Panic In Detroit

greystone

I posted a blog earlier about my recollections of an incident at the Greystone Hall in Detroit on July 4th, 1987. At the time the event just seemed like part of the fabric of the odd world of punk rock touring. Recently I was asked about the blog posting by someone doing a documentary. But was my recollection the truth? Considering this was over 30 years ago, I went back to primary sources for another experiment on the accuracy of memory. And as always with Tom and Greg, hilarity ensues:

C: (starting off with my memory of the incident) For me, I was upstairs so all I heard was the bang, and the building kinda shook, and then you (Greg) ran upstairs.

Tom: First of all, were you (Carmela) getting or giving someone a haircut?

C: I was giving one of the guys from the Electric Love Muffin a haircut. He had curly hair. And when the car hit the building, we didn’t know what was going on cause we we upstairs. But it was either the sound or the shake that scared me so much that I stabbed myself in the hand with the scissors.

T: Really?

C: Cause I was cutting his hair and I was holding out a curl, and BAM !!… it startled me. I had a fucking hole in my hand for a while. And then I think it was you (Greg) who came upstairs. And you were like “Oh my God, have you been up here the whole time?” And we’re like “Yeah what’s going on?” And you said “You missed everything!” And then you told us the story of what was going on downstairs. I think maybe some of the other Muffins ran upstairs with you because they were looking for us, or their guy.

MI0001404477

(The Electric Love Muffin, back in the day, note the guy with curly hair behind the front-man)

T: Do you want to start back earlier in the day?

C: Yeah let’s start earlier. I think the whole day was kinda a trip.

T: I don’t remember anything about the building, but I remember us showing up and getting in there. And there was Big Scary (the club promoter) and a smattering of little punk rock kids that were hanging out, all seated on the floor. And he was like “Bad news, The Descendents blew the P.A. last night”. We had been playing a lot with the Descendents so we were like “Oh man, kicked in the face by them again”. So there was gonna be no show. We were disappointed, and we had nothing to do but hang out with him all day. I do remember he said, “Oh you guys are supposed to have food, and we don’t got any food. What are you? Fucking Californians? And eat avocados?” And he was making cracks like that.

C: He called us “California Faggot Vegetarians.” Is that what you remember?

T: Yeah “Faggot vegetarians”

G: Didn’t he have salad for us?

T: He had something.

G: And wasn’t he cooking? The thing that I remember, the first memory I have is “Wow the show’s off, but it’s kinda cool the guy’s here. And he did have, I’m almost positive, some salad. Cause I remember looking at it, and it was the weirdest salad ever. Because there was like, tin foil, on this table, with salad spread out over the whole table. And there was dressing on it, and it was like, baking. Like drying. And I was vegan at the time. Weren’t they cooking meat too?

C: I thought when we pulled up, he was barbecuing.

T: He was barbecuing

C: We got out of the van, and he told us the bad news. And he was barbecuing.  And he said “ I hope none of youse are a bunch of California Faggot Vegetarians because we’re barbecuing.”  And we were all sorta like (looking at our shoes) “oh, yeah, uh….”  Nobody said anything but we were all thinking like “Oh my God…..” And I think later on you (Greg) said “Yeah, we’re all California Faggot Vegetarians”. And he said “I knew it!! I knew you would be faggot vegetarians! And that’s why I got this salad for you!” I remember there was salad.

T: There was….. quite a spread!  And immediately he’s like “We need beer for the band.” And he literally picked one of the underage punk kids up, and shook him upside down by his ankles until the change fell out of his pockets.

C: I don’t remember that.

G: That’s great!

T: So, he literally shook these kids down for money. Then we got the money. Me and Kary went in his car to the liquor store. It was my only foray into Detroit. I had a little bonding moment with him, and he was telling me like his history, and weird biker shit. And we got to the liquor store. And I remember going to a KFC, but I don’t know…..maybe that’s blurring in my brain.

G: It sounds like that would be a delicacy, if you went to KFC!

All laugh

G: And we’d be pissed.

T: Well the liquor store had the big, thick 4” glass, which you kinda see now a little more often. But then it was like, whoa, I’m not in California. “Holy Crap, what kind of war zone is this?” He was telling me how bad ass and dangerous Detroit was, and all the craziness.  I was like, simultaneously impressed and thinking “is this guy some kind of a blowhard?” at the same time.  And when we got back and later in the evening, I was like “Holy shit, this is Detroit!”

G: I just remember thinking, it was kinda of nice of him to do all this.  We could have shown up, and just been told that it was canceled. I always like it when they blame the P.A. on the band. Um, you’re twiddling the knobs there.

T: It probably was the big fucking skinhead road manager that the Descendents had. Remember that dude? That big ginger guy we had to kiss ass to all the time. He hated us.

G: I thought the club name was Graceland.

C: Oh, I didn’t even remember the name of the club until I wrote the first blog.

T: Yeah till this happened. Well, what else I was gonna say about his weirdness? I can’t remember. God it’s terrible being me.

C: It’s ok, we’re all in the same boat. This was 30 years ago.

T: Well anyway, we come back (from the liquor store). So there’s beers.

G: There wasn’t a lot of people, right?

T: No there were just kids hanging out. We don’t know if they were left over from the previous night, or they showed up every night. Or they came to see us. They were young, punk rock kids and there was this big, fat biker. It was weird. So you (Carmela) started doing haircuts, and I was happy about it too. Like, this was kinda nice.

G: Yeah. It was a break.  I remember that.

T: I’ve been around some dangerous people. You know some people, when they are dangerous and drunk, you just kinda feel like anything could happen? I did not get that.

G: No,  I didn’t get that either.

T: I knew he was a bad-assed kind of guy.  I didn’t get a bad vibe from him, like it was going to go sour. Like Bob Noxious or someone like that. Like, this could get weird any second.

G; Like pulling out the knife and stabbing the air conditioner.

C: He seemed more like a Monterey Mark. A very tough guy but underneath was nice and kind.

