In 1975 Punk took over San Francisco. Punk hit San Francisco before it hit Los Angeles, and even though their music scenes are often lumped together their differences are vast. The new music genre created a scene that gave alternative culture a previously unseen visibility. Independent record labels, independent zines, and independent clothes all supported Punk as much as Punk supported them. More so than ever, San Francisco was connected together by a common cause. A new DIY attitude created an organic art space that sprung from the streets out of necessity. Artists and mindful learners came together to create something, anything, that gave their life and drive to contribute meaning. Punk was all-inclusive and despite the now mass-marketed clothes, there was no uniform and requirements.
Historically, New York City and Los Angeles have been record label hubs; mass marketing and large corporate funds neglected San Francisco Art because they unrightfully thought they could. While they didn’t need San Francisco to pay their bills, there is no denying San Francisco’s overwhelming contribution to art and culture. Since San Francisco is so much smaller than other big-city Punk Scenes, the bands got more attention from their scene. They had to carefully turn their art into Art. The bands that came out of San Francisco during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s were the most politically goaled and best dressed in cold weather.
Several bands (like The Avengers and The Mutants) met at the San Francisco Art Institute, which gave them both a formal education and an accurate understanding of art. Other cities that had Punk scenes neglected the fact that not all DIY inspired creativity is art.
Now, 40 years later those who missed out can be there for a rare recreation of the magic that can never bloom-full again. A small group of first era Punks and volunteers, nicknamed “The Punk Rock Sewing Circle,” have organized a week long multimedia festival celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Punk.
Michael Reid was a 70’s Punk, booked shows at the Mabuhay Gardens for five years, and is one of the many in the Circle that has dedicated countless hours and resources to coordinate these and other events for the community. He told BRASHcore the community’s importance in making the Punk Rock Festival all it can be:
“One of the big things about Punk Rock was there was no gap between the audience and the band members. Both were equally important, and you couldn’t have one without the other. The Scene supported itself… Bands needed people who took photographs; the photographers needed bands to photograph. Band members needed clothing designers; the clothing designers needed people to wear their clothes. It all went hand and hand.”
A true San Francisco rarity: an event put on by the people for the people. The event is organized with no profit making motive; the event are organized out of love. The hope is to break even on the overhead expenses; the tickets are priced at a loss so this is unlikely.
Just like the original Punk Scene, the 40th Anniversary Festival includes crucial elements from live music and photography to rare films, zines, performance art, and spoken word. Wednesday is dedicated to the Punk Scene’s support beams. In the afternoon, at the San Francisco Public Library, “THE POWER of the WORD: FANZINES and the PIONEERING OF PUNK ROCK JOURNALISM” takes place. There will be a star studded panel that will elucidate on how they got their messages out there.
Wednesday evening is the Opening Extravaganza at Public Works. Centered on the creative arts, the centerpiece is the opening of the punk photography gallery show, Tunnel Vision. Ruby Ray, who first documented Punk when she was the Artistic Director for Search & Destroy magazine, is the curator of this exhibit of rare and never before shown photographs of the early punk scene. Featured photographers range from Vincent Anton, Richard Alden Peterson, and Sue Brisk to Joe Truck, Jack Johnson, George Sera, Kamera Zie, and Ruby Ray. During the first part of the evening rare punk films will be screened including recently discovered archival footage of the Deaf Club. Titled Deaf Punk and filmed by Richard Gaikowski, this footage is being loaned for the one night screening by Richard’s estate. The Deaf Club was a San Francisco club for deaf people that gladly opened their doors and booked punk shows. The deaf people welcomed the punks with open arms. Live music by Gimme Danger (Stooges Tribute band) and an early era dance party closes this outstanding evening.
Some of the bands that we are most looking forward to:
The Mutants (SF). The Mutants were a highly original art band; like a more perfect B-52’s with an edge and a genuine Punk and artistic drive. They have three lead singers, two guitarists, pop sensibilities, and punk lyrics (“Business people with long hair/hiding plastic things everywhere/recording shows while they’re not there/once they’ve got it, they don’t care”). Their only album, “Fun Terminal,” is a neglected classic that could have made San Francisco the art-punk powerhouse it deserved to be.
