I was, of course, too young to understand nostalgia as a neophyte punk know-it-all and hate-it-all-or-most-of-it-anyway, too green (sometimes literally) to get why anyone would pay to see punk legends of yore. We’re talking 1995-98 here. I remember Agent Orange and Angry Samoans seemed to play in the Bay Area monthly, and I liked “Bloodstains” and Inside My Brain
as much as the next geeky, just-barely-not-a-midget pizza-face with purple splotch-dots dyed into his misshapen skull, but I couldn’t imagine enjoying the spectacle of dudes in their early fucking 40s playing “My Old Man’s a Fatso” yet again, to the same 50 sad San Jose punks who were there last time and the time before that because the Cactus Club might be a shithole but at least it’s not mom’s basement.
How could someone in the Bay Area, I thought, pay to see the Toy Dolls at some sterile corporate club on a Friday night when bands like American Steel and Swingin’ Utters were playing some all-ages dive nearby for five bucks?
Berkeley wasn’t a benighted stretch of parchment on the musical map, a meth-scarred hamlet like Fresno where dudes who were once in Fang go to sober up or die or both. The best record store in San Francisco, the place where Maximumrocknroll
writers and “shitworkers” hung out and volunteered, was called the Epicenter
for a reason. These two cities linked by the Bay Bridge, and the slightly inferior but still semi-happening places south of them, were busy coughing up so many outrageously good bands. Who, I thought (again), are the lunatics putting the Vandals’ kids through college?
(Note: it is entirely likely that my adolescent fear of wizened punk bands is almost wholly due to my terrifying “D.I. car accident,” a seriously scary freeway spin-out that would never have happened if my friend Dave and I weren’t so inexplicably intent on seeing the outrageously mediocre D.I. at Berkeley Square.)
There’s just no way a Descendents reunion, as much as I might have dug Milo Goes to College
, was going to compete with the utterly mad sight and sound of His Hero is Gone
being drenched and nearly electrocuted after the aforementioned Epicenter’s water pipe was busted by an overexcited knucklehead.
Credits: Image from Fat Wreck Chords fatwreck.com
And was I going to fork over ten totally unearned dollars (my folks were rather generous with allowance, hence a rad record collection I could sell for rent years later) to see JFA or RKL or DRI when I could see the Locust
at Gilman Street and still have enough money to buy a Rorschach
record from that dude who ran GSL Records and was also in the VSS—which, if you ask me, was one of the best bands of the '90s, and one of most underappreciated as well, along with American Steel
, who I do believe I’ve mentioned already, but have you heard Rogue’s March
? I mean, I know it’s 12 years old, but lemme tell you, that right there is one of the best albums to ever come out of the Bay Area. In fact, it’s right up there with The Streets of San Francisco
by the Swingin’ Utters
, which just might be the best album released 15 years ago that I’m still fucking listening to and oh my fucking god I think Angry Samoans is playing a pizza parlor tomorrow! Wanna check it out? We always meant to see them, didn’t we? Like, back in the day?
Retox, featuring members of the Locust, plays Tube on Thursday, Aug. 18. 9pm. $5. 21+.
American Steel plays Branx on Friday, Aug. 19. 8pm. $12. All ages.
Rorschach plays Rotture on Saturday, Aug. 20. 9pm. $8. All ages.
Swingin’ Utters plays Dante’s on Saturday, Aug. 20. 9pm. $20. 21+.
Warcry, featuring His Hero is Gone’s Todd Burdette, plays Blackwater Records on Friday, Aug. 19. 7pm. $4. All ages.
The Epicenter closed soon after the knucklehead flooded it.
Agent Orange is probably playing somewhere. With Angry Samoans. To nostalgic suckers stuck in the past.