By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
By 10 p.m. there are 300 of them, mostly second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans, some with 4-inch-high bleached and spiked hair and some with skinned heads, not to mention piercings everywhere: septum, lips, cheeks. The girls' faces are thick with makeup. They wear fishnets and band tees for Vice Squad, the Expelled or any other influential punk band from the late-'80s U.K. scene, altered to flaunt bra straps. Their pink Doc Martens have steel toes.
It's Labor Day and they've come to see punk at a house in East L.A., near the City Terrace neighborhood between the territory of the Lopez and Lott gangs.
The three-story house — owned by a couple of dudes hoping to make a few bucks toward their rent — is full, more than full. It's got a patio on the second floor and a small yard in the back, which is about to burst.
The mostly underage kids have paid $3 to get in, the ones who aren't friends with the guys running the party anyway. But that doesn't include refreshments, which explains why their backpacks are heavy with 40-ounce bottles of King Cobra and Miller High Life. They're also smoking skunky weed from portable glass pipes and puffing grape-flavored Swisher Sweets blunts. Cocaine is trendy again, too, snorted off of CD cases or from the tips of car keys.
Word of the event was sent out to the faithful via mass text shortly before showtime. The best part is that most of the bands advertised have actually shown up; they tend to flake if they lack functional equipment or can't get gas money. On the second floor, the Stomp Outz perform their British-working-class Oi! songs, uncomplicated repetitions of two-finger power chords at upbeat tempos. Then the frontmen of Corrupted Youth screech their throats out to "The Beer for Breakfast" and "Confusion." The guitarist and rhythm section are playing so fast they can't always keep up with each other.
To be honest, though, the sound doesn't really matter, just so long as it's danceable. A mosh pit erupts right in front of the Stomp Outz, causing the guitarist to nearly topple over his guitar amp. A small coed group goes around in circles, its members pushing everyone out of their way, using all their might. If someone falls out, someone else picks them up and throws them right back into the pit. It's usually very friendly, believe it or not.
Unfortunately, just after 1 a.m., a couple of inebriated kids let their ghetto egos take over and start a fistfight out on the front lawn. Others quickly jump in and throw punches to impress their friends. The full-blown ruckus likely causes one of the neighbors to call the cops, and L.A.'s finest quickly roll up. (They always seem to make it to these get-togethers, sometimes wearing riot gear and shooting powder balls.) This time they give the members of one of the evening's bands, Who Gives a Fuck, a $400 ticket for loud and unreasonable noise.
Making lemonade, party organizer Ignacio "Nacho Corrupted" Rodriguera immediately suggests throwing a fundraiser backyard party for the group, to be held the following week.
Every Friday and Saturday night in East Los Angeles, whether the weather is decent or not, you can usually find three or four backyard punk gigs, populated by the angrier demographic of Chicano adolescents who are too young to legally get fucked up at bars but harbor an innate passion for desmadre (chaos!).
There are no promoters, no contracts, no set times and no set lists, just an informal network of eager young artists ready to play at a moment's notice. They tend not to care if they get paid, so long as they get to show off their stuff and score a few beers.
I grew up on the Eastside and discovered these DIY parties as a prepubescent. Despite its reputation, my end of town is not all bald dudes and gang warfare; being into punk rock, metal or skateboarding can help you escape that life. After all, as I discovered, if you have long hair or tight pants, you are considered a "rocker" and usually left alone.
"In backyards, it feels more at home. It's way wilder and has bigger pits than at bars or venues," says Edgar Fernandez, the drummer and lead singer for popular local band the Zoo, who play backyard shows every weekend. (Their members hail from Garfield High School, made famous by Stand and Deliver.)
The scene has been strong for decades. In the 1970s, Los Lobos made a name for themselves at residential ghetto venues. In the early '80s, a faster and more raw sound was born, highlighted by bands like the Brat, Thee UndertakUers and the Stains. In the '90s, Boyle Heights' own Union 13 were signed to Epitaph.