T: Ok here’s my thing, so you guys are upstairs giving haircuts and I was downstairs. I remember sitting in a room, and I think I was against a wall. And hearing the slam, and really not knowing what it was. But for some reason, in hindsight, I knew what happened. But my memory thinks I saw the wall come in. I don’t know if that’s a false memory or not. But what I do remember is this:

BOOM!!!!!! And somebody running to the door, looking out, and coming back in and saying what happened and Kary doing this (Tom mimics someone pulling a gun out of a holster and pointing and firing.) And I don’t know where the gun came from, but he stood up and drew it like “HUZZZZZAAAAAAAHHHHH” Like a pirate that pulls his sword.

And all those the fucking Detroit kids hit the ground like they’d been practicing it, you know.  Greg and I still had beers in our hands, because we were a little hammered by that point and we’re like “What is going on??” Not knowing whether it was a joke. Later in the evening I understood there was some sort of previous friction between the guy who drove through, but I thought it was just an accident. Big Kary talked a like a bad ass, but he was a lovable guy, and now he’s kinda my new friend…..and OH MY GOD… he’s pulling a 45 or whatever that big hand cannon was. Holy cow, the kids hitting the ground was awful.

G: Do you remember the aftermath of that at all?

T: I don’t think there was much.

G: I don’t either

C: Did he fire the gun?

T: No

G: No

C: (To Greg ) Is that your same recollection (of  Tom’s account) ?

G: No.  My recollection is that I was on the main floor, it was almost like a rec hall type place, in a rectangle. I just remember a few people came running through the door, from the front door, and you could see fear on their faces. You know what I mean. And they spread out and went to the sides. And so, I ran, or we ran, or whatever. The guy (Kary) was there and he was kinda running, but like walking, and he says “Get my gun.” And he went to the office, that’s where his gun was, and he came back with it.  The car came through, but I thought someone was coming inside with a gun.

C: So, you didn’t see the car?

G: The car came through.

C: You saw it?

G: I heard it when I was running. But I thought it was a person.

T: But you never saw the car.

G: I did see the car.

T: See, I just thought I saw the wall move, get shoved in.

C: You saw the wall move, and did you know what had happened?

T: Not until the kids went out and checked, or came running in like Greg said. And they said “someone ran into the place”. I don’t think anyone knew what was happening. I didn’t realize he went to the office for his gun. I thought it was in his belt or something.

G: I remember him saying that “Get my gun”, summoning somebody, ya know?

T: Those kids were his minions.

G: But I think the false memory is that it (the car) actually came through. But, you heard it, and the fear, you could see the fear in the people. Except for the guy with the gun.

T: Cause when I learned it was a car, my brain was still trying do the Canadian thing…. “No one’s upset, there’s no trouble here. There’s an accident. Someone accidentally drove through.”  I still wasn’t wrapping my head around that somebody was vengefully trying to fucking drive into the club. I thought it was just another screw up.

Imagine if that happened, if we had the show. And.. (of course, talking about false memories)….and the club was full. There probably would have been 8 more people then were there.

C: Imagine if that happened now?? He probably would have shot somebody, right? Cause nowadays if somebody was barging into a club like that, you would think it was a terrorist attack.

T: Well if it happened nowadays, Kary would have gone to jail for having a gun.  There would have been SWAT teams there for the club. The police response for anything now is so over the top then it was then. You know what I mean? It’s crazy.

G: Yeah, it’s a cliché but no fries, it’s the way we go about certain things, we come in heavy now.

T: Yeah, like helicopters

C: Did either of you guys see the person in the car?

G: No

T: No

C: Did the guy get out of the car and run away?

G:  I never saw him, …uh

T: Did the guy even leave the car? Did he pull the car out, and drive away?

G: He probably pulled it out and drove.

T: Yeah, I kinda feel like that’s right.

G: But I think we left really quickly.

T: Left? Where did we go?

C: So, after the car hit, and you saw him (Kary) pull the gun out, and everybody dropped… I guess the guy left?

G: Yeah, we went back , and he (Kary), with the gun, was walking towards the car. So you wanted to be away from that.

T: Yeah, so that’s why we went upstairs

G: Did we leave quickly or did we stick around?

T: Go where? I thought we spent that night in the club?

G: Did we sleep there?

C: I have no memory after you coming up and telling me about it. As a matter of fact, to be honest, I thought we played. I thought this all happened after we played. I don’t even remember that there was no show that night.

T: I seem to recall, just that feeling of, you (Carmela) being really upset because there was a gun involved, and this is clearly not safe because we’re in Detroit and people are driving their cars through walls. And the owner is pulling a gun out. And being bummed because I was drunk, a little buzzed, and wanting to continue on with the evening. Like, “the guy’s gone now, the gun’s away, everything’s fine. Let’s go back to normal, we still got some spaghetti! Everything’s fine now.  Everybody be happy again. Don’t trip”

G: “There’s still beer left!”

T: “We’re not driving to Wisconsin!”

G: Where would we have gone?

C: (To Tom) Did you come upstairs?

T: We may have both come upstairs. I remember the guy on the stool and you cutting hair.

C: I remember you being just blown away that we were upstairs the entire time, and we missed the whole thing basically. And you were really excited.

G: I mean….a car coming through… a guy with a gun……ya know

T: That as big excitement! That was the most….

G: Isn’t tour all about distractions?

T: A distraction from the fact that all you got paid for this night was some dried out lettuce and some hotdogs!

G: I have to say, which is really pitiful too, is that I have a fond memory of this.  I think part of it was 1) we got a break and 2) we got to hang out together in this weird scene and 3) (pause)….. there was food.

C: And beer!

G: Yeah and that was something you struggle with all the time. And so, it was nice.

T: Yeah like whenever we have food and beer, its like, we’re in the motel, we’re in our happy place, let’s stay there.

G: Let’s stay there and enjoy this as much as we can.

