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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ANGRY AMOEBLOGGER RANTS ON BUSH, PUNK, AND THE 80's

Posted by Billyjam, January 19, 2008 11:00am | Post a Comment

Man! I miss the eighties. I miss the 1980's mainly for the music and the vibe surrounding it. Yes in-fuckin-deed!

Perhaps even more than the hip-hop of that decade (which I love to death), I miss the American punk rock of the 1980's even more.

I miss 80's US punk because the music was still fresh and vibrant and hard(core). It was when punk itself was still an ideal that hadn't been fully exploited yet, not some fuckin pre-packaged commodity hawked as a fashion accessory at the Hot Topic outlet down at the local strip mall USA. 

Back then punk zines from MRR all the way down to every small but passionately put together two-page Xeroxed, circulation of ten had balls. And near everything related to punk, from zines to album covers to concert fliers and of course the music/lyrics itself, had a strong scent of political activism. And the one thing that seemed to cement everything together? The president at the time: Ronald Reagan. 

If you've forgotten who Reagan was, let me refresh your memory. He was a former governor of California who made some bad decisions but still became president of the USA. Reagan was (like George W. Bush) a Republican and (also like Bush) someone that folks liked to mock and imitate and disdain. He liked jellybeans. He asked "where's the beef?" and (like Bush) was the puppet of corrupt big business powers behind the scenes. 

And at that time it seemed every punk rock group had a song or album or show flier about Reagan. I thought of this when I went crate-digging in my punk section this morning and dug up my copy of the great Alternative Tentacles compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans and also an album by the great former band Reagan Youth -- just two examples of punk releases fueled by their contempt towards the then-president of the USA.
reagan youth
Reagan Youth, which was formed in Queens, NY by Dave "Insurgent" Rubinstein and Paul "Cripple" Bakija, used to play bills with the likes of the Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains (both on the Jellybeans comp on Jello Biafra's label).

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