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Gainesville Punk Scene Provides Creative Outlet Beyond Traditional Norms

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A microphone cord hangs from a pipe in the ceiling of a warehouse. It hangs directly above a drum set and is held in position by a black string tied to a cinder block.

The aroma of cigarette smoke fills the room. Bass and guitar quickly accompany the sound of a snare.

UV-TV identifies as some form of a punk band. They hold strong views about creating music based on social constructs rather than focusing on emotions.

The front person of the band is a recently graduated 24-year-old woman.

UV-TV records their album in their warehouse studio on May 26, 2015. Rose Vastola, 24, began playing bass a few years ago with her boyfriend and UV-TV guitarist, Ian Bernacett, 25, and 22-year-old drummer, Matt Brotton.
UV-TV records their album in a warehouse studio on May 26. Rose Vastola, 24, began playing bass a few years ago with her boyfriend, UV-TV guitarist Ian Bernacett, 24, and 24-year-old drummer, Matt Brotton. Camila Guillen / WUFT News

Rose Vastola, UV-TV singer and University of Florida fine arts graduate, said her experience as a woman in a punk band is one of the most rewarding she’s ever had.

She was first attracted to the music scene because there didn’t seem to be a place for her to fit in, Vastola said. She wanted to find a place in the male-dominated subculture.

“I’ve always been drawn to very physical things,” she said. “Punk and skateboarding are two worlds that are traditionally male-dominated and you’re only as good as you make yourself be.”

Vastola believes feminism is paving the way for women in these subcultures. More girls step on to the stage and play because they see other women being successful.

“Gainesville has a huge support group that is unlike any other community I’ve ever been a part of that welcomes friendliness and creativity regardless of gender,” Vastola said. “People come back to Gainesville because of that support and that openness to creative projects.”

Generations before her cannot understand this new music era, she said. Her family questions her decision to remain in Gainesville to pursue a future with the band.

“I find it more important to pursue what you want rather than get the job straight out of college,” Vastola said.

UV-TV is not the only band in Gainesville carrying educated, passionate women into the music field.

Vastola’s twin sister, Claire, is also heavily involved in Gainesville’s punk scene. Claire Vastola’s punk aesthetic is more apparent than Rose’s, so the two are easily distinguishable.

The 24-year-old has a pierced nose and most of her hair is shaved, except the back. Claire is working toward her associate’s degree while playing drums in Vermin, another local punk band.

“I was always interested in alternative lifestyles, but getting into the punk scene was very intimidating at first,” she said. “There were a lot of men and people that knew how to play their instruments really well.”

She said the energy of the music and the women in the scene empowered her to begin playing the drums.

“As an active punk member, I feel like I have the responsibility to correct people when they say that I’m a really good drummer for a girl,” Claire said.  “Having a platform that supports your ideas and decisions makes it easier for women to express themselves, and I feel that the punk scene in Gainesville is the perfect subculture to do that in.”

The Vastola sisters have company. Leann Averell, 30, graduated from the University of Central Florida eight years ago with a degree in romance languages. Tattoos cover her petite body.

She was born in Gainesville and has been involved in the punk scene for as long as she can remember. She is starting her own project called Exit Dust.

“For the longest time I had a mental block before I actually decided I wanted to play music,” Averell said. “It’s been an outlet for me that I’ve never had or experienced.”

She said Gainesville is an ideal area for the punk scene compared to cities like Miami, Tampa and Orlando. The punk musicians she remembers from when she was younger now own various businesses downtown like The Top, Boca Fiesta, Pop A Top and The Atlantic, she said.

“Punk is embedded in the culture.” Averell said. “Gainesville is so easily accessible and has such a huge sense of community that wants to help each other out for cheap or no money at all.”

Alexandra Casuso, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, researches the punk subculture.

“The elite create a mainstream culture to create society’s ideas and values,” Casuso said. “They do it to try and dominate the population.”

Casuso said society usually tells everyone to get ahead by obtaining a job and living the American dream.

“Some people, because of their past experiences and their socioeconomic status, cannot have access to the same resources that others may have access to,” Casuso said.

Parents of the millennial generation could identify with and find comfort in the working world, according to Casuso. More women may be involved in punk now because they are unable to find a job after graduation. The financial instability also means they may want to defer having children and identifying as mothers.

“Music is a ridiculous sense of identity,” she said. “Especially in Gainesville, because the small community is available and wanting to assist recent graduates who can’t get jobs with creative alternatives.”

“Punk music is completely anti-system.” Casuso said. “The more education you get the more issues you can talk about in your lyrics.”

Editor’s note: The headline on this article was updated from an earlier version.

About Camila Guillen

Camila is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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One comment

  1. You should cover the girls’ rock camp in Gainesville as well. I volunteered there last year and it was an amazing experience for me, the other counselors/rockers, and the young ladies that attended.

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