From "Festering Sore" To Civically Honored Cultural Institution: Berkeley's 924 Gilman

Posted by Billyjam, March 31, 2017 09:59am | Post a Comment

The City of Berkeley had one of those "Wow, how things change!" moments this week. It happened Tuesday evening at a Berkeley City Council meeting during which longtime punk mecca 924 Gilman  got officially honored for its 30 years of cultural contributions with a stamped Proclamation from the City. [Scroll down to see proclamation and its content] Signed and bestowed by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin to longtime Gilman collective members Jesse "Luscious" Townley and Kamala Parks, the irony of the ("wow") moment was because back in its formative years that very same (now globally revered all ages, all inclusive, performing arts) venue had been labeled a "festering sore" by a City of Berkeley official. "It's pretty insane to think about the travel from being called a "festering sore" by a Zoning Board member 25 years ago to being honored by the City Council now," Townley told the Amoeblog.

A true renaissance man including punk musician, whose many bands have included  Blatz, The Gr'ups, The Criminals, and The Frisk, Townley stressed how he was speaking on behalf of himself and not the collective. "Thanks to volunteers like John Hart, who is a veteran of the People's Park controversies, my generation of Gilman volunteers learned how to navigate local politics, and we've passed that knowledge on to successive generations of Gilman volunteers. Whether dealing with overzealous beat cops who rotated through our area or DiCon Fiberoptics trying to get us shut down because we weren't important enough to talk with, we were able to use these skills to survive long enough to be recognized by mainstream Berkeley as a valuable community institution," said Townley whose own experiences at Gilman inspired him to get into local politics and go on to become a commissioner elected to the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.

Townley, who has been part of 924 Gilman since moving west in the late 80's, has nothing but good things to say about Gilman and all of his fellow collective members. He notes how so many have tirelessly contributed to Gilman for so many years, ensuring its longevity and success. One such individual, key to the very existence of Gilman, is Kamala Parks who was also at Tuesday evening's Berkeley City Council meeting. "That's Kamala Parks from Kamala & the Karnivores, the Gr'ups, Cringer, and many others," explained Townley. "She's also the head  of Gilman's fundraising committee and was one of the two people who literally found 924 Gilman's location while looking for a DIY space to open and brought the spot to Tim Yo's [the late Tim Yohanan] attention."

While 924 Gilman could happily continue to thrive without any type of civic endorsement, the City of Berkeley's proclamation is nonetheless significant. "I think this proclamation symbolizes a combination of things: us lasting a long time, punk rock / underground art gaining a wider audience than when we started, and the thousands (millions?) of people from here and from around the planet who've walked through those doors and come out a changed person," said Townley adding, "I mean, sullen teens who I came up with are now dropping off their sullen teens at Gilman. Who'd have thunk?"

Scroll over image of City of Berkeley proclamation above to read full text

Located at 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA 94710 upcoming events at 924 Gilman  for this weekend
include Friday March 31st with Monster Squad, Side Effects, Dcoi, Setting Sons, RooFTops, and
Mokosos (7PM – 11:45 PM), and Saturday April 1st with Stanwood, Silas Fermoy, Save Laika, Sunday Drive, and Aurora Beam (5pm - 9:45pm). More Info

Relevant Tags

Berkeley California (1), Gilman Punk (1), Jesse Arreguin (1), 924 Gilman (6), Blatz (4), Berkeley City Council (1), Festering Sore (1), Jesse Townley (3), Jesse Luscious (4), Punk (68), East Bay Punk (1), Maximum Rock N Roll (2), Tim Yo (1), Tim Yohanan (1), Kamala Parks (1)