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Punk like me 

with Saul Williams, Krak
Attack, Earl Greyhound
9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5
The Social, 407-246-1419

We would all like to believe that music is universal. While that can be true, the audience and culture of genres often becomes exclusive, and that's what filmmaker James Spooner discovered when it comes to African-Americans and punk in his 2003 documentary Afro-Punk: The Rock 'n Roll Nigger Experience, an exploration of the loneliness felt by black fans of punk.

Although African-Americans have contributed to the punk movement since its inception — from D.C.'s Bad Brains to the recently rediscovered (and Mos Def—championed) Death, a black garage punk trio from Detroit whose first album, unreleased until this year, was recorded in 1974 — black artists have always held a tenuous grip on a musical style all too often reserved for white crowds.

A few years ago, Spooner and industry vet Matthew Morgan started a website ( devoted to the study and promotion of black punk artists and the growing community of black punk fans. Since 2005, Spooner and Morgan have hosted the annual Afro-Punk Festival, and for the first time, they're taking the fest on the road this year, headlined by envelope-pushing hip-hop artist Saul Williams.

"I think the intention of `Morgan` and Afro-Punk is to provide a safe haven for kids who end up feeling ostracized, alone or weird for not wearing the ‘uniform' that might be expected of them," says Williams via e-mail. "Especially if they're black and from the 'hood. Its purpose in Brooklyn `where the festival has happened for the past five years` and beyond has simply been to provide support for a growing black alternative culture that has been around for ages but has never been catered to."

Williams understands the impact that black artists have had on punk, but he questions how much that's extended to the one or two black fans in a sea of white people at the shows.

"You mention `Death or Bad Brains`, but do you remember who you saw in the audience at those shows?" says Williams. "I think Afro-Punk is more about cultivating the diversity of that audience."

To help Williams foster that growth, he invited a couple of on-the-rise Afro-punk-influenced acts on the road with him, including Earl Greyhound, a New York trio whose aggressive rock incorporates everything from Rush to the Stooges, and Krak Attack, a side project of Williams' drummer, CX Kidtronik. The band name is a willfully obnoxious paean to a woman's lower back; Krak Attack has a spaced-out, fast-paced, horny IDM rage that's as off-putting as it is mind-blowing.

"I met `Kidtronik` when I was 19 and he had one long green dread standing straight up on an otherwise shaved head," says Williams. "Basically, he's the dude that turned me onto Bad Brains, Fishbone and a whole world outside of the NY hip-hop I grew up on. He epitomized Afro-punk then, and he still does."

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