Who: Stomp-Outz, The Lumberjacks, Who Gives A Fuck
Where: A Backyard on West 79th St.
When: September 22, 2011
Better than… anything I've experienced.
So, here's what happened. Javier Cabral wrote an exquisite piece on East L.A. backyard punk for us this week. To celebrate the release of the story, a guy named Ignacio “Nacho Corrupted” Rodriguera — who is a member of Corrupted Youth, one of Cabral's top five eastside backyard bands — helped throw a party. Only, since apparently there weren't any East L.A. spots available, they decided to have it in South Central.
About sixty or seventy people showed up, behind a large house subdivided into apartments. The small yard was surrounded by an imposing iron fence, which could be entered from a grim alley lined with barbed wire. The neighbors didn't seem to mind the breakneck-speed 100 decibel punk rock being played, or maybe they did, because the cops showed up early. But then, get this, Rodriguera talked them into leaving, by explaining that the party was celebrating the Weekly article. He had a copy of the paper, pointed out his name, showed them his ID, and said we were planning to do another one on the South Central scene. So, the cops said the party could continue!
I arrived shortly after this happened. Cabral had invited me, and another great writer Jeff Weiss met up with us there as well. Driving over I was turning right onto 79th off of Figueroa when I came upon a bunch of police cars and an ambulance with the lights going. A guy was laid out on the ground, probably from a car crash. I slowed down to rubberneck, and a woman hustled over toward my car. She was probably in her early '20s, and holding something I thought was a camera. Was I, like, a witness to the accident? Did she need testimony? I rolled down the window and she asked me if I wanted a date. I said no thanks.
Before I'd left my house, my wife had cautioned me not to wear blue or red, and even balked at my jeans. In high school in Minnesota my friends and I were obsessed with movies like Menace II Society, and South Central was the absolute pinnacle of exoticness to us. I don't need to embarrass myself explaining the amount of “O.E.” we consumed and the dumb accents we affected, but in any case coming out to this party brought everything a bit full circle.
Anyway, when I got to the party I came in through the front, like a dumb gringo, instead of through the alley like everyone else. As a result, I was nearly swept up into the mosh pit immediately, which was the most serious one I've witnessed. Folks had possessed looks in their eyes and were smashing into each other, with elbows, and pushing from behind. Girls were in there too. One of the funny jokes was to throw people into the pit against their will.
The party was mostly inhabited by young kids; a photographer I met named Michael Alpert (you can see more of his pics at the bottom of this post) described himself as an old man of the scene, at 25. While the East L.A. backyard culture is mostly Chicano, this was a mix of Latin cultures. Some cute girls, too. Cabral explained that many of these kids were children of gangstas, and that their music taste and tight clothes were rebelling against their folks.
The first group I saw were The Lumberjacks, who were excellent and did a version of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” They were followed by Who Gives A Fuck, who were playing Oi! music at one point. Their lead singer was particularly charismatic. He became shirtless, but kept his suspenders on. Their first song was called “Try Fucking Dope.” They have a knack for titles.
I was drinking Pacifico, and kept wondering what I would do when I had to pee. The mosh pit and the fence had us pretty well trapped in there. But Cabral told me to just go ahead and pee in the corner, which I did, though I was just pissing onto pavement, steps away from people watching the show. It was a bit unnerving. It's hard to pee when you're nervous.
It was hard taking notes on my phone too, actually, because the mosh pit kept expanding in my direction and I was afraid of getting pulled under. Call me a wimp, but I also felt trepidation watching the guys Cabral described as gangbangers lurking in the alley. Then someone let off a smoke bomb. This was followed immediately by a bunch of firecrackers, like, the kind that go fifty feet in the air, let off right there in the backyard. Cabral warned me not to look up because the debris might fall into my eyes.
Then folks started throwing the firecrackers at each other's feet.
More cops rolled through, in response to a fight that broke out in the corner of the yard. One guy started taking his shirt off, and another undid his suspenders. Alpert worried that one of them would get taken down onto broken glass. About this time, almost everyone in attendance broke into a spontaneous rendition of “Happy Birthday,” not because it was anyone's birthday but because that's the traditional way to diffuse tensions in these situations.
The cops left again, and as they departed down the alley a girl yelled after them to check out the LA Weekly, page 77. Turns out that 77 is a sacred punk rock number, because 1977 is the year the scene really came into fruition with the Ramones and Sex Pistols and whatnot. Cabral said everyone kept asking him if we put the article on that page on purpose. Sure, why not!
I should reiterate that, when I wasn't being a baby, the experience was tremendously fun. The third band I saw was Stomp-Outz, who also knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, the cops came again at midnight and finally decided to break things up. It was unfortunate because the band Social Conflict didn't get to play; I met some of the band members beforehand. They were very cool, and gave me a copy of the compilation CD they put together, the second volume from Innocence Lost Records called California Attacks.
In any case it was the most fun I've had in a while. Thanks to Cabral for bringing me out. Look out for this guy. He's a great scribe, and he also writes about food. He was in the New Yorker article about Jonathan Gold.
Critical Bias: None. I'm a blank slate.
Random Notebook Dump: The bands usually announced what songs they were about to play. That's nice.
More photos below.