The Deadbeats (LA). The Deadbeats were a Los Angeles punk band self-labeled as “Dada-Space-Punk-Jazz.” This is their first gig in San Francisco. They feature Geza X, a multi-instrumentalist whose biggest claim to fame is his production credits for bands like the Dead Kennedys, Meredith Brooks, Black Flag, the Bags, and countless others.
Cheetah Chrome (NYC). Cheetah Chrome gained his initial notoriety when he was in the Dead Boys. The Dead Boys were a legendary CBGB Punk band that showed any boy with a dream can create something that endures.
The Avengers (SF). The Avengers played the Sex Pistols’ last show. They are fronted by Penelope Houston who has endured the San Francisco music scene since her Avengers’ days. The Avengers were a teenage-punk band with political goals.
Frightwig (SF). Frightwig were the true pioneers in women-punk. They were a major catalyst behind the Riot Girl Movement. You have probably seen the picture of Kurt Cobain wearing their band shirt. They are playing their own gig, and one night they are backing up Alice Bag (LA), formerly of the Bags, another mover and shaker who gave Chicano-Rock a face in Punk music.
Quotes and Interviews:
GEZA X: I recorded many of the top, indie and underground bands of the West Coast. I love the studio, and I love recording, and I love underground music, so you know… It wasn’t like a moneymaker, but it was artistically a marriage made in heaven. It was exactly what I wanted. It was low bucks, you know, very low bucks, but the underground always took care of me. There was always a floor to sleep on, there was always love… there was a lot of community spirit. It was really fun, and active time to be making these tiny, little 45 RPM ghetto records.
The scene imploded on itself from the craziness. The craziest of the crazies were in Punk Rock. You have these people who had criminal tendencies, and mental problems, but we all just loved each other and forgave everything. You have to remember that there was genuine and extreme poverty. Everyone merged together in this self-imposed poverty; the clothing, the fashion, everything was a reflection of that. We got all our clothes at thrift stores, and made our own records, makeup, and hair dye (we would use rug die to color our hair). People tend to forget, because Punk fashion was rather attractive, that it was really dark and noir and born out of poverty. Culturally, these kids didn’t have a chance. That is why there is international interest in it, and of course the level of art it is… It came out of nowhere and it was an outsider movement. It has remained this way forever…
[Punk] spread its roots laterally and reerupted in places like Seattle, Austin, and San Diego. Consequently, it continued to remain underground. None of us had our moment of glory except a few safe bands like X or the Dickies, and of course the more New Wavey East Coast bands. West Coast Punk (including San Francisco) was really important, and never got the light of day. My feeling is that the reason Punk continues to reemerge and has achieved this museum level status is because of [its initial neglect]. It has become, now 40 years after Punk, the new Delta Blues. The people who were instrumental in creating that scene are now obscure, DIY legends
After all this time I felt I didn’t get that much recognition, I was partly behind the scenes partly on stage, but never really had a successful band or anything. I’m mostly known for my production work, but I’ve done a lot of different things. I’ve written for Spin, taught production at UCLA…
Punk Rock has drawn a lot of interest because so many things about it are unique compared to the 1960’s. It wasn’t as known as the 1960’s or as widespread; it was underground and more crazy and dispersing. It was dark and nourish, even though there was a lot of love within the community. We all felt the desperation; we wanted a chance but we realized we weren’t gonna get one. In some ways, ironically, that’s what kept it relevant. It remained a true underground subculture. We created the DIY Movement, we created Alternative Rock; it was all because of Punk Rock. We created all the graphics you see these days, the rough hue. Our influences are everywhere, including what you see on TV and movies.
I was up in San Francisco almost every weekend. I spent just as much time in the San Francisco scene as I did in LA (people even thought I lived there).
BRASHcore: When did you move to San Francisco?
Michael Reid: I unleashed myself on this continent in 1979.
BRASHcore: How did you hear about San Francisco?
Michael Reid: That’s interesting. When I was living in London I used to live around Portobello Road. Rough Trade [record store] opened up close to where I was working. I went over there on my lunch hour and people would just hang out there. At this time it was just a small record store, a Punk store. They carried all these magazines like Search & Destroy, and I would go there in the afternoon. They put on this ’45 once and it turned out to be “Suicide Child” by the Nuns. I was like “WOW, this is the best song Iggy [Pop] never recorded.”
