Punk Island is a free, all-ages, all-DIY punk festival that happens annually in June; the 2019 edition was on Saturday (6/22). It's the largest entirely DIY, free event of its kind and is by far the sweatiest day of the year for punks in NYC and beyond. Fest goers come from near and far to descend upon Randall’s Island to carve out a DIY oasis with the Harlem River, Triboro Bridge, and Manhattan serving as the backdrop. The fest is part of the larger Make Music New York city-wide event and led by a volunteer collective of punks and organizers in the DIY community from NYC, with members also reaching into upstate New York. This is a day of fun and community and to experience any possible genre under the punk umbrella - hardcore, pop punk, skacore, riot grrrl, garage, noise, folk punk, queercore and more - all can be found represented at the fest.

In addition to non-stop live music all day, the festival also brought out a number of DIY vendors selling handmade items, zines, and art. Community building and outreach was also a main focus this year with Narcan training/distribution being offered for the first time with both the Lunchbox stage and Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center offering trainings throughout the day, and groups like DanceSafe providing further resources on safe usage, test strips, and more. There were also anti-gentrification, Know Your Rights, and self defense workshops as well as skill shares put on by groups like the Pigeon Pack and more so attendees could learn do-it-yourself techniques to make merch, zines, and the basics on drums or guitar to bring to their own future bands.

The biggest attention-getter, though, is always the bands, and this year did not disappoint. With an expanded number of stages in 2019 - nine in total - there were just shy of 100 bands playing. Along with seeing the bands they know and love, many fans get drawn in by the sound of a band they'd never heard of walking by a different stage, and suddenly find their new favorite band. It’s a day of favorites and discovery, where the members of myriad punk scenes in New York come together to meet and make lasting bonds. Brand new bands, seasoned veterans, super groups, touring bands and more make this event the highlight of the year in the New York underground.

As an all-ages event you find members of every age group in the devoted fans who come year after year, with more and more families and parents bringing their children to expose them to the world of underground punk; you might even find babies in strollers parked next to a mosh pit. And in keeping with the all ages theme, the youngest band to ever perform at Punk Island, Color Killer, featured members aged 9-13, and delivered a performance with a skill level of musicians more than double their age; they were an absolute highlight of the day. Fan favorites and local DIY stalwarts All Torn Up, Trashy, Cop/Out, Alouth, the 1865, and Anxious? Anxious! all drew healthy sized crowds, as did out of towners like Pancho Villa’s Skull (MI) and The Muslims (NC), who made special stops at Punk Island as part of their existing tour routes.

The bands that attracted the biggest crowds were, of course, the three co-headliners, Choking Victim, Days N Daze, and The World/Inferno Friendship Society. Huge crowds came out to watch as each band delivered powerhouse sets without any of the usual venue barriers between them and their fans. Days N Daze hit the Dispatches From the Underground stage first and for them in particular, the crowd was right up against them, barely 6 inches away from the band as they blazed through a series of high intensity folk punk tunes which stirred an emotional response in many - they have some of the most devoted fans in the punk community, who travel vast distances to see them, including some who traveled from West Virginia to see them at Punk Island. Hometown cabaret punks The World/Inferno Friendship Society brought their larger-than-life sound to the Brooklyn Transcore stage to the delight of fest goers. Lead vocalist Jack Terricloth blurred the boundaries between performer and audience throughout the set, often interacting directly with the crowd and going out to sing, inviting fans to the mic alongside him.

Choking Victim - who just played back-to-back sold out shows at Market Hotel - closed out the fest, ripping through sets of fan favorites on the Dispatches From the Underground stage. The sounds of classics like “Crack Rock Steady,” “500 Channels,” and “Born To Die” reverberated across the island as fans shouted along to every word and curious onlookers on the jogging paths stopped to watch. A large circle pit formed in the middle of the crowd as fans danced and moshed while the sun set. Tired and sweaty, the punks shuffled off into the night as this day of magic faded and came to an end for another year.

Check out pictures from the whole day in the gallery above, and read the festival's mission statement below:

Punk Island (P.I.) is led by a collective of artists, curators, musicians, and educators whose goal is to bring the vitality, diversity, and intensity of the various NYC punk scenes together and into the light of day. We are a community of punks who love music and the fans, friends, and family that participate throughout the year to keep our culture true to the lives we want to live.

We aim to support a philosophy of creativity and rebellion and we work to feed those who are hungry for a world where passion is valued over profit. We promote counter-culture through our collective, art, music, writing, and events.

Punk Island's efforts culminate annually as a free, all ages music festival every June. As a not for profit organization we are funded by Make Music New York, the collective, and the community.


photos by Kate Hoos

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