National Geographic : 2004 May
WHITESBURG, KENTUCKY soon I realized that they were kids who had a passion for life and a passion for making changes in the world." The wild-looking kids turned out to be innocent: no fights, no arrests for drink or drugs at any concerts. One show offered "free vegan cake." The songs are pro-environment, pro-youth, and, often, Christian, with titles like "Those Who Will Not Falter" and "Against the Dying of the Light." "We write songs that come from the heart," says Gary Bentley, the drummer of If I Die Tonight. "We've been called a positive youth band." Youth Bored concerts often attract those who don't fit in, says Ada Smith, a fan at the garage rehearsal. "There are so many kids at school who'll be made fun of for how they look, but they know they can come to shows and be accepted for who they are." Ada's taken up the electric bass and is thinking of forming "an all-girl punk band, or I might join up with three guys I know. That would be more folk punk, or thrash. Caravans from Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky converge on Whitesburg for one of many concerts sponsored by Youth Bored. "A lot of kids grow up expecting to fail:, says Will Dodson, 25, who helped start Youth Bored. "Our big tasks are to illuminate their options, excite them, and not let them despair." "A lot of people in the community think, Those kids are not respect ing the deep mountain heritage we have," Ada says. But punk, she main tains, voices the same concerns as the mountain folk songs picked out on the banjo by her friend Stacie's grandfather and other traditional Appalachian musicians-the hard life, the exploitation, the destruction of the environment. Stacie herself honored the old music so much that she moved to Whites burg from Hazard to learn from her grandfather. Now she's toying with the idea of fitting banjo into a punk band. Ada may join her on bass. O WEBSITE EXCLUSIVE Hear the sound of Whitesburg's music, from traditional Appalachian to punk rock, courtesy of Appalshop and Youth Bored. Find more 41858 images along with field notes and resources at nationalgeographic.com/magazine/0405.