About 1978, a whole bunch of people from San Francisco came to England (like Ruby [Ray], who was a photographer for Search & Destroy, Ivy her best friend, and a bunch of other people). I was in a band called The Criminals, and Ruby interviewed us. Through them, I learned about the Mabuhay and various other clubs in the San Francisco Scene. Move forward in time to 1979, when the whole Punk thing in England had imploded, things were getting bad in England. It was a cold winter and there were ambulance, electricity and garbage strikes. It was like something out of a Dickens book. It was time to go. As I had met these people from San Francisco I was really interested in what was happening there, and the weather was nicer.
BRASHcore: Was the Mabuhay Gardens the first venue to support the Punk Scene?
Michael Reid: In San Francisco, without a doubt the Mab was the first venue to support the Punk Scene. I heard Mary Monday and Jerry Paulson were the first two people to start shows. Sometime in 1977 Dirk Dirksen came in, love him or hate him he made the Mabuhay the CBGB’s of the West Coast. Dirk booked punk bands into the Mabuhay, he provided a regular standing outlet for punk bands to play. During that period of time, the police were closing down venues, punk bands needed a stable outlet. By providing an ongoing stable outlet, The Mabuhay supported the punk scene by providing a regular venue for everyone from the band that formed on Tuesday and played a couple of weeks later, to bigger names like the Dead Kennedys, Blondie, and Devo. The Mab was an central incubator of talent; artists musicians, scene members all gathered together at the Mab sharing friendship, creativity, and creating new visions for the present and future. Not only was the Mab the first, it was one of the most important and enduring punk venues.
In 1982 Dirk moved upstairs to the On Broadway. I was in the Mabuhay and was talking to Ness about my work with Wes Robinson (Eastern Front festival, Ruthies Inn in Berkeley), booking bands and he asked if I would start booking bands on his new Monday Night Punk /Free Spaghetti Dinner nights. I booked bands on Mondays for a short time, then I fanangled booking Social Distortion on a Monday. After the success of Social Distortion, I was given one weekend a month to book and ultimately ended up booking every weekend (at least one night per weekend) In addition to punk we booked goth, industrial, post punk- The Works. Around 1985, I passed the reins( somewhat) to my long time assistant David Kaplan as I wanted to spend more time with one of my bands, Our Lady Of Pain. The guitar player/singer Alin Black was responsible for starting live music at Nightbreak.
BRASHcore: Why did the Mabuhay get the notoriety that it did?
Michael Reid: Maybe notorious is not the best term; it was both infamous and famous at the same time. The quality and quantity of the bands that came out of the Mab made it a legendary venue. You have to look at all the many bands that came out of the Mab from Metallica to The Dead Kennedys. No one can deny its influence. Other clubs came and went like The Deaf Club, Temple Beautiful, 330 Grove, Tool And Die to name a few. Remember those Live At Max’s and CBGB’s comps? It’s a massive loss we never had a “Live At The Mabuhay” compilation on a major label like Sire. The Mabuhay occupies a place in punk history where the myth of greatness wasn’t a myth, the Mab was a truly great venue, a star amongst stars. ‘
The Mabuhay lasted from 76 to 87/88, that is really an incredibly long time for a punk club, I cannot off the top of my head think of any other clubs that lasted that long. Now, it’s a Gentlemans Club. We actually did consider it a couple of times for an event, and as much as I myself would love to do something there, I do not think in its current incarnation it would lend itself. As Tom Wolfe said “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
BRASHcore: Is the Punk Rock Sewing Circle doing anything to archive San Francisco’s history?
