The mission is terminated.
Drove up to San Francisco in the Chrysler, headed for Kezar Pavillion to see Throbbing Gristle, over an hour driving up to the City, from the sun up to the fog.
We meet Toby in front of Kezar, he's got the tickets. Into the building, it's just like an old gym...bleacher seats, peeling paint, hard flat walls, reek of socks. Nothing plush, a perfect venue. I'm excited, not only do we get to see TG, but Flipper is playing too! Local punks on heroin, always a charm. I'd seen them a bunch of times but this was cool, they were opening for an actual famous industrial band. Flipper was in fine form that night, loud and grindy and insidious. They showed a film where they hacked up a dead seal with a chainsaw on the roof of a building near the ocean. Their house, someone told me. Flipper got right in your face though, they did. Flipper was loud. Filled the room with sound so full there was no talking, voice volume had no meaning against the size of Flipper.
Punk shows, noize shows, industrial and experimental music shows always bring me home to my body. The size of the sound! The word volume to describe the level of sound becomes so much more more sensible when you've heard bass so loud it makes your lungs rattle, lets you know the thickness of your own skull. I can only listen in that sound, it is palpable, fills the unseen spaces, opens the cracks and lodges inside. I'll usually find a spot to the side, where I can watch the performers and the audience. I don't need the crowd, I need to see the crowd.
When Throbbing Gristle took the stage, I'd found my spot, high enough in the bleachers that I could see the stage from the front and the side, see Genesis P-Orridge working the audience, driving the energy of his voice through the assembled. I've never met a more charismatic human, no-one more able to read those around him and fill their voids with his perceptions. This makes for a pretty powerful performer, watching Gen play the crowd was fascinating.
The music was even more enveloping than Flipper's, TG having the audacity to force more on top of more, sound on drone, Cosey blasting her coronet over and under and through. A haunting version of Persuasion. I was enchanted. The set was over too soon. As things turned out, it was their last live show ever.
On the way out of Kezar, the buzz was that down at the 10th Street Hall you could get a buck off the entry price if you showed your TG ticket stub. Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and the Dead Kennedys were playing. We figured if we headed right downtown, we'd get there before the DK went on, for sure.
10th Street Hall was an old wooden church meeting room with a high peaked roof, tiny stage, and big gothic-arch windows along either side. The windows had deep sills, and you could climb up there to stand, best view in the house. The church would rent it out for punk shows to raise some extra cash.
The place was going off when we arrived, showed our stubs and got our discount. We walked to the corner and bought some beers before going back into the place. I clambered up into a windowsill to watch while most of my pals joined the slam pit. Black Flag was onstage and the place was full of LA skinhead punks along with the SF variety, not a great social or philosphical mix.
The hall was a pure portrait of punk that night; The floors slick with beer, kids shooting up in the bathrooms, one couple on the floor asleep, entwined in each other's arms as Rollins hollered and stomped the crowd into a frenzy.
Watching from my perch in the window, feeling drunk and content and marveling at the slice of culture I'm living tonight. The fire marshall has locked the doors, chained em up at 2am when it became clear that the show wasn't over, and no one was going to leave til it was.
The Dead Kennedys took the stage. Jello Biafra
their lead singer, had recently run for mayor
of San Francisco and come in third. Jello stalked out and ripped into their classic Nazi Punks Fuck Off
and the place went ballistic
. Jello was thrashed off the stage and just as quickly returned there by the SF punks, t-shirt shredded, kept on singing. The sleeping couple woke and stood to pogo
, the pit was slammin and Jello was just as often on the crowd as on the stage. Dead Kennedys songs are the anthems of my time then and there in San Francisco.
The heat and rumble was huge down on the floor, sound and music and words filled the tiny hall overhead. I climbed down to join and dance. San Francisco at its finest.