Their sounds often reflected the angst and frustrations of Mexican-American residents, struggling with identity crises. (There are Guatemalans and Salvadorans in the mix as well.) As an L.A. native whose parents were born in Mexico, I can sympathize. In Mexico I'm sometimes called a Pocho — a derogatory term referring to American-born kids. Here in L.A. I've gotten plenty of strange looks in fancy Westside restaurants.
But back to punk: In recent years it has fragmented into multiple subgenres. There's street punk, which is faster and more relentless than the traditional hardcore of groups like Black Flag. (You may have heard it in Larry Clark's 2005 film Wassup Rockers, which is actually pretty decent.) Ska-core is a ska/punk hybrid, while grindcore and krust are probably the heaviest and most ear-damaging — something like a rusty car's engine about to break down. DJ parties also have become very popular. But no matter the genre, the themes remain the same: anti-authoritarianism and teen angst.
In 2011 it's fair to say the backyard scene is as strong as it's ever been. "It waxes and wanes, but it never really dies out," says Jimmy Alvarado, an East L.A. punk historian who is preparing a full-length documentary titled Eastside Punks.
The guy best known for keeping the movement vital nowadays is Rodriguera, who threw the Labor Day party and is also a singer in Corrupted Youth. "I love punk, there is a lot of unity, we treat each other like family," he says. Born in L.A. and raised in Culiacan, Mexico, Rodriguera is tall and pale; he wears tight pants and porcupine-like spiked hair. He's the type of guy who will call you in the middle of the night to ask if he can move the gig to your house.
He's tried doing that with me — a couple of times, actually. But I'm finished as a host, ever since the bash I threw in my parents' apartment parking lot for my 21st birthday party last year. Sure, it was a good time. About 200 friends showed up, including some I hadn't seen in years. They brought weeks' worth of booze.
Unfortunately I ended up gashing my head, due to the actions of some local gangbangers who didn't understand the concept of friendly slamdancing. Instead, they used the opportunity to beat up on drunken kids (namely me).
But, to be honest, even though I found myself in the pit with blood dripping down my face and all over my shirt, I really didn't care. It was fun. It was punk.
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Wooow nacho is fucking up the scene and burning the spots and everyone this shits retarted as Fuck!!
lol + 1 never saw anyone do cocaine, i was more of a metal gig guy, i must say those punkers are really into fashion what's up with that?
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Was thereand most of the shit this guy said is bogus! Everyone wasn't doing cociann and people actually listen to the music. We didn't dance because it was loud but because we felt the music, it was good music. This just makes us all seem like low lifes. Don't call everything a drunk just cause youu see one.
Please re-read the article - he doesn't say everyone was doing cocaine, merely that it has become "popular" again. Plus, I don't think he is trying to paint us (I am a Boyle Heights native, ex-bandmate and ex-gigger myself) as lowlives, considering he himself is a part of the scene.
New generation. The scene is welcoming but as recent comments have said its not the same. Grew out of it 6 years ago because I planned to mature get a good job, finish college, and just be an adult. In all my years of being to gigs I have never seen one person bust a yayo line! Yeah you might drink and smoke some weed but so what majority of adults now a days have done that shit once in their teen days! The scene isn't the same as in 04. Thats when it was a true unity of punks! Not some lil teenagers thinking their hard shit know it alls. Yep I grew up and some will say I sold out but at least I keep the music in my heart! East Los Drunk Punks will always be a great memory from making close friends to meeting my wife. And kids that say this is selling them out its nothing new to people if its 1 year ago to 20 years ago!
also i find it funnyhow people always refer to 'being a family" but when outsiders come to shows they are immediately not greeted or even looked down upon. you might be cool with your family, but to me anyone who is looking to have a good time and not be an asshole deserves to at least be acknowledged. I dont understand how every one who tweeted some shit about this story calls it a good story. A good story tells something that was previously unknown and interesting.... it just doesnt drop names... there is no brief mention about what this scene means to these kids or anyone for that matter. Punk rock kept this kid alive and created a family when there was none. seems there is just a bunch of name/ego stroking and descriptions of your Stereotypical punkrocker.