Michael Reid: We are like the forgotten generation. By organizing these events, we are bringing together some of the surviving members of the community. It would be arrogant to say that we speak for the community, we are part of not the spokesman. We’re providing a platform for the performers, the artists, the bands, and members of the community to come together on a large scale. The events sometimes spark memories and lead to additional creativity and sharing of the history. Everyone who takes out and shares their photographs, flyers, or writes a narrative is documenting our history. Some photographers put away their negatives after the late 70’s; we’re trying to provide a platform for those photos to be viewed. Photographers like Bobby Castro, Sue Brisk, and George Sera (just examples there are countless others) have hundreds if not thousands of rare negatives they took during the period but were never shown. Punk Films, flyers, and art has been tucked away. Hopefully, someone with greater resources than we have will help to bring these resources out on a greater scale. On a minor scale, we are trying to link individuals who have punk collections with the SFPL, who has a new punk collection so that our history can be preserved. People who were there during the first era, gather together at the events and share a common creative energy. We are just a small wheel in the machine hoping to further connections in our community. Different theme from sub genres within punk music to an evening focused on photography and the visual arts. You can’t isolate the art form the music, each of the live music nights has punk art included. We wished we could have done more. We had planned for a night of post punk since we have brilliant post punk bands like Thrill of the Pull and Chrome but we lost out on the venue. That was hard. Reality is: this has been highly ambitious; we are a small group of opinionated volunteers drawn from different parts of the punk world trying to organize this week in our spare time. We dont always agree and we needed more hands on deck so to speak but ultimately this week will be a celebration of early punk culture.
BRASHcore: How will the 40th Anniversary Festival be different than your previous Punk Reunion events?
Michael Reid: Well punk turns 40 for a start. I guess in the eyes of the mainstream media they would say 1977, but ‘75 was when the first bands emerged, (save NYC who always had their own thing going since 74). We are celebrating the match that lit the fuse. In the past we held events over the course of one weekend at one venue. This weeklong festival is a series of events spread thoughout the city in a number of different venues. Each night concentrates on a different aspect of punk; from musical sub genres to a night of film and photography. We broke up things more than we have in the past, the main Punk Rock Sewing Circle events all still have photography or art included but photograph and the films have a chance to shine on their own. In 2013, we had film in a U- Haul, this year we will be able to give it a more proper viewing in the wide screen of Public Works. There’s a night of live music of traditional old school punk on Saturday at the Verdi and a more art band night at 111 Minna. We joined with Eli’s to co-produce a night of East Bay punk bands, and Scott Alcoholocaust is organizing a night of new punk bands under our banner. All in all it’s been a very ambitious year, particularly as we are a small band of volunteers. We wanted to do truly celebrate the 40th Anniversary, hopefully people will enjoy themselves and the bands and artists will get some recognition for their talents.
The term “Punk Rock” was first used to describe this movement in the December 1975 issue of Jon Holstrom’s Punk mag, prior to that the term has been used to describe 60’s garage/psych bands. Patti Smith’s “Horses” debuted in Sept 1975, so yes its “happy 40th birthday Punk Rock”.
BRASHcore: Who were your favorite bands out of San Francisco?
Michael Reid Wow can I say all of them? Let me dial back a bit and go back to old Blighty (London). In 1975, there were a few bands like The Heavy Metal Kids, Cock Sparrer, Doctors Of Madness, and The Hollywood Brats. Technically there were really the first Punk bands, like the Small Faces by way of Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist). People took from them in some way or another, Lydon took everything from Gary Holton (HMK) and Ian Dury, The Clash (previously Violent Luck and then The Heartthrobs) took from the Pistol’s and reworked the image and stance into the old working class hero/urban guerrilla chic. By 1977 London was awash with so many bands with spikey hair, torn stenciled shirts or paint splattered Pollack like jumpsuits, they all sang about being on the dole and how bored they were. Sadly by them becoming legion many good bands, like The Boy’s, were engulfed in the flood and probably denied the chance to make their mark as the many bands who sang about being bored became boring and killed it for the few decent bands who suffered from guilt by association.
By contrast across the pond in the City by the Bay by virtue of being so much smaller, bands had a much better chance to stand out and reaped the benefits of a more stable club scene. San Francisco produced a plethora of amazingly talented bands, many with a great visual flare. But being a small town with a local media still salivating over a “big ol jet airliner” and “tequila sunrises “ the stance of “ignore them and they’ll go away” was adopted. By the time the media did catch on in the ‘80’s bands like The Dil’s, Sleepers, Negative Trend and Uxa were no more. Tuxedo Moon had embarked to Europe, The Avengers, and The Mutants would survive in one form or another. A second wave with Frightwig, Flipper, and the Toiling Midgets would emerge, suffer similar pains and would also hold the line. No Alternative, The Vktm’s and The Lewd would persevere also. If you could go back in time to say 1980 and The Mutants are at the Mab, would you really expect to see Mutants, Vktm’s, Avengers, or the Lewd in 2015? No, but here we are! So to the initial question all of them really, they all bought something special.
