924 Gilman has quite a bit of history. I'm not going to cover everything. but with a few broad strokes I hope to get the gist of it across. Let me preface this by saying that I am a regular, voted-in member of the worker cooperative that is 924 Gilman (although legally known as the Alternative Music Foundation). I've worked there for about a year, at the time of this writing, and what I'm about to describe comes from conversations I've had with old-timers, or the documentaries and books about the venue I've read.
In the mid 80's, a man named Tim Yohannan had a twinkle in his eye, he wanted to create an all ages punk club in the SF Bay Area. He had the backing of a major zine, Maximum Rock and Roll, but he had no place, for he wanted the club to be IN San Francisco.
An east bay punk, Victor Hayden, had a similar idea (all ages punk venue), and had found this warehouse in Berkeley, but he didn't have the financial wherewithal to get the club off the ground. He also had visions of this club being a haven from all the violence in the scene at the time, for in the mid 80's the east bay had a large violent nazi/skinhead punk sector, and they liked to fuck shit up.
So as if by fate Tim Y. and Victor collided, and compromised, and signed the lease on 924 Gilman from the owner of the Caning Shop. From the beginning, they were above board with all involved. They had to have a space where people knew what was going on, and allowed it, instead of hiding. This theme of openness and legality created some hurdles, however.
The lease was signed in April 1986, but 8 month's hard work and $40,000 had to be sunk into the space before it could legally open. The 924 Gilman Street Project got final approval the afternoon of their first show, New Year's Eve, 1986/1987. Impulse Manslaughter, Christ on Parade, Silkworms, AMQA, and Soup played.
It was wonderful. Amazing. Awesome. People worked together as never before seen in the East Bay Punk Scene. If the skinheads showed up, they were repelled by the whole audience, they weren't going to put up with that crap any more. As such, they set up some club bylaws that hold to this day:
Anyone who doesn't care to follow this rather simple set of rules, they don't care to have in the club.
Anyway, so Tim Y. and Maximum Rock and Roll had their punk rock eden for a year, but in 1988, they felt that too few people were volunteering to do the day to day jobs, and Tim Y felt he was doing more than his fair share of the work, so he quit. He felt that it failed.
But the punk rock kids, impertinant as they are, wouldn't accept that, and convinced Maximum Rock and Roll to donate the sound system to them to keep the place open, under the new (and current) name, The Alternative Music Foundation. It has survived continuously since.
Alright, enough history
Gilman Street is in an industrial neighborhood, full of businesses and warehouses. 924 is no exception; it's a warehouse. From the outside, you'll see a large sign on the wall advertising The Caning Shop, which lives in the back, and is a basket weaving/chair caning store, and also is owned by our landlord. The building may be a little dirty, but the first serious clue about the nature of the club comes if you look in the windows; they're dirty on the inside, the blinds are broken, and there's graffiti everywhere. Much of the carpentry inside was done by punks in a hurry, and looks that way. There are tags, murals, pieces, and all sorts of other things drawn on the walls inside (some of the murals date back to the 80's).
Basic idea of the layout:
| | | | |
| Stage!!!! |_|_| |
| oo Bands generally |
| ooooo put their stuff |
| ooooo here. |
| ooooo ___________|
___|ooooo | |
Side door | Sound Loft|
(Mosh in this region) |Actually a |
| |balcony, |
| | |this is |
| | |restricted |
| | |access. |
| | <- Merch tables |___________|
| | |
| | Men's |
| | | Restroom |
| | | |
| | |___________|
| | | |
| | _________ | Women's |
| | |Sound | | Restroom |
| | Booth | |
| | |
|--- --------------- ---------------|
| | Membership | The Office |
|The "Stoar" | cards here |Booking boards|
|Food, drink,| | |comfy couches,|
|and earplugs| V ___ |security, and |
|available at| Pay a computer |
|cost | | Here |
So, yes, 924 Gilman is a worker-owned cooperative, but you're a member if you've bought a membership card, which is good for a year (it used to be a lifetime membership, but things change). There are "membership meetings" the first and third saturdays of every month, at 5 PM in the club, which are open to all comers, though to vote you have to have come to a meeting before.
But there're also "Gilman Workers" who have been voted on by the collective to do certain jobs for the club, such as Sound, Booking, Store (aka Stoar), coordinating the night's show (the Coordinator, thencely), Stage Manager, and Security. All but the last are strictly volunteer jobs, because as the axiom goes: "No one will take a punch in the face for free."
Gilman Workers have keys to things around the club, get in to all shows for free, and get a guest list spot for any show they work. They also get free coffee from the stoar, but that's not really a perk, if you've tasted the coffee. They also (every one of them, not just security) have the authority to throw anyone out for the night, if they really deem it neccessary, but that's rare. Only security can 86 someone for good.
Speaking of 86ing, if you ever find yourself 86ed, all you have to do if you want to come back is come to a Membership Meeting, and bring it up, talk with the membership about coming back, and more than likely they'll let you back in. Unless you're still a crackhead or something.
Anyway, I'm spent. For more information, check out www.924gilman.org though for a more complete listing of shows I recommend www.foopee.com which has a listing of the whole bay area.