T: Cause we were really good with having fun…..with beer.

G: Yeah

C: Well, I had had a really bad experience with a gun probably 2 years before that, so I could see me…

T: oh, yeah , over at Dogee’s (a friend of ours)

C: Yeah, so I could see me freaking out and not wanting to stay there, if there was a gun there.

G: I think we left

T: But where did we go?

G: I don’t know but I think we left

C: Did we go get a motel?  Motel 6?

T: I do remember that it was in Michigan that you (Greg) found out that Burger King had vegan grease. So we’d buy their French fries, we’d all eat their French fries and all our farts would smell the same. So no one could tell “Who did that?”. (everyone laughs) Michigan was where George first went off the vegetarian bandwagon and had McDonald’s, remember? And we were like “Don’t do it!!” And he ended up getting so sick.

C: I remember him having the bag, and Greg said something like “I’m not judging you George, but I just have one thing to say”.  And he said “What?” and you said “Rainforest.” (everyone laughs)

And then he opened the bag and started eating, but I could tell he felt bad about it. But it was too late.

T: It’s like, “I’m eating the Rainforest.”

C: So did we stick around? Did the guys in Electric Love Muffin go with us? Or did they go back home?

G: Were we heading towards Michigan? Or were we heading towards the East Coast?

T: I think we were heading towards Wisconsin.

G: Wisconsin, so we might have gone up 40, or whatever it is, and found a place there.

T: Just grabbed a motel?

G: Yeah

C: Was George with us?

T: I’m still having that feeling like “I’m bummed we didn’t stay at the club! We can’t give up on Kary like that!”  I think we stayed at the club, but I could be wrong.

C: Did we have George with us?

T: Yeah, that was a George tour.

C: Where was George?

T: George was there.

C: Was he downstairs with you guys?

T: I don’t know. Where was he? In the room?

C: Was he off with some girl?

T: George got laid more than anybody.

C: Remember he slept a lot? He might have been asleep in the van the whole time.

T: I think he was either upstairs with you or downstairs with us. He was there. God, I wish we could ask him.

C: I know. I don’t remember him running up the stairs with you. So maybe you and he were still downstairs.

(we all discuss how great George’s drumming was, especially as he was so young)

C: This is the picture that I found (shows the pic of the front of the club bashed in)

G: Oh, is this the place?

T: See how Carmela does it? She gets the story then she feeds you a little actual memory

C: Does that look like anything you remember? That was obviously the front and we came in around the back. I remember being in the back of the club.

G: Yeah I don’t remember the front at all.

T: These are fun, because what I remember about that room is that there was a lot of red. Red carpet, red walls. That’s all I remember

C: Kinda like the On Broadway? (a club in San Francisco)

T: I remember the upstairs room was painted like grey and blue, where you were giving the haircut, but that’s all I remember. I don’t remember anything like this.

C: I don’t remember that, because I don’t think we were ever outside the front. I think we pulled in around the back.

G: I don’t even remember the front being open. I just remember it like being locked, and everything was based around that.

C: The back door was open and we parked in the back.

G: And that might have been it, the person might have gone through the front door because it was locked.  Meaning nobody was out front.

T: It’s interesting to think that the reason this is boarded up is because of that night . I don’t think that that is the case, but it’s kinda nice to think that.

G: And it looks like from that that a car, even going a slow speed, would go right through that.

T: But the guy wasn’t, you know what I mean, He was like “Fuck you man”, he wasn’t throwing a punch, he was shoving, If he wanted to drive the car through, he could have done it.

C: So it was just a warning? Somebody was mad at him? (Kary)

G: “So I’ll fuck up this car a little bit, but dammit I’m gonna be able to pull it out!” He must have pulled it out, just backed up and left.

C: My memory is that the car was still there when I came downstairs, and the guy wasn’t in it.

G: That’s mine too but I don’t know if that’s true.

C: But you don’t remember that? (to Tom)

T: What?

C: I thought that the car was still there when I came downstairs.

C: (Reading the article found online about the club). So FYI, Scary Kary his last name was Safarian, like Rastafarian.

T: Ha

C: It said he took over and was booking bands there , it mentions Boom  (a friend of ours from Detroit who was in bands there), and it says “In the end Sagafarian was on the way down , deeper into narcotics deals and by 1988 the club was falling apart and was mismanaged . Not long after, an angry drunk smashed the front doors of the hall in with his car.”

T: Wow so it was a big incident then.

C: “Safarian left the Greystone and it closed for good. In 1990 Safarian found himself facing 54 years in jail for robbing a pharmacy. He has been in jail since, for almost 22 years”

G: Jesus

C: But the guy who emailed me said he had just gotten out recently.

T: I thought he died.

C: I thought he died too.

T: I will say this about the car. I think the car pulled away. I feel like the car pulled away. But I still have in my brain I see the big, squared off, old 1980s chrome bumper, light brown, like sedan, Dodge Dart kinda shape car.

G: That’s what I think too. 4 door.

C: A big American car, I was going to say, kinda of a dirty mustard yellow.

G; Yep that’s it. Brownish.

T: Wow maybe it was still there then.

G: That’s the color that I have too.

T: But I also remember this : Being perfectly ok with staying there, and partying on, and drinking beer and there being a gun on the premise, and big Kary swinging it around. But I didn’t want to go out the front door. That’s the front lines where all the guns and car guys are shooting each other. I don’t want to stick my head out there and see. When we went to the store, me and Kary talked about drugs. And he sort of played it off like he was an ex-Junkie . Like all drug addicts do. Like “I used to, and I’m not into that anymore. But let me tell you what a badass I was, and what it was like to cop heroin in Detroit.”  And that was like a bonding thing, because I was a drug user, and we had that conversation to the store. I do remember that and sort of thinking about his crazy drug addict Michigan life. As opposed to telling him about California. Like “we just call Mexicans, and they come to the door and deliver!” But apparently out there you had to rob pharmacies.

