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Neo-Punk : It's not just a look. These offspring share tunes and 'tude with another generation.


You can't re-create a revolution, a friend blurted when I told him that this latest column spotlighted high school punk rockers.

When punk rock slammed into youth consciousness in the mid-to-late '70s, it revolutionized music, attitudes and fashion. Punk rock shattered standards of good taste and decency, mocking the Establishment from government to corporate rock 'n' roll. In its truest sense, of course, it was rock 'n' roll, stripped down and raw.

Almost two decades later, its legacy continues in the "alternative" arena. Local punk melody-makers Offspring recently hit platinum with their third album, "Smash." If sales continue, it could become the biggest selling album in punk-rock history. It's just tangible proof on a nationwide scale of the many young enthusiasts who are (still) into punk.

Then there are the record and T-shirt sales of other bands, both new and long gone. At independent music stores such as Underdog Records in Laguna Beach, Vinyl Solution in Huntington Beach and Noise Noise Noise in Costa Mesa, inventory of seminal acts such as Black Flag, the Sex Pistols and the Germs is continuously replenished. So what if those bands dismantled before most of today's fans were in kindergarten?

The '90s teen punks keep the movement's flame burning--much to the chagrin of some old-timers who lived it the first time around. Through their own bands, present-day punks imitate the original sounds from the vintage recordings they buy--usually on re-released compact discs. They wear T-shirts splattered with the names of the old groups; a few go so far as to embellish them with safety pins. They dye their hair every hue of a Crayola box.

The colors should no longer shock, but they still do.

Although Orange County claims a part in shaping punk rock history as far back as 1979, and probably has more tattooed and pierced kids than any other suburb on the planet, green or purple tresses still get a reaction here.

Which suits high-schoolers such as Leilani Huebner, 16, and Candace Potts, 15. Integral to punk has been the personal liberation achieved by making a statement, through attire and words, that sets one apart from the status quo.

To Candace and Leilani, the response they get for their sartorial choices instantly reveals to them how open- or close-minded a person is.

Leilani might strike some as being just another long-haired groovy gal, but the Newport Harbor High sophomore has been listening to punk and its variations courtesy of her older sis since she was 10. She goes to gigs and rollicks in the slam dance pit. Though her hair is a little too auburn, it's closer to a natural color than the hot pink, flaming red, electric blue and blue black she's tried over the past five years. "I got tired of the fake colors," she says.

As for her pal, Laguna Beach High sophomore Candace, her obvious passion is purple. Her nails, short shag and bra straps peeking from her tank top are all purple.

Purple hair? "Actually, it's plum," she corrects.

Her favorite comments come from little kids. "They just look at me kind of confused," Candace says. "The best part is they don't hold back. They just yell it out, while their parents pretend not to look your way." Her 4-year-old brother loves it, she says, while her other siblings, 10 and 12, deem her bonkers.

"I don't want to say I don't care what other people think, because we should care," Candace says. "But when it's about hair color or clothes, well, then I just laugh. We should worry more about what's on the inside. If someone doesn't want to hang out with me because of my appearance, then we really do have nothing in common."

Adds Leilani: "Some kids are jealous because they're parents don't let them express themselves."

Like this girl in Candace's P.E. class who confided to Candace that she envied her and her circle for being so bold.

The downside lies with folks' preconceived notions that such punks must be druggies or scumbags, they say. The price one pays for not being a preppy. Fortunately, they add, their parents don't fall into that category.

Candace, who just moved to Laguna Beach from Newport Beach, doesn't fear that she will have to choose between purple locks and not attending school, unlike yours truly. I was threatened with expulsion from Fountain Valley High a decade ago for coloring my hair bright blue. Candace has already discovered her new neighbors more accepting.


Punk fashion has entered the mainstream, courtesy of aging punks who are now in the position of pushing the pop culture agendas they grew up with--kind of like what the boomers have been doing for so long.

And while some Woodstock fogies complained about the violent nature of "moshing" at the recent fest, the new generation didn't blink. The perceived violence, they say, is just that. Granted, the pit can be a danger zone for the easily bruised. But it is just an outlet for rowdy behavior, says Leilani, which is better than acting out in other ways.

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