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The History of Flagstaff Punk Rock

Most people agree that the first, and for a very long time, the only punk rock band in northern Arizona was R.N., the Refrigerated Nurses. This hardy trio began during the summer of 85 and was the soul representatives of punk rock in the northern part of the state until the beginning of the 90s. Insurrection had its origins in Sedona, but had never even played in Flagstaff until after they relocated to Phoenix.

“For a long time we were all that was out there. We mostly just played house parties or would play on a skateboard ramp for a bunch of skate kids. Sometimes we would work with heavy metal bands like Cranium Vex, but as far as punk went, in the eighties, we were it.”

James Padilla the drummer for R.N.

This all changed in the early 90s when a band called Primitive Tribes burst into the scene and it was not long after that that punk burst into Flagstaff. Although still young and just getting their feel for what they were doing, Primitive Tribes was a powerhouse. They had a strong voice and profound convictions. They became the soul of flagstaff punk and the cornerstone of the scene.

            “An old van, cheap beer and thoughtful acts of destruction across corporate America.”
            Sasha Davis, Singer or Bass for Primitive Tribes.

Sometimes it takes more than just a few bands to make a punk scene and that was where and when Alex Bone stepped in. His zine C.H.A.O.S. set the mood and lit the fire for the flagstaff punk movement. The hand Xeroxed issues became a focal point and a manifesto for the youth of Flagstaff to rally around. Later when he included the upcoming show dates into the mag, it helped galvanize the scene even farther.

“Originally the only way I was able to get the money to start up C.H.A.O.S. was when I got a cash settlement from DPS when I cop blew off a stop sign and hit me on my bike. I think there was a certain irony involved there considering all the trouble I was forced to go through later. Primitive Tribes contacted me after the first issue came out. I went over their house with a few beers and we formed a partnership and a strong bond that still lasts to this day.”

Alex Bone Publisher of C.H.A.O.S.

Punk started slowly in northern Arizona, but once it arrived, it never left. Yet, even then things were starting. Places to play were nearly non-existent and when the punks found them, they were usually discovered by unsympathetic law enforcement quickly thereafter and shut down. Also, unlike other styles of music the punks refused to play in bars and other places that were not open to ‘All ages’ and this lowered their options.

“While recording the music was an integral part of the band, playing live was really the reason we played.  We played shows that had anywhere from 2 people to several hundred.  Whether it was in a basement, our living room, under a ramada at Fort Tuthill after an afternoon of punk rock cross-country croquet, or in the friendly confines of the Flagstaff Elks Lodge, we enjoyed almost every show we played.  Flag shows were great in the early 90s thanks to the energetic organizing of Alex Bone.  During that time we got to be exposed to some absolutely awesome bands that came to Flag, played shows, and drank with us in the many after-parties and debaucherous camping trips in Winona.”

Sasha Davis, Singer or Bass for Primitive Tribes.

After the small shack that was hosting some shows in Doney Park got discovered by the sheriffs and shut down, Alex Bone and Primitive Tribes had a meeting. Alex didn’t know what he was in for on multiple fronts, but it was at this meeting that Tribes asked him if he would take over booking shows in Flagstaff. He of course agreed.

“It was a small jump to move from listing all the shows in C.H.A.O.S. to actually trying to make it happen themselves. The old Elk’s Lodge on San Francisco was of course huge. People liked it because it was all ages, but also had a bar for us grown ups. Fort Tut Hill also became a great place to have shows and was probably my favorite place. The Offspring had a sickhouse show there before they got huge. It felt more like anarchy out there in the woods. I was the first one to put on real shows out there.”

“Before long Book Your Own F***ing Life came out. Once I got my name it there, everything went crazy. I used to get phone calls from bands from all over America on a daily basis. It was then that having local support bands became so important. Of course there was Primitive Tribes, but they could not play every show. Luckily bands like Cosmic Hearse, The Agency, R.N., and even the ska band Warsaw stepped up. