail themselves did a kickass Motörhead cover on the 1999 I Heart Metal compilation). Nonetheless, the band’s forward-marching skate punk is a necessary addition to any serious listener’s collection.
Required Listening: 4AM Friday (1996)
Honorable Mention: Strike Anywhere
Avail’s live video for Simple Song, circa 1996.
Whether one could classify Olympia’s Sleater-Kinney as riot grrl is up for question, but it’s impossible to ignore the band’s hard-left feminist politics. More so, their restless indie punk sound inspired wave after wave of young rockers who felt disenfranchised with the world at large to pick up a guitar and make some relatable noise. Today, guitarist/vocalist Carrie Brownstein is more often associated with Oregon due to her comedy show Portlandia, but her band’s influence continues to be felt by punks, indie rockers, and musicians from all corners of the counterculture.
Required Listening: Dig Me Out (1997)
Honorable Mention: Bikini Kill, MxPx
West Virginia: J. Marinelli
J. Marinelli is one of the more interesting one-man bands on this list, primarily because his music sounds the part — there isn’t an illusion of a band in Marinelli’s music, but rather a disparate sound among the instruments that make you wonder if he’s got them all strapped to him like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Marinelli’s West Virginia upbringing is also emphasized by his Appalachian country yelps and his lyrics about the trials and tribulations of rural life. Though not a typical addition to a punk map, this rebellious act certainly qualifies.
Required Listening: Stray Volts (2017)
Wisconsin: Naked Aggression
Though now located in Los Angeles, Naked Aggression started in Madison, Wisconsin. And while other bands from Wisconsin like Violent Femmes and Tar Babies play music close to punk, Naked Aggression go all in, living up to their band name with harsh political punk that’s unafraid to scream right in your ear. But not just another band of noisemakers, No Direction was featured prominently in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline Of Western Civilization: Part III for their outspoken political beliefs. Fuck yeah, Badger State.
Required Listening: Bitter Youth (1994)
Honorable Mention: Violent Femmes
Wyoming: Teenage Bottlerocket
Some punks might remember Wyoming as the state from which Matthew Lillard is forced to buy beer in SLC Punk. But (at least now) the Cowboy State has its own claim to punk rock fame, Teenage Bottlerocket. The band seems well aware of their locale’s corniness, and spend plenty of time taking the piss in the form of songs like Bigger Than Kiss, Blood Bath At Burger King, and Robocop Is A Halfbreed Sellout. Sometimes, when you hail from the depths of the U.S., what doesn’t kill you makes you sillier.
Required Listening: They Came From The Shadows (2009)