Cover for WRIGHT & BARRETT: Punks in Peoria: Making a Scene in the American Heartland. Click for larger image

Punks in Peoria

Making a Scene in the American Heartland

Punk rock culture in a preeminently average town

Synonymous with American mediocrity, Peoria was fertile ground for the boredom- and anger-fueled fury of punk rock. Jonathan Wright and Dawson Barrett explore the do-it-yourself scene built by Peoria punks, performers, and scenesters in the 1980s and 1990s. From fanzines to indie record shops to renting the VFW hall for an all-ages show, Peoria's punk culture reflected the movement elsewhere, but the region's conservatism and industrial decline offered a richer-than-usual target environment for rebellion. Eyewitness accounts take readers into hangouts and long-lost venues, while interviews with the people who were there trace the ever-changing scene and varied fortunes of local legends like Caustic Defiance, Dollface, and Planes Mistaken for Stars. What emerges is a sympathetic portrait of a youth culture in search of entertainment but just as hungry for community—the shared sense of otherness that, even for one night only, could unite outsiders and discontents under the banner of music.

A raucous look at a small-city underground, Punks in Peoria takes readers off the beaten track to reveal the punk rock life as lived in Anytown, U.S.A.

"Punks in Peoria isn’t just a deep, heartfelt dive into the punk subculture of America’s quintessential small city. It’s an exquisite map of how music flows through social structures and between generations. Essential reading for anyone interested in how art impacts life.”--Jason Heller, author of Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-fi Exploded

"Punks in Peoria is free of jargon, centers the stories of the people who actually helped build the scene, and speaks to the experiences of the small cities and towns that have been the lifeblood of punk rock in the United States. It is a model for good research on punk."--Zack Furness, author/editor of Punkademics: The Basement Show in the Ivory Tower


Jonathan Wright is a writer, editor, musician, and longtime veteran of the Peoria music scene. He is editor in chief at Peoria Magazines. Dawson Barrett is an associate professor of history at Del Mar College. His books include The Defiant: Protest Movements in Post-Liberal America.

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