It’s a simple concept but an incredibly effective one. Get a bunch of punk rockers from the ’70s through the early ’90s together, put them all onstage in front of an attentive, like-minded audience, and wallow in nostalgia while they relate old war stories.
The idea is the brainchild of Pleasant Gehman and Theresa Kereakes, respectively the editor and photographer for the fondly remembered punk zine Lobotomy. Both were regular guest lecturers at UCLA and realized that they were fielding a lot of questions about the old days — what it was like to hang around with late Germs singer Darby Crash, that sort of thing.
“We did address some of the things that a university class would want to address — race, class, gender, labor, capitalism — all of those fine points that are very interesting, but we filtered it through punk rock,” Kereakes says. “All the questions we ever got were related to Darby Crash and, ‘Describe a typical night back in the day.’ We found that’s what they wanted to hear. We decided that we could give it to them and the public, and Warstories naturally grew out of that.”
The first Warstories event took place at El Cid in February, and included Exene Cervenka from X, Jane Wiedlin from The Go-Gos and Mike Martt from Tex & the Horseheads.
“I just called up a bunch of old friends to do it,” Gehman says. “Most of us are my age, which is 59. We’ve all known each other for 25 to 45 years at least. I thought it would be really fun, instead of anyone reading out of the multiple books that we’ve all published or been in, if I had a bucket full of props that had names of people, places, things onstage and it would just get tossed around and whatever one somebody pulled out, they would have to talk about. I put up a save-the-date post on Facebook, and it was half-full overnight. Two days later it was completely sold out. It went really well — it was completely hilarious.”
This week, the second Warstories event will take place, this time at the Roxy. Speakers will include Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag), Mike Watt (Minutemen, Stooges) and Abby Travis (Sumo Princess, etc).
“From what I’ve been told — this is my first one of these Warstories — we’re all going to sit on the stage,” Travis says. “I believe there will be a hat or some sort of a receptacle with questions from the audience, it will be posed to the group, and whoever has something pertinent to say will chime in. Crazy tales of punk rock adventures in the ’70s and ’80s. I will be participating in the ’80s part. I actually haven’t prepared for this at all. I’m sure, once things get rolling, memories will be sparked. Keith Morris and Mike Watt have the ability to talk and talk and talk anyway.”
Also onstage will be L7 bassist Jennifer Finch, the baby of this group.
“I’ve known everyone 25-plus years, when we were all children going to punk rock shows, and I think my name came up as another voice that could be heard,” Finch says. “I have a couple of stories that I’m thinking about. I’m a couple of years younger than most of the people on the panel. When I originally connected with them, I was very much a minor. It’s going to be interesting to give my perspective on some of the stories. When somebody is 16 and somebody is 19, it’s a big difference. Now, of course, it doesn’t matter.”
“A lot of the times that you have to work with a big group of people, it comes down to who’s available and in town,” Kereakes says. “We looked at our circle of friends and tried to achieve a balance of men to women, era to era. Jennifer of L7 got started a tiny bit later than some of the rest who were in punk rock at the beginning. We also have a lot of bass players this time. That’s one of those things that the universe throws at you. We’ll be booming.”
Gehman says the name “Warstories” suits the evening’s festivities perfectly, as a vivid description of the sort of anecdotes that get pulled out.
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“It doesn’t really have to do with anything political, except record company politics back in the day,” she says. “At this point, anyone who was in the punk scene, or new wave and rock & roll scene, from the early ’70s to the ’90s, it is like someone who was in World War II or Vietnam. We’re talking about the olden days. But also, the people that I had on the first show and this show aren’t living in the past. Everyone’s gone on to do crazy, wonderful, amazing things. Everyone was a creative, DIY self-starter with a bunch of imagination and really good organizational skills.”
Kereakes adds that, this week at the Roxy, we can expect gossip, dirty dish and funny stories.
“I think it’s a hopeful thing for younger people,” she says. “Forty years ago, our parents hoped we’d be lawyers, accountants or whatever. Each of us had a teenage dream that we’ve fulfilled and are doing it. You can make a living off of your teenage dream, and that’s what we want to share.”
Warstories, featuring Abby Travis (The Lovedolls, The Go-Go's, KMFDM), Chip Kinman (The Dils, Rank & File, Blackbird), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Dave Catching (Tex & the Horseheads, The Modifiers, Eagles of Death Metal), Jennifer Finch (L7), Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Off!), Mike Watt (The Minutemen, Dos, Firehose), DJ Lina Lecaro and more, takes place at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7, at the Roxy.