Amoeblog

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.

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Jello Biafra & Michael Parenti Join Fight For Rent Control At La Pena In Berkeley Tonight

Posted by Billyjam, October 16, 2014 04:50pm | Post a Comment

Four decades into a career of being a voice for the oppressed Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) keeps the good fight going strong when tonight, along with author/educator/activist Dr. Michael Parenti (Against Empire, Assassination of Julius Caesar) and others, he will volunteer his talents to co-present a night of politics, spoken word, and poetry at La Pena in Berkeley in a fundraiser event for the Pro-Rent Control Slate for the Berkeley Rent Board. Other performers on tonight's bill include Berkeley City Council member, poet, and political activist Kriss Worthington, Berkeley poet and political activist Bill Bogert, and Gary Hicks of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade. "In these times of spiraling rents, tenants are at the mercy of rapacious large landlords, and small landlords are at the mercy of foreclosure-hungry banks- but the Berkeley Rent Board fights to keep a level-playing field for tenants and landlords," organizer Jesse Townley (aka Jesse Luscious of Blatz, Criminals, and KALX radio) told the Amoeblog adding of tonight's show that,  "It's a history-making night. The first time Alternative Tentacles spoken word artists Jello Biafra and Michael Parenti will appear on the same stage." This worthy fundraiser takes place tonight, Thursday, October 16, from 8:00pm to 10:00pm (doors @ 7:30) at La Pena Cultural Center located at 3105 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA - near the Ashby BART station. If you can't make it but want to donate to the cause do so here.  And in keeping with tonight's theme and the legacy of Jello Biafra I leave you with the Dead Kennedy's "Kill The Poor" which can be found as the opening track on the DK's album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

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JESSE LUSCIOUS TOWNLEY'S PUNK ROAD TO POLITICAL OFFICE

Posted by Billyjam, December 22, 2008 06:40am | Post a Comment
Last Monday (Dec 15) was an important day for both Jesse "Luscious" Townley and the City of Berkeley. It was the date when, immediately before the first Rent Board meeting since the November 4th election in which Townley got elected to office, that the punk rocker-turned-politician got sworn in to his new position as City of Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner. One of five elected to this position, Townley stands out because of his rich and colorful background and unprecedented deep rooted commitment to Berkeley and its citizens.

Townley, who migrated to Berkeley from Philadelphia back in 1989, initially came out West to attend the San Francisco Anarchist Gatheriing -- but he liked it so much in Berkeley that he never left. From 1989 to 1990 he published the punk zine Berkeley Sucks. Over the years he has volunteered countless hours at 924 Gilman Street. He has also played on the stage at Gilman as a member of such East Bay punk bands as Blatz, The Gr'ups, The Criminals, and most recently The Frisk (who appeared on the Amoeba Music Compilation series). Over the years Jesse has also gained invaluable experience putting in time at local punk labels. He has worked at both Lookout Records and Alternative Tentacles (where he still works) and for a time, along with his partner Kamala, ran his own label Zafio Records.

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