G: With a guy like that, you can see, there were huge cultural differences with us . But there were huge cultural differences with us everywhere we went . We were just, kinda feral. We had an accent. We looked Californian .

So it didn’t open after that? That was the last show? Last non-show?

T: That never occurred to me, it was just another night.

C: I asked the guy who contacted me.  He said, “Kary went off the deep end and robbed a store, went to prison. And he only got out a year and a half ago. “

I said “wow that’s a long time to be in prison. Were there any shows after the crash?”

And he said “I’m trying to figure that out. I believe there were some shows after, but I wasn’t going to shows that year.

T: “I’m giving up shows for Lent!”

C: (corrects) “I wasn’t going to a whole lot of shows that year.”

(still reading) “My buddy and I were going to put on a show there in 1988. We had to scramble and get a hall in Hamscramick (or something like that) because the Graystone was closed by then.

He said “that story of the guy hitting the building and knocking the wall back is extraordinary, even for this crazy town “ and he sent me the pic as well.

T: It didn’t seem that crazy at the time.

C: At the time, I don’t remember it being that weird.

T: It’s another example of thinking we’re a tiny ripple, and it turns out that we’re a splash in the puddle.

Update: After looking at our tour calendar, we played in Minneapolis the night before Detroit and Chicago with the Descendents the day after, so we likely headed to Chicago after the show and stayed with our friend Motor there. The Doughboys and MIA played with Descendents at the Graystone on July 3rd, so hopefully the Doughboys got to play before the P.A. blew. Today the club is a laundromat.

greystone today

There are some videos of shows at the club. Hard to see what it looked like in it;s hey day, but this one of Black Flag from 1986 at least has some good sound quality:

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Hot Animal Machines! Short Dogs look back.

I interviewed Tom and Greg at my house on June 10th, 2018.  I’ve noticed over the years that we remember things differently and remember different parts of events. I  asked the guys to participate in an experiment – I gave them two specific times to conjure up in their memory. The first was a show we played in Pensacola, FL, and the second was a gig we played about a week later in Daytona Beach, FL (which had a stage behind a chicken wire fence.) This all happened about 30 years ago. I wanted us to take turns recalling, without the interruption of each other’s memories. After a little clarification of what show happened in what town, we were ready. Mike was present to film the session. Let’s see how we did……..

Tom started with Daytona Beach.

T: My memories are little tiny snapshots. There’s being in the parking lot besides the Henry Rollins’ guys, and realizing that they were like really together, and making us feel very disorganized. I don’t really remember playing behind the chicken wire, but I remember after getting off and going out and seeing Henry Rollins play, I thought “why didn’t we think to do this”?  He was crawling up on the chicken wire front, tearing it off and putting his face through it. We were like “AAAAAHHH….That guy is so intense! ROOOAAARRR!!!!!.

I don’t remember the Doughboys that well, but I know we were friendly with them. And then after the gig I remember the three big things were 1) drinking with the Rollins band, trying to get them to drink. They were scared about it because they thought they were going to get in trouble. We were like “C’mon we’re all grownups, let’s party!” So we coerced them to drink, and then they wound up getting in trouble by Henry.  2) The Rollins band not wanting the pizza cause it had meat on it, and we were like “We’ll take it!” Well, you wouldn’t (to Greg who was vegan at the time.) And they threw it away, which pissed me off to no end. And (3) Henry coming in after his set, by which time I was pretty hammered. Henry coming in, and changing completely while me and Carmela were standing there, And he’s completely naked, and then getting dressed and walking away. I said, “Did you just notice Henry Rollins getting completely naked”? And Carmela says “What?” It was like two feet from you, the man’s stripping down!  And then continuing to drink, and Henry’s coming in and out and getting annoyed with his band for having fun with us! We were having fun.

And then at the end of the night Greg getting up and saying to Henry’s band “You’re the mother-fucking hot animal machine, not him! You’re the mother-fucking hot animal machine!” You grabbed your guitar cases, took one step and the cases crossed and BAM , you flat on your face. And I was like “That’s rock and roll!”

hot animal machine

G: Yeah that was awesome.

T: That’s how you party motherfucker!

G: And everyone laughing.

T: Everyone laughing with you.

G: Yeah that’s a good memory of mine.

C to G: You wanna tackle Pensacola?

G:I only have one memory of Pensacola. I don’t remember the show. All I remember is a memory of the beach and how the sand was sugar.  The width of the beach was extremely small and the sand dunes were extremely small.  And I only have the memory of me looking left. Not right.  That’s the only memory I have of Pensacola.

T: Left side of the beach

G: As I was telling Mel, I just see scattered pictures. Also, I was thinking with my memories, is I get these pictures, then I fill in the blanks, and so I remember when we were in Missouri, and what’s the college town there that we played?

T: Kansas City?

G: No.

T :Lawrence?

G: I have a written account of that. Then Tom Galbrith (the drummer for Field Trip) wrote something and it was really different from my account.  I believe his account. I omitted stuff that I would have loved to put in my account, you know because I didn’t remember it- like what’s-his-name from the Gun Club.

(You can read Tom’s story here: http://www.spinesis.com/tom-galbraith-we-thought-he-was-going-to-kick-this-guys-ass-2/ )

T: Oh God, Jefferey Lee Pierce

G: Yeah , all that.

T: How about us ordering 20 pizzas to the radio station? (everyone laughs at this)

G: You know what also is weird is what I remember from that radio station- I remember kinda being assholes.

T: Yeah.

G: And feeling, you know when you are on tour, confident, even when you are playing to nobody, you’re a gang, you’re moving forward. And I remember saying “fag” on the radio.

C: Hmm.

G: Calling Janes Addiction “Fags”

T: Which was a playful sort of thing, ah….

G: Yeah, but I do remember that and when I think back, that becomes a bad memory. It’s almost like my memory of Daytona. We’re swimming in the ocean, after the gig, and it’s low tide.  But when I think back I have this visceral feeling like “someone could have died.”  You know, because we were drunk. And if it was high tide one of use would have died. You look back as an adult and you put upon these fears.

