Monday, June 30, 2014

Chapter Two: My First Black Flag Show... 1981

 by Hanson Meyer

Black Flag
At the age of 16, I made the long trek from Big Bear Lake to Hollywood to experience my first two punk rock shows at The Starwood nightclub. I saw the Dickies in December of 1980 and then again two months later in February 1981. After surviving these "soft-core" punk shows, I felt like I was ready to take it up a notch and make my way to either a Black Flag or Fear show in the ensuing months. Spring had arrived in 1981 and my friends and I were constantly scanning the sources we had for any shows coming up that we may, by some miracle, be able to attend. We listened to distant radio stations and checked the occasional copies of the Sunday edition of the LA Times Calendar section or BAM Magazine.
BAM Magazine - January 30, 1981 (Click to Enlarge)
On January 30, 1981, I ran across an article in BAM Magazine about the Black Flag show that had happened earlier that month at the Starwood on January 6th. The article was titled “The Black Flag Violence Must STOP!” We had just been there at the Starwood two weeks earlier to see the Dickies and saw how the violence had been ramping up even at that show…

It was also at this time that I became the official “punk rock barber”. Electric shears were too expensive, so I gave everybody their punk haircuts using scissors I bought at a local beauty salon. I gave everything from crop cuts to mohawks. Not knowing anything about coloring hair, my friend Scott Boyd and I experimented with bleach and peroxide. The only problem was that we used real bleach and peroxide and soon learned that your hair dissolves when using household chemicals. After our first couple of hair color disasters, we decided to ask for help at the same beauty salon where I bought my scissors. They thought we were crazy, but they steered us in the right direction and soon I was changing Scott’s hair color from dark brown to a sort of yellowish-blonde. As our other friends got their hair cut, we started using the bleach to create patterns and designs. One of our friends had a Mohawk that was about two inches high that I bleached so that it looked like a raccoon tail and with another friend we cut his hair on the back of his head into the shape of a crucifix leaving the bottom of the cross long… and then bleached the cross gradually from the top down going from dark brown to white. 

Once all my friends had joined me in committing themselves to "cropping" their hair, we set our sights on making it to our next punk show. Our minds were made up… We needed to earn our stripes by seeing Black Flag somewhere, someway, somehow. I can’t remember how we even found out about the show, but we heard that Black Flag was going to play at a small venue in Palm Springs called the Rumours Club during Spring Break on Saturday, April 19, 1981. Rodney Bingenheimer of KROQ radio announced on his program that Black Flag was playing a show that day... Here is a short clip of Rodney on the ROQ talking about the show: Rodney On The ROQ clip - April 19, 1981

My friend Scott Brett’s parents had a condominium there in Palm Springs and so we decided to drive down and make that our base camp. In addition to Scott Brett, my other friends, Scott Boyd, Mike Curtiss, Mike Schroeder and Eric Dakota decided to go and everyone piled into my green 1969 Buick Skylark and we headed down the mountain to Palm Springs. During the trip, we took turns picking music on home made cassettes and playing them on a small Radio Shack tape player that I had. None of us had too much money back then so we would always trade records and make mix tapes of our favorite punk rock bands. We all sang along with songs by the Dead Kennedy's, the Dickies, the Germs and Circle Jerks.  It was early afternoon and the winds became very strong and were sandblasting us as we made our way. At one point the wind seemed
Scott Boyd, Hanson Meyer and Mike Curtiss standing in front of the Buick
to die down a bit and the boys all decided that it was time to stop on the side of the road in the middle of the desert for a restroom break. And although I told them to walk a good distance from the car, the wind whipped up just as everyone was marking their own respective bushes and blew the piss back at the car and gave it a nice coating of urine and dust. We all had a good laugh and continued the rest of the way to our destination in Palm Springs.

