Punks in Peoria: Making a Scene in the American Heartland

Univ. of Illinois. (Music in American Life). Jun. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9780252043802. $125. MUSIC
Given that Peoria, IL, has a reputation as the quintessential conservative medium-size middle-American city, it’s remarkable that it also had a thriving punk scene. In this volume, Wright (editor in chief, Peoria Magazines) and Barrett (history, Del Mar Coll.; The Defiant) have profiled Peoria’s punk venues and interviewed the DIY punk rockers who performed in the city and its environs; the authors also note missed opportunities when major punk bands shied away from the city. Wright and Barrett address punk’s shock value and say that many Peorians embraced the musicians as their own and forgave some (but not all) of the scene’s outrageous behavior. The book considers the divergent situations of white and Black Peorians, including native son Richard Pryor, who has publicly discussed the role of white supremacy in forming Peoria’s “model city” image. Wright and Barrett also touch on gender and sexism in the punk scene. Peoria never threatened the primacy of New York, London, or Los Angeles as hotbeds of punk culture, but this book makes a good case for the city’s inclusion in punk history. The enlightening, entertaining text blends scholarship with anecdotes; photographs of punk rockers add to the mix.
VERDICT This title will interest punk devotees, or readers interested in the intersection of music and sociology in America from rock and roll’s emergence to the present.
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