Speaking of The Lewd, here is Bob Click:
Bob Clic: We haven’t had to worry about commercial problems because it’s not a commercial event. We want our friends to show up. We want people who care about Rock to show up. It’s not necessarily for the average Rock fan, although we are happy with anyone who comes.
BRASHcore: How did you get involved in the Punk Rock Sewing Circle? How did the group start?
Bob Clic: It all started on Facebook at the Mabuhay Gardens’ group page. Someone suggested the general idea of doing a show and having everyone come; just how cool it would be. It spiraled after that… I was asked to join right away.
BRASHcore: Is this the first year you guys have done a multimedia event?
Bob Clic: No, we did videos in the past. At the “Homecoming Show” we had a moving truck come up and had a video screen with chairs set up inside it. It was parked right outside the Verdi Club. There was a loop of 5 or 6 movies… Everyone checked it out at some point. So, yes, we have done film before. We are doing a lot more this time at the Public Works.
BRASHcore: When did the Lewd form?
Bob Clic: Oh boy, the Lewd started around 1977 (maybe slightly earlier) in Seattle.
BRASHcore: Were you from Seattle too?
Bob Clic: I am from Akron, Ohio. I was already here [in San Francisco], in the Punk Scene and the Lewd moved here in 1978.
BRASHcore: Were you in a band before the Lewd?
Bob Clic: I was in a few bands, just small ones. Nothing really… The Lewd fell in my lap. I met the guitar player, Blobbo, and he said, “We need a bass player.” I volunteered after that.
BRASHcore: Can you talk about the Lewd’s theatrical background? Weren’t they in a theatre troupe in Seattle?
Bob Clic: Sats [Beret] was, previous to the Lewd. You are going back to the early-mid 1970’s. Sats was in a performance troupe called Ze Whiz Kids in Seattle. They played San Francisco and played shows around the West Coast. They opened for bands like the New York Dolls, Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop all along the West Coast. One of the other members was Tomata [Du Plenty] from the Screamers. He and Sats were good friends.
BRASHcore: Is Sats still in SF, are you still in SF?
Bob Clic: Yes we both are. I talked to him yesterday; we are going to start rehearsing soon because we have that show coming up.
BRASHcore: Can you talk more about the lineup that is playing? Is it the one that you have been playing with recently?
Bob Clic: The one this year has Blobbo in it. We are doing the original band that I joined. The only difference is the original drummer is gone. We are going to use our current drummer. I am going to play bass instead of guitar and Blobbo is going to play guitar. We are doing the original San Francisco lineup from 1978/1979.
BRASHcore: I thought you were a guitarist…
Bob Clic: I am a guitar player and I have been one all my life. I played bass in bands in the mid-70’s and the 1980’s and switched to guitar when Blobbo left.
I left Akron, Ohio and came to California when I was 15 and came to San Jose. I was there when Punk started.
BRASHcore: Is this the lineup that recorded the “American Wino” album?
Bob Clic: No, no. This is the lineup before it. It’s the lineup that’s on the “Live at the Mab” record.
BRASHcore: What was your favorite neighborhood to go out to when Punk was happening, and what do you think of that neighborhood when you go out to it now?
Bob Clic: I liked North Beach to go out to. I wouldn’t want to live there. It was a lot crazier then, there were a lot of clubs. A lot of the Blues clubs are still open, but the Rock ones are gone. It’s mostly stripping, naked girls there now too.
BRASHcore: Why do you think the Blues clubs have endured and the Rock clubs haven’t?
Bob Clic: The bands that plays there are not touring bands, they are local musicians jamming. It’s a whole different scene. Since Punk rock I spent time doing the blues jams… It’s good for your playing and fun, but it’s not the only thing I do. I much more enjoy doing original music.
Post by August Bernadicou
Edited by everyone in San Francisco
Photo of Geza X by Michael Yampolsky