Once we arrived at the condo, we ate some food and geared up for the show at the Rumours Club. The show was scheduled for the late afternoon and was “all ages”. When we got there, we thought we were wrong about the early starting time of the show because there wasn’t anyone around… The place was open, but there weren’t any patrons, only the staff. We asked, and they assured us that it definitely was the place and the bands were going to start very soon. The sun was still up, but we went inside the dark club. The place was very small with a bar to the right and a six inch riser for the band to set up on at the far side of the room. It was like the bands had to play on the floor with no protection from the violence that their music was sure to incite. A small 20’ x 20’ dance floor with vertical 4” poles holding up the roof consumed the open area just in front of the “stage” and the bathroom was located in the far left corner.

Black Flag at the Rumours Club in Palm Springs. Myke Bates playing guitar in back on Left
We were all decked out for our first Black Flag show. Knowing beforehand about all the violence, and not knowing how crazy the punks of the upper desert were, we decided to come prepared for anything short of all out war. We had boots, chains, spikes, etc... it’s amazing that the club even let us through the front doors because we appeared to be armed to the teeth. The first band was a group of local guys from Palm Springs known as Funeral Information whose singer/guitarist had written the song "Rodney On The ROQ" when he was with the band Target 13. They played for a fairly empty room and we kept expecting to see the masses pouring in any time to partake in the melee that Black Flag brought with them wherever they performed. After Funeral Information’s set, Black Flag came in carrying their own equipment across the empty dance floor and set it up on the stage. This particular early line up of Black Flag included Greg Ginn on Guitar, Chuck Dukowski on Bass, Robo on Drums and Dez Cadena (with a shaved head) on Vocals. By the time Black Flag went on there were about 15 or 20 other kids there besides us. No one else showed up. It was like we had our own party and Black Flag was there to play for it. My friends and I slammed on the dance floor encouraging others to engage of which only a few did. We had a blast… and without trying, we ended up really beating the crap out of each other. The back of someone’s head hit Mike Curtiss in the mouth and then he caught an elbow to the eye… swelling it shut and blackening it immediately. Eric Dakota caught his spiked wrist band on one of Scott Boyd’s chains and was thrown into one of the vertical poles on the dance floor breaking his wrist… We must have looked like a real parade of posers and we were too punk for our own good! The band played their entire catalog of songs and at one point they launched into Louie Louie and Myke Bates from Funeral Information took the stage and played guitar with them.

After the show was finished, the band started to slowly pack their gear on the stage and invited us to hang out with them. While Robo was loading up his drums outside, I remember asking Greg how Robo got his name… and he, probably sensing my young and gullible nature, told me that it was because they were so poor that Robo would drink Robitussin cough syrup to get drunk. The guys were really friendly and once we were done chatting, we helped them take their instruments out to their van. And then, just before we left (without saying who), a couple of the guys in our group, trying to live up to all the punk rock media hype, had scribbled “Big Bear Punks” all over the bathroom and broke a couple of fixtures. We learned later that as a result, the club took it out of Black Flag's pay and they only made $50 for the night… I don’t think they were too happy about that. And then to add insult to injury, someone stole Greg's guitar that night.

Since it was Spring Break and the streets were filled with people, we decided to walk around for the sheer shock factor. We really went over the top in terms of dressing for the occasion... And then you add Mike’s grotesque, swollen purple eye and bloodied fat lip, we were a true sight to behold. Although most people just gawked and stared at us, we did manage to talk to a few girls there. I can’t seem to remember what happened to Eric Dakota and how he managed the pain of his broken wrist that night, but he waited until we got back to Big Bear to see a doctor. We all made it back to our sleepy mountain community in one piece more or less and didn’t stop talking about the experience of it all for weeks. Each time one of us brought it up, we found ourselves reinvigorated and again chomping at the bit eager for our next show. Unfortunately for me, there would be a few obstacles and my next show would be little later than sooner… As it turned out, it would again be a Black Flag show, but it wouldn’t come until the end of summer vacation.



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