T: Oh my god, I look back at being a motorcycle messenger and shudder. I actually get like “Oh my god!”  It gives me chills to think of the ridiculous physical risk I put to myself through on a minute to minute basis.

G: I remember the Doughboys, we were friendly with them, they were real nice.

T: They had dreadlocks.

G: Yeah they were from Philadelphia, or they were Canadian.

C: Canadian.

T: Montreal.

(Here is a pic of the Doughboys I found online. If you look closely, the Doughboy on the left is holding a Short Dogs Grow t-shirt.)

doughboys-penrods

G; I was thinking about the Electric Love Muffin.

G: They were like Life Sentence, those damn shirts everywhere. They were good promoters. But I think they opened that show.  I felt competitive. Not something I would ever say to you guys when we were there, but I felt competitive like Doughboys were on our level, you know what I mean.

C and T: yes

G: We hadn’t jumped to Rollins’ level, so it was like ok, we’re opening or they’re opening. I wanna be second. I don’t remember the playing a lot, I remember the afterwards. And that’s a weird thing.

T: I was thinking that same thing. I remember very few actual onstage moments, couple in Vancouver, that one party in Spokane where we played for an hour and a half.

G: “Everybody Rock and Roll the Place!”

C: I think that maybe because we played so much, it’s hard to isolate the actual shows, not that we played the same set each night. These two gigs, I don’t remember being on stage at all. I remember a couple of shows where maybe somebody stage-dove and smacked into me or something like that. But not the actual playing.

G: But with Rollins, I remember you (to Tom) and I being very confident going through the crowd drunk, and I remember seeing these three guys. They were like this (Greg folds his  arms across his chest), and they had jeans, black t-shirt, sort of tribal tattoos, sort of a brush cut, like punk. And I remember seeing them and thinking “they’re here to see Rollins” (everyone laughs). Engineer boots, not punk really, but maybe post punk. It was almost like, “we’re becoming irrelevant”. Like, times are changing. On Instagram, I’ll find somebody who documents scenes. And you can see how fast 1982 to 1987, short hair to long hair- it went really fast. And if you were playing hardcore in 87, you could be left behind. We weren’t hardcore, but that was still sort of the only thing going. We were post punk.

T: If you were playing hardcore, you were going to have to wait another ten years for it to come back!

C: Well, the Pensacola gig, I have no recollection of playing at all. I found the name of the club-it was called DMZ. So neither of you guys remember anything of that night. I only remember the parking lot. We went out to the parking lot and the van wouldn’t start, and so we were stuck. So then we made George find us a place to stay. It was one of the first few gigs we played with George. And he did; he found two girls. They lived in Mobile, AL. They didn’t live in Pensacola, and we went and stayed with them.

G: Yeah, and I hooked up with that girl.

C; Yeah, I wasn’t sure, there was something about a pair of coveralls, whether they were yours or hers, I don’t know. One of you gave the other a pair of coveralls.

(in the photo below, Greg is wearing the coveralls, and I believe a tube top around his neck. This photo was taken in Gainesville around the time of these shows.)

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G: Yeah I wrote that down too.

C: Yeah and I remember they had a ferret.  And for me, a troubling memory- like when you were mentioning saying “Fag” on the radio.

G: Yeah.

C: I was with the girl, not the one you liked, but the other girl, the one with the Mohawk I guess

T: Right.

C: I don’t remember a Mohawk, but I remember she had dark hair. She took me to the mall to buy hair dye. And when we were in the mall, you guys weren’t there, it was just me and her. It was raining, it was a really bad storm, and there was a huge clap of thunder. This guy was walking outside, near the car and he jumped-he was just scared. And she said “Look at that N-word jump”. I just remember being shocked. I’d never heard anyone use that word before. Ever.

And she was a punk rocker with a Mohawk! And I can’t remember now, and this really bothers me, I can’t remember if I said anything. I remember wanting to say something.

T: You were like “Holy shit we’re in the south!”

C: Yeah, but I think I was so shocked, that I just was mute. And I don’t know if I ever told you guys that.

G: Nope, I don’t remember.

T: No.

C: I thought, partially because she was so hardcore,  how could that come out of somebody?

T: The presumption of someone with a Mohawk.

C: I remember thinking at the time about how Janis told me that she heard someone use the N word, and she went ballistic on them. I remember thinking “if Janis were here, Janis would kick her ass.”  But I’m staying at this woman’s house and I gotta be nice.

G: She had air conditioning!

C: That was my biggest memory of that, but we were with them for a few days. And I did write down that we went to see movies.

G: We based out of their house

T; Yeah we were there for a few days. And that ferret kept stealing our money.

G: Wallets.

C: Yeah, the ferret stole our money.

T: Who did we play with at this club DMZ?

C: Well I have written down that we played with a band called Gruel

T: Who?

C: Gruel.

T: Gruel.

C: But the next night we went back because the van, this is my memory and I don’t think this is right, but the van was in the parking lot, and you fixed it.

T: That sounds right (sarcastically).

C: No, it was really funny.

G: Joe Pethoud wasn’t there?

C: Joe wasn’t there because he had quit the band a week before.

G: Yeah and he fixed our starter before he left.

T: I love him.

C: You (to Tom) took a wrench. You came running out yelling “I fixed the van I fixed the van!” You were so excited about it. And I was so excited.

G: I was extremely excited you fixed the van.

C: And I said “how did you do it” and you said you took a wrench and pulled on something in the engine and freed it.

G: The engine was between the seats.

T: Something was shorting it out I think.

C: You had a wrench and were yelling” I fixed the van”, and we were like “Yay Tom!!”

T: I probably hit the battery once with the wrench.

C: The Accused were playing. I remember meeting them, and they had roadies and money, and they were going to camp because they were really excited about this particular campsite nearby.

G: Are you thinking about Murphy’s Law?

