Ok, I have been avoiding this for long enough. It’s with clenched teeth I write this, deleting the second sentence over and over. Not sure how to say this, afraid to let out my big secret, to expose myself on the internet laid bare for all to see. Afraid to become that which you hate. The epitome of a poser, a sham, a fraud. Yes, I got into punk because Green Day was on MTV.
THERE, I SAID IT.
It’s not MY fault. Of course I wish I had an older brother that could have ushered me into it, a mentor with ripped black jeans and a Crimpshrine shirt that reeked of unfiltered camels playing me the second side of My War by Black Flag on his beat up record player he got from the goodwill. It would have been much more preferable to have a sister back home from college with the side of her head shaved, converse all stars with feminist manifestos written on them in sharpie who would toss me a Bratmobile cassette tape as she went to her room. These would be much cooler origin stories to tell here rather than I saw Greenday in the bright sunshine at the Shoreline Amphitheatre on the Lollapalooza tour while sipping on a “smart drink” that I bought at the concession stand. Years later I would reconcile all this, you have to start somewhere and you can’t always help where you start. And you know what? Dookie is a great album and Green Day has arguably done a lot for a scene that shut them out over the years. All I know is that it’s very likely you hated them and me back in 94′ and if that wasn’t enough to do it, my SKA phase later on certainly wouldn’t have helped. But I digress.
1994 was a hard time for punk. There was a big punk rock boom and the small scene you had all so carefully cultivated and curated was suddenly being infiltrated by kids with long Manic Panic dyed red hair down to their jawline wearing a Nirvana In Utero shirt two sizes too big along with their Jnco jeans three sizes too big and their brand new Doc Marten boots they bought at hot topic. Oh that sounds oddly specific you say? Well that’s because that is the exact outfit I wore to 924 Gilman Street for the first time! Imagine the sneers as me and my friend in his Sublime 40oz to Freedom shirt entered into those hallowed grounds. A club we only knew existed because of an article about the new punk rock craze in the Daily Review newspaper. 924 Gilman was a place where kids of any age for five dollars (along with a two dollar membership fee) could go see bands two nights a week.
That first Gilman show was Yellow, The Bob Weirdos, Subincision, and The Winona Ryders. There are a couple heavy hitters in that line up for sure, but it will forever be The Bob Weirdos that made the strongest impression on me that night. I could be wrong but I remember them barely being able to play their instruments, something I would passionately embrace for the next decade as I played in bands. While it was not grand they did have a sense of the theatrical as they began to empty bottle after bottle of shampoo onto the concrete floor creating the world’s filthiest slip and slide, likely the first time some of the crust punks had seen soap in months as they began to run and slide across the floor crashing to the ground. It was right around the time that the lead singer sprayed lighter fluid all over his pants, lit it on fire, and jumped up and down scream singing “I am on fire” that my entire worldview of what punk rock was about shifted. It wasn’t about slick music videos, or well produced albums, It was fun and messy and raucous and literally dangerous and it was definitely for me.