Sunday, July 17, 2011

SST at the Masque aka the South Bay Hits Hollywood/Corporate Rock Still Sucks/Unpacking My Library

For some reason I have always drawn dividing lines between the early Los Angeles/Hollywood punk scene at the Masque and the SST revolution that followed. History is more fluid than that and in fact, the brain trust that changed my musical landscape and that of scores of others in the 1980’s was there as well. I know from my own many, many viewings of the Decline, which has its own fair share of lane changing what with the arrival of the hardcore and all, that you can blink and miss for example Watt and Baiza enjoying the show in Hollywood just post Masque. Then of course there is Kira. Kira was totally there, and her brother Paul played in one of the greatest bands that Seattle, Oklahoma and LA has produced since the 1960’s, otherwise known to you and me as the Screamers. Kira was one of the first 100 punks right? Or is it 200? They had Masque reunions, alternate Masque’s etc, almost as soon as the original location was shut. I remember a Masque reunion in the early 80’s based on the photographic evidence in Flipside at the time. I got to go to another Masque reunion in the 1990’s for an eastside political fundraiser where I was lucky enough to actually see a Screamers reunion performance (though minus Tommy). Truly outstanding live.

All of this is an elaborate lead in to the SST/Masque connection. There was another Masque reunion back in 2008 at the Echo (there have been these reunions in each decade over the past 30 years). While I sadly missed the show itself due to a personal meltdown, what heralded the 2008 reunion was the publication of a book that I could only have fantasized about when trying to track down all the Dangerhouse 45s but which is now validated as a real-deal, historical moment. It has only taken me the space of a few years to unpack my copy here in the bush but man was it worth the wait. The late Brendan Mullen with Roger Gastman’s “Live at The Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley” (Ginko Press and R 77, 2007) is a jaw-dropping coffee table photo book (with essays, ephemera, lists ) that is just such a visual treat if you have any interest in that particular era of Los Angeles underground culture. Beautifully done, with great photos of nearly every act of the era you can think of as well as candid scene shots taken by just about every rock chronicler of the day. Cue music: the Go-Go's "Living at the Canterbury." If you haven’t tracked down the book by this point in time, put it down on your holiday list and start saving. I haven’t had such eye popping visual enjoyment since, I dunno, the Satchmo art scrapbook that came out a couple years ago, where they captured all of his folk art and collages. Let’s just say that Kira, Keith, Greg, Chuck and Raymond are all accounted for.

Is Chuck not wearing one of the best t-shirts of the late 1970's here? Photographer unknown. Can we read into Chuck's hierarchy of the billing for his own rating of his contemporaries' worth vis a via the Flag? No Wurm? Where is that shirt today as I need to copy it. Though I have to say that many SST acts presumably in 2011 may have actually enjoyed the Nuge and Aerosmith Cal Jam II sets if given the time machine. I know I would have.

The crowd shots are among my favorite images in the book. The authors have identified Greg Ginn and Joe Nolte of the great Last checking out unidentified action either at the Masque or the Masque benefit. At first I thought it was Greg in full-on Ramones regalia with a "Sally Can't Dance" t-shirt. Fuck yes! But no. After some sober reflection, it must be Greg that is next to Joe on the right and not the guy back in the leather jacket. Readers thoughts? The other part of the same crowd spread has Rock Bottom from Rock Bottom and the Spies, Karla Maddog and Al Flipside at the lip of the stage. Checking out the Weirdos is my guess. Photo by Gabi Berlin. There is another reet photo in the book by Gabi from the same night of Al Flipside, Nickey Beat and Rock Bottom all together. This book is too great and this is only the scraps.