Wow, neighbors must love these. what a bunch of fools, no originality, trying to dress like its 1982, blehhh. no wonder east la is such a sh#thole. pave it over!
its no wonder the author is so focused on this type of venue. he's only 21 and its might be all he is familiar with in his short punk rock lifespan. there were alot more places before this place and will be after. the only difference is that there is free reign to do whatever at backyards until someone fucks it up permanently. there are more people who do a lot for the scene so stop picking favorites just because you can get high and drunk at their house and the shows are cheap. besides some of the older generations who have done alot for the scene are no longer seen cuz a lot have other eissues such as being incarcerated or being responsible for their families that they probably created during their anti authoritarian days. just because one person has a spot where shows are and says "fuck the system" doesnt mean that they are doing so much for the scene... take a note from one of my homies who ran an all ages backyard show for over 2 1/2 yrs until someone died in front of his house of a drug and alcohol overdose. jkust because there isnt any authority and free reign to get fucked up doesnt always mean this defines a scene... at least not mine.
Why are you exploiting us?? And for real everyone needs to stop giving Nacho credit for everything. That foos not the only one that keeps this scene alive! Only the real punks do! Cause all that foo wants is fame, and all his homies gfs, he does everyone dirty, he starts peddo in other neighborhoods over dumb things. All the drama theses foos start is killing the fun. Go home Nacho, and figure your shit out.
Mr. Cabral I suggest you Get your facts straight and focus on the positive and How Creative and Resourceful the flourishing Backyard Party Scene is in East L.A./Boyle Hieghts and surrounding areas., your article was a Breath of Fresh Air and not about Echo Park/Silverlake!. The Drugs and age of Participants should remain anonymous unless they agree in writing., Cover your ass!, "The Zoo" does play occasional Backyard Parties and as you Know are not a "PUNK" band, however maybe do the follow up of the Bands from the EASTSIDE who do play in clubs! IE: ZOO,DELERIANS,UPGROUND,MOONDOG ORCHESTRA,BLOODHOUNDS KILL PILLS AND SANTOROS!.....who by the way came from that Punk scene...OH Yeah! the Eastside is not S.C.L.A...its the Barrio! not the Ghetto! , one thing inspite of EASTSIDES Financial Demographic We are not "Ghetto Egocentric" Yet Proud of the History/Traditions that the Bands and its followers that continue to keep alive in the EASTSIDE!...RAGE-ON! I'm "ANTIKOOL" a 5th generation Xicano Eastsider who played those backyards with Butt Acne,Peace Pills, Ollin,Glasspacks!, and I'm Proud of it!...
The other day, I heard about things called "raves". They seem pretty crazy. I think that would be an excellent follow-up piece.
Over santoros and moondog they play anything! And honestly are not any good I don't understand the hype behind those bands nothing but tired 60's riffs, over it. If anything you should write about T.V (tunnel vision) they're playing the redwood on Sept 30 new music that sounds nothing like what's happening in boyle heights.
Ademas pocho es un idiota hijo de hispanos que no habla espanol.
@ mayhem in the hood can't believe you just heardd of raves
Nice! Backyards are always great! Thrash/Death/Black Metal/Punk/Ska/Grindcore/ Powerviolence, PsychoBilly shows Kick ass! some of the last forms of Soul in Rock n Roll. L.A. remains to keep the reputation to have the biggest & craziest scenes!!! Slam Dancing at shows always brings a spiritual/Tribal self empowered feel. See you at the next show!
I liked the Articles...dont go to much punk gigs myself...mostly go to the Thrash, grindcore gigs...but pretty much the same concept...nice to read something that usually stays in the underground and from someone who has been experienced, actually goes and hosted backyard gigs! and yes I agree, this year there are a lot of backyard gigs more than last year!!
Finally the Weekly includes an article about the Eastside and they're not talking about Silverlake or Echo Park...the article is actually about the real Eastside--East LA
you know, this might seem pretty cool if it didn't involve underrage kids doing cocaine.... thats sad and pathetic