Punk and Hardcore Music Fest Proves It’s Not Just A Boys Club Anymore

Not Just a Boys Club

In a New Yorker article that details the development of the 1980s hardcore music scene, writer Kelefa Sanneh illuminates the absence of women that would attend or perform at these shows. “Like the earlier version of New York hardcore, this one was unapologetically male-dominated,” Sanneh noted. “Wendy Eager, who edited a fanzine called Guillotine [recalled] that she found the new scene less hospitable than the old one, which, for all its vexations, had felt like home to her. ‘The whole youth crew ostracized women from hardcore, she says. ‘They wanted to be these jock guys who got into the pit.’

While the 1980s may be history, women involved in the hardcore and punk music scene are still searching for festivals that provide them an opportunity to display their immense contribution to this genre. Returning for its third year, Not Just A Boys Club continues to serve as a powerful voice for this scene. The annual event takes place this year on Saturday, November 4 between 2pm and midnight at Debonair Music Hall in Teaneck, NJ.

Singer and musician Michelle Mancuso founded the annual benefit festival in 2015, which was held at the American Legion in Warren for the first two years. Mancuso said that when she started performing in bands, “it was abundantly clear that we were the token band in every lineup. I was being mistaken for a merch girl or someone’s girlfriend, and it was very disheartening.”


Claw performs at Not Just a Boys Club (Photo credit: Michelle Mancuso)

Those who frequent Maplewood’s Cedar Ridge Cafe know Mancuso to be a vital member of the staff as both the manager and head baker. Mancuso is well-known for her vegan pastries which she has been serving up at the cafe as well as nearby festivals and events.

In 2015, Mancuso began planning an event which would “showcase women in punk, women meaning the entire spectrum of identifying as a woman.” And in addition to musicians, she wanted to provide opportunities for artists, zine writers and business owners. “This fest is meant to give women and queer folks a voice for an entire day. To be in the spotlight the entire day. To raise awareness to women’s and queer issues for the entire day. To create a sense of community, which is sometimes lost at punk and hardcore shows,” she explained.

NJABC is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization led by Mancuso and Morgan Sturgeon. However, Mancuso is quick to point out that many volunteers are now donating their time and energy to this year’s festival. She declined to take a photo for this article because she wants the focus to be placed firmly on the music and vendors.

In addition to speaking about the music, she points out that proceeds from the festival will go to the Essex County LGBT RAIN Foundation as well as the SWAG Project, an urban farm, food justice and community building project in the South Ward of Newark.

Heavt Temple

Heavy Temple performs at Not Just a Boys Club (Photo credit: Nicole Spangenburg)

In addition to 10 hours of music performed by roughly 15 punk and hardcore bands, expect local artists, vendors selling zines and DIY clothing brands, vegan food vendors and a raffle.

Mancuso has been inspired by the audience’s response to previous NJABC shows. “People coming up to us and say that it was the best live music experience,” she said. “We want to be able to cultivate that — to see smiles on people’s faces. We want to see people talking or having a drink at the bar who normally weren’t mingling and having a drink at the bar.”

Krystal Ortiz

Krystal Ortiz of Bead Fiend, a vendor at Not Just a Boys Club. (Photo credit: Nicole Spangenburg)

NJABC is planning to start a zine (a printed magazine not available online), a tape label, and a tape compilation of all the bands who are playing in the festival. “This is all throughout our new nonprofit,” said Mancuso.

When asked about her future goals for NJABC, she hopes that people will continue to come out to the show who don’t normally feel comfortable at live music events. “I hope that one day this doesn’t have to be a thing that has to happen,” she says. “I hope that people will no longer get tokenized.”

Not Just A Boys Club III takes place at on Saturday, November 4 between 2pm and midnight at Debonair Music Hall, 1409 Queen Anne Road in Teaneck, NJ. Purchase tickets online and follow Not Just a Boys Club on Facebook and Instagram. NJABC is open to all ages, although you must be 21 with an i.d. to drink.