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Three chords and the truth

Street punk fest returns to Tulsa

Fuck You We Rule OK 2016

Adam DeGross

July, apart from fireworks and franks, means the upscale shops of the Brady will soon be ambushed by liberty spikes, bullet belts, and back patches. The Midwest’s largest street punk festival, Fuck You We Rule OK, is returning for its fifth year.

FYWROK is the centerpiece of a culture Tony and Michelle Cozzaglio have cultivated in Tulsa, which includes their former venue, Boulevard Trash, and their semiannual Punk Rock Flea Market. The four-day fest features international heavy hitters from the street punk scene, record and merch vendors, and random afterparties.

Street punk is the day-glo sunglass’d and mohawk’d bastard offspring of Papa Punk. The subgenre trades the apocalyptic visions of crust and heavy-handedness of hardcore for the “thou shall sniff glue and pogo” commandments of punk’s early prophets. Often denigrated by the crossed-arm crowd as “fashion punks,” fans of the genre couldn’t care less, and they’ll throw you some middle fingers to prove it. Musically, it’s closer to three-chords-and-the-truth than some of punk’s other offshoots, but if you read that here first, you’re probably a square. 

The Cozzaglios began FYWROK in 2012, after Tony moved to Tulsa from Michigan.

“In 2007, a close mutual friend of a lot of people and who was important in the scene died,” Tony said. “And his brother, who is the singer of The Bad Engrish, put on a small music fest in his honor, called JJR Fest, which were his initials. And then after that, each year, the same group of friends would throw another music fest under some different title in some other town.”

The summer after Tony became an Okie, he and Michelle called their friends up north, asking where the yearly fest would be and when they should take off work. No one from Tony’s home could make the party happen, so the Cozzaglios threw one here.

“We got a better response than usual,” Tony said, “because geographically … Oklahoma just opened it up to different crowds.”

Since the great response from the first year, FYWROK has grown, drawing attendees from North and South America and as far away as Indonesia.

Last year the fest broke from the underground when photos of it by longtime Cozzaglio friend and A$AP Ferg videographer, Adam DeGross, were used by Pabst Blue Ribbon on its cans. DeGross—who photographed the Cozzaglios’ wedding—also published a photo book dedicated to the festival. 

Coordinating sponsors, scheduling international bands, and general promotion can take its toll on the Cozzaglios, but it’s all worth it for what they both call their “family reunion.”

“It’s fun to watch it grow, and watch the people come and grow,” Tony said. “Either they were young kids at the first one and now they’re bar age … or the opposite, which is our dirt bag friends who came to the first one and now have their shit together!”

This year they’ll have an increased vendor presence, and an expanded smoke hole/lounge in the alley behind the Vanguard. Individual day passes will be available for the first time, and the fest will extend to four days with a Thursday night pre-show at Yeti.

The pre-party will feature Atlanta’s Rotten Stitches and Tulsa’s own The Shame and Penny Mob. Every cent will benefit Joe Pogo, of Joe Pogo records. Pogo—whose government name is Jon Plishka—was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“He’s a great dude who’s been dealt a bad hand,” Tony said. “He’s been putting out Midwestern street punk records since a time when there wasn’t a lot of push for that to be done.”

Apart from the four official days of the fest, numerous spur-of-the-moment brunch shows and after-hours house shows will pop up. In recent years, Tulsa punks could see street punk favorites like The Virus bow residential floorboards with their fury and considerable crowds.  

Fest highlights this year include seminal U.K. punks Chron Gen, Austin’s Lower Class Brats, and Denver’s Potato Pirates.

The Shame, The Penny Mob, Rotten Stictches 
YETI  | 417 N. Main St.
Thursday, 6/29, 8pm – 2am

Friday, 6/30
Chron Gen, Lower Class Brats, Biters, The Non-Believers, Wyldlife, Rmblr, The Generators, Corrupted Youth, Killer Hearts, The Ridgelands, Zipperz
Saturday, 7/1
The Casualties, Blanks 77, Endless Struggle, The Beltones, The Bad Engrish, Sniper 66, Starving Wolves, Enemy Fire, The Cry!, Dead on a Wire, Loose Wires
Sunday, 7/2
Monster Squad, Street Brats, Potato Pirates, Call the Cops, Virgin Whores, Violent Affair, Kinetic Discord, Punks on Parade, The Normandys
THE VANGUARD  |  222 N. Main St.
Doors open at 3pm every day

For more from Mitch, read his article on the comedy open mic at the VFW’s Centennial Lounge.