C: No, it was the Accused from Washington.

T: Weren’t Adrenaline Overdrive from down there too?

C: We played with Adrenaline OD in Texas or something . The Daytona Beach was the show we played with Rollins Band.

G: That was a big show.

C: Yeah it was a big show. The promoter Tommy, I think his name was, confirmed that show long before. He was a professional and had it all set up, but he didn’t say anything on the phone about the chicken wire. When we got there, I remember he made all the bands get together and everyone had to say “We will not touch the chicken wire”.

T: That’s right.

C: He had  a huge deposit on the chicken wire, or rather on the show. There was no place to play there anymore so he had to put this huge deposit, and we all agreed.  I remember seeing Rollins in the parking lot with the barbell, sitting there for hours working out and the mom coming over with her kid. And the kid introducing Rollins to the parent. I can’t remember if he was mean or nice.

G: I remember that.

C: Doughboys played first, then we played. Then MIA played and I hated them, just because I didn’t like that they were playing after us. Cause they were touring with Descendents. I think Descendents might have been touring with Rollins too. Then Descendents played and then Rollins played. I found a couple of pictures. Rollins tore down the chicken wire.

T: Which is way more punk and fuckin ballsy, and I remember now that you say that thing about the deposit. Which is of course why we didn’t touch it.

C: We needed the money . We had $100 guarantee, which was A  LOT of money then.

T: And we were super polite and nice and didn’t want to piss those people off

C: That too, and also we didn’t want to ruin their scene, cause we didn’t live there. And afterwards he came up to us, might have been you (Tom ) and I, or maybe all of us, and one of the Doughboys, and he said “I’m paying you guys. I’m not paying Rollins, Decendents or MIA.

T: What????

C: So we got paid

G: Really??

C: He said I’m paying you guys because you’re both from out of town and not part of the package.

T: And I’m looking at your van .

C: And how skinny you guys are! No, he paid us and the Doughboys.

G: Wow.

T: That may be why Henry was such an asshole at the end of the night. I’m a little more forgiving then just “Stop making my band drunk”.

C: He knew, he agreed, everybody agreed. Even the Descendents didn’t touch the chicken wire

T: Well it was worth it because he rocked

C: It was great. I remember as soon as he came on the stage; I remember him putting his fist through it.  I think I was with you Tom, and you yelled “Holy shit he’s doing it!”

At this point I pulled out some pics I found on the internet of Henry onstage at the Daytona beach gig. This is the pic of Rollins onstage and there is still some chicken wire .

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In this one you can see the chicken wire is gone.

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T: Oh my god.  Now how does that phase your memory? When you actually see it right?

G: Wow.  That really changes everything.

C: Maybe Rollins went before Descendents because this is Milo without the chicken wire onstage.

You can see in this pic, no chickenwire.

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T: I seem to recall Rollins going before Descendents.

C: I thought Rollins played last, but look- there’s no chicken wire.

G: Yeah Descendents played last.

T: Yeah cause they were the bigger band. Rollins had just, that was his first or second tour.

G: That was Search and Destroy or whatever it was.

T: That was Hot Animal Machine.

C: This was the flyer that I had from that show. (I show them the original flyer from my flyer collection- shown below.)

rollins

T: YOU’RE THE HOT ANIMAL MACHINE!!!

C: I remember going backstage, and I remember you telling all the guys in the Rollins band to drink a beer.

T: There was a big garbage can full of those elephant beers. I definitely remember you were on the left, and Henry was on the right and he was soaking wet with his soaking wet shorts. And I took a little peek over, and OOOOOHH Naked Henry. I didn’t sign up for this!

C: I didn’t see anything.

T: I saw pubes, the whole thing.

So Tom may be the only one of us who really knows who’s got the 10 ½. We’ll leave  you contemplating that imagery. Stay tuned for more stories of broken vans and tube tops… 

Flag who got the 10

We sure do miss our buddy George.  We love you George.

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The Zodiac Killer

Tom and I learned a lot when booking our first tour, and we were determined not to make the same mistakes for the second one. This time, we would be organized. We would be persistent. We would ask for vegetarian food (nicely) as part of our guarantee.

And this time, we had a headquarters. Oh sure, you can book a tour while living in van, while being evicted out of a crazy loft, and while sleeping on your former bandmates couch; we had proved that. But it SEEMED like it would be easier if we had a place to paste up our calendar, our atlas of the United States and our prospective promoter phone numbers.

This place happened to be the in-law apartment in the basement of my grandmother’s house. I was the youngest of her 16 grandchildren, and was named after her. She had passed away the year before and her house was in probate, so my mom asked me to live in the in-law, and keep an eye on the house while the legal stuff was happening.

My best friend Jessie spent many nights at the in-law. Often after gigs she would ride home with me on the back of my motorcycle, getting up the next morning to take the bus home or to school. The bed in the unit was a king size. Tom, Jessie and I spent many nights in chaste friendship sleeping in the bed together. It kinda sucked being the person in the middle, but if it got too cramped we would sing “I’m crowwwwded, roll oooooover” and everyone would shift slightly. I had to get up early for work so after weeknights at the Chatterbox I would tiptoe out to my bike for a 50 mph ride through the streets of San Francisco to get to work by 7:30 am. Most of the time we existed in harmony, but one day I got a call in the morning at work:

“Mel, this is Jess”

“What’s up Jess?”

“Look at your feet.” I glanced down and saw black and white high top Converse tennis shoes, a little scruffy.

“Yeah?”

“Are those your shoes?” she asked, sternly.

“Um, yeah??” But the seed of doubt had been planted. And I thought, any minute now she might call me Carmela, which people used to only do when they were pissed off at me.

“No, those are not your shoes. Those are my shoes. Your shoes are sitting here on the floor at the house.”

I looked again. Well, they did seem a little cleaner then my Chuck Taylors.

“Oops, sorry Jess. Just take mine and we’ll swap later.”

