924 Gilman, a punk club near Berkeley, California. 1990. I had just discovered the University of California radio station KALX Berkeley. It was full of colorful characters but my favorite was a DJ who called himself Dogboy. His real name was Michael. He had big blue eyes and glasses that hid them from everyone but me. He played in a punk band named Juke. He was the drummer.
We met at a party at my house. My housemate had invited all the KALX radio people and a live band was rockin our huge, shabby penthouse. There were decks on all sides. One side faced the Berkeley hills and the Campanille. The other side had a panoramic of the Bay Bridge and a glimpse of the Golden Gate across the water.
It was on this deck that thronged with people in the dark that we somehow found each other. A helicopter flew in close and both Michael and I reacted with the same goofy joke. “The helicopter people are coming to get us, we must all jump to our deaths!!” We stopped and looked at each other (both ridiculous and not caring) and it was pretty much a done deal.
I resisted his charms for quite a while, professing “I won’t belong to anyone; I’m too young to have a steady boyfriend.” But we hung out as friends.
He taught me how to edit audio (on reel-to-reel with editing tape!) in the dusty basement of KALX. We poured over the library yanking out albums and exchanging. Sitting close over the turntable.
We both loved Gilman Street. Basically it was just a big dirty garage. No beer. All ages. And it was dangerous. You were bound to get stomped on wherever you stood. There was this one huge girl who had it out for me (I don’t know why), she had a swastika tattoo and was African-American (never figured that out either). She crushed my left foot (which still hurts when it rains) with her boot and was up for crushing me more any chance she got.
But even the huge, scary girl couldn’t keep me from Gilman St. It was the only good punk club in the Bay Area. Our favorite punk bands were Operation Ivy and Fugazi. Fugazi’s album 13 Songs had just come out the year before and we were in love with the album. From start to end, its warm edgy bass, splashy spare drums and racecar guitar riffs were so basic and raw. There was a literary bent to the vocals, yet Ian MacKaye’s voice held pure emotion.
When Fugazi finally came to Gilman, I went to the show with my friends, and I kept looking for Michael. But no sign of the tall brown-haired boy. Here is an actual video from the exact show. We are both getting stomped on somewhere in the middle of the crowd! And we loved it. Crazytown.
After the show everyone hung outside in the dusk, happy and satisfied. Michael stumbled out of the club and stood up right in front of me. His t-shirt was torn almost completely off, his glasses were askew, and he was holding a battered daisy. It barely even looked like a daisy. He looked up at me, shyly. “This is for you,” he said.
Join Michele Myers for Nite Life, every Friday night at 9pm. She also produces KEXP Documentaries — short radio features. KEXP Documentaries series include: Punk Evolution, Masters of Turntablism, The Heart of Soul and Music Revolutionaries.