Poor Jess, she had to wear my oversized clown shoe size 7 ½ Converse to San Francisco State University. Meanwhile I started to hydrate my Chatterbox-depleted body, and her shoes began to physically tighten about my feet.

Tom spent many nights at the in-law, working with me on the artwork for our first album and the details of the tour. The apartment had a phone, but you could not call long distance on it. We would walk two blocks to the gas station and use the pay phone to call Austin, New York, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Gainsville…again and again. I won’t divulge how we did it (because there’s no statute of limitation on felonies.) Let’s just say that one person would make the calls and the other would look for the cops.

The house and in-law were in the West Portal neighborhood in San Francisco. I had grown up there, right across the street from this same gas station. When I was a kid I never thought I would grow up to use that phone to plead with promoters named “Scary” from Detroit to give me a show. I did look at the gas station a lot from my window when I was about 12 years old because I had a crush on one of the pump jockeys, a teenage boy with greasy hair and coveralls who looked like he’d just walked out of the book The Outsiders.

West Portal was a sleepy neighborhood back then and you would never run into anyone you knew there. But here I was living in West Portal again, and a few times I ran into a guy I worked with when I was a bike messenger. He was a lot older (maybe in his 40’s, you know, ANCIENT) We called him Captain America because he always wore a blue baseball cap with a red A on it. He would always talk to me at work. My boyfriend Gordon (also the dispatcher) pulled me aside one day, and said that I really shouldn’t talk to him because he has been brought into questioning many times during the investigation of the Zodiac Killer. I backed off a bit then, but when you run into someone on the street in West Portal you kinda have to say hello; it’s like a small town. He was taking care of his sick mother. Often he was going to the movies by himself at the Empire Theater. The library was down the street from the theater, and I would run into him there as well.

One day at the library I checked out a book on the Zodiac Killer. Being a punk-rock liking, black-Converse-wearing, greasy-teen -oving kinda girl, I was an avid reader and true-crime fan. I was about a third of the way through the book when I noticed that someone had gone through it with a pencil and changed the times of all the killings by a few minutes or even hours. Some other details, locations and names had also been crossed out and new info was penciled in. It was a little creepy. Then I started thinking about the FBI profile:

zodiac killer

The Zodiac killer was an older white man.

He was a loner.

He may have lived with his mother.

He liked the movies.

(The police actually created a documentary about the Zodiac Killer and showed it at the Roxie theater. They had a suggestion box in the lobby that asked “Who do you think the Zodiac Killer is?” Unbeknownst to anyone, there was a police officer inside the box who photographed everyone who dropped in a suggestion. They thought the Zodiac would be arrogant enough to go to the movie and write something cryptic for the box.)

zodiac movie

The Zodiac Killer was educated and liked to read.

He wrote to Herb Caen, who was the champion of Bike Messengers (I met Herb while working the door at a Bike Messenger Bash, he loved to come and party with us.)

There was no mention of what type of baseball cap he wore.

zodiac herb caen

I was about half way through the book when I started making Tom come to the phone booth with me to make calls. Prior to this, sometimes I would go alone, or sometimes he would go alone, occasionally we went together for moral support. But halfway through the book, I couldn’t stand to be in the apartment alone anymore, so I would go with him. If it was my turn to go, I would force him to come with me.

Three quarters of the way through the book, I started waking up in the middle of the night because of the sound of the wind and the trees outside hitting the windows.

Me: “Tom, wake up, I think the Zodiac Killer is outside”

Tom: “mmmmzzzzarrrrkkkpp”

Me: “Tom, WAKE UP THE ZODIAC KILLER IS OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.”

Tom: “oh ferchristsakes Mellie”

and so on. This went on for a couple of weeks.

One night Jessie and Tom were over, and  I made Tom come with me to the gas station pay phone. We were there for a long time. When we walked into the apartment, there was Jessie, sitting at the kitchen table with the Zodiac Killer book in her hands.

“Hey guys, did you know that the Zodiac…..”

At this point Tom grabbed the book “THAT’S IT! I’VE HAD IT!!! ISN’T IT ENOUGH THAT I HAVE ONE FREAKED OUT WOMAN ON MY HANDS? THIS BOOK IS GOING BACK TO THE LIBRARY,” At which he grabbed the book, turned around and walked down to the library.

I must admit, I went to the library many times to see if I could get the book to finish it, but it was never there. And I never got a late slip from the library so Tom did return it. Perhaps it’s state’s evidence now?

The Decline Of Western Civilization: Black Flag

the decline of western civilization

Punk rock. I blame Todd Danielson.  In eighth grade, I liked him, and he liked the Ramones. To impress him, I bought the only Ramones album I could find- the soundtrack to Rock and Roll High School, which started me on the Road to Ruin.  We wound up going on two dates: the Ramones at the Henry J. Kaiser, and the Decline of Western Civilization. But that was it, I never talked to Todd again as we went off to different high schools.

The movie introduced me to Black Flag.  The next year I dragged my high school boyfriend, Maury, to the 10th St Hall to see them play- Black Flag, Flipper, the Minutemen and the Stains. I don’t really remember much about the music except that it was loud and fast. We were harassed about our hair and clothes, knowing nothing about the “uniforms” of punk rock. Maury was pretty appalled by the whole experience, and probably hates punk rock to this day. I think he got tired of being dragged to Ingmar Bergman and Andy Warhol films, and eventually we broke up. He later went out with the most normal, boring girl in our class. I don’t blame him for wanting to be with someone who liked romantic comedies and listened to Rick Springfield. You don’t get spit on in that crowd.

black flag at 10th st hall

Then Slip It In came out.  When I met Tom he was seriously into Damaged and the Six pack EP. He was more of a Dez fan; but I loved Henry. I didn’t come to appreciate Dez until years later.  Henry was good looking, he was angry, and his songs were about sexual frustration and hypocrisy, which at the time I responded to more than songs about depression and drugs.

slip it in

So, we loved Black Flag- the band who launched a unique sound, who toured when no one  else did, and who had their own record label.  Short Dogs Grow was just hatching- we had only played one abortive show at the Sound Of Music. Tom had set his height higher and he was a natural salesmen. I was at work when I got the call.

“Mellie, guess who’s playing at the Farm?”

“Who?”

“Black Flag!”

I was excited, I hadn’t seen them with Kira, their new bass player, who also happened to be female ( a phenomenon in the 80s).

“Guess who is opening for them ?”

It had to some other SST bands. “The Descendents? No,wait,  the Meat Puppets?”

“No, Short Dogs Grow is opening for them. We are opening for them. On the same stage. At the Farm.”

I was in shock. Tom had gotten us on the gig- we would not be paid, but WHO CARES WE WERE OPENING FOR BLACK FLAG!

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(flyer for the gig, unfortunately we weren’t on it)

We only had about 10 songs at the time. At the gig, we got through about 8 of them by jumping around and making lots of noise. I took a few too many steps backyards and wound up falling down the back stairs of the stage. I was lying in a heap, bass on top of me, and discovered I had pulled all the electronics out. The only other person back there was Greg Ginn. He walked over towards me, looked down at the bass, and said one word.

“Bummer.”

Mortified, I ran back up the stairs. The band went on to play the last two songs without me. I was heartbroken, but later all our drunk friends (i.e. the only people who had been there to see us) said we were great. Needless to say, we didn’t get signed to SST that night.

We did get signed later to Rough Trade and did a few U.S. tours. By then Henry Rollins had left Black Flag and put together the Rollins band. We played with them a few times.  They guys in his band were fun and friendly when Rollins was not around. Greg Foot even managed to get them to drink a beer with him (not cool in the Rollins camp.) Rollins would sit in his van and do bicep curls, and kids would ask him for his autograph.  Apparently I once ran into the backstage while Rollins was completely naked, but I didn’t get to see who had the 9 and 1/2.

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We played a certain club in Florida which looked like the set of a Blues Brother’s movie. The stage was completely encased in chicken wire, spurring jokes about  “both kinds of music, Country and Western!” The promoter called for a meeting with all band members present. He told us that this was the last space in this town that would let him, or anyone else, put on shows. He understood the lameness of the chicken wire, but that was club policy, and he had put down a huge deposit.  Under no circumstances was anyone to fuck with the wire.  If anyone messed with the wire NO ONE, REPEAT NO ONE, WOULD BE PAID THAT NIGHT.  Most of us were starving on the road. It really was “36 dollars and a six pack to my name.” The promoter was cool- so we were cool.  The Dough Boys opened and they were cool. M.I.A were cool. The Descendents were cool.

Rolling gets on stage and about three notes in, he takes his fist and smashes it through the wire. My heart sank. As cool as it looked, I knew we would be leaving with no money that night, and we were broke. Most likely one of us would be calling home for cash.  By the end of his set, Rollins had pulled down the entire cage.

While I was packing up the remains of our stuff, Tom handed me an envelope with something like a $100 in it,  BIG MONEY in those days. The promoter had paid him, and one of the Dough Boys. He said we were cool, had nothing to do with Rollins’ actions and shouldn’t be punished for the Decline of “Country and Western!” Civilization. The rest of the money was going to the club to play for the chicken coop, and an attempt to save punk rock for the youth of Florida.

On Tour with The Descendents

Descendents_-_I_Don't_Want_to_Grow_Up_cover

Pop quiz!

Where you were when you first heard the Descendents?

Which song?

How old were you?

I bet we can all ace this one.  I was nineteen years old, in Tom’s room at Pierce Street and the first song I heard was Silly Girl. We were lying on a mattress sitting directly on the floor, surrounded by empty Budweiser cans filled with cigarette butts, blowing smoke rings at the flies circling overhead,and listening to I Don’t Want To Grow Up.  The punk rock Southern Californian Beach Boys- who couldn’t relate to the angst of “Bikage” and the longing of “Hope”?

Not long after this, we opened for them at the Farm. I think this might have been the show where I hit Marc in the head with my bass and one of the tuning pegs cut him deeply. His girlfriend took him two blocks down the street to General Hospital (conveniently situated near the premier punk rock venue in town) to get stitches, and he was back in time to see the Descendents. A guy from Thrasher magazine took a picture of me jumping off the drum riser.  In the next issue Thrasher printed it with the caption that I was the new bass player for the Descendents.

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“The Descendents blast bombed the Farm recently sporting a new female bass player”

On our first tour we managed to pick up crabs by the time we got to El Paso where we were about to open for them.  As soon as they pull up to the club in their van and got out, Tom yells to Ray “HEY RAY WE’VE ALL GOT CRABS!!” I was completely mortified. Ray ducked into their van and pulled out some industrial strength Kwell and offered it to Tom.  Tom told him we’d already zapped the bugs earlier in the day, but I think Ray made Tom take the bottle, “Just in case”. I spent the rest of the night avoiding Ray because I was so embarrassed that he knew.

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Milo attempts to kidnap me in the French Quarter.

We met up again with them in New Orleans. I remember wearing a pink halter dress with blue flowers and Milo actually said “that’s a really nice, pretty dress you’re wearing.”  Inside the club I was looking around the stage for a place to plug the amps in, and Bill Stevenson chased me around the stage with a flashlight, telling me he was going to get a peek at my underwear. I finally went and changed into shorts and a tank top to discourage the pubescent antics.

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Milo sports his Short Dogs Grow T-shirt at the hottest gig on the planet- midday, 4th of July, New Orleans.

They did have some homophobic lyrics, which surprised me as they didn’t seem like that to me. I saw recently that Milo said he wrote the song “I’m Not A Loser” when he was 17 and has apologized for the content. I’ve also heard they don’t play it anymore, maybe someone who saw them at the World Cup show can comment on that.des2 001sdg descendents farmdes 001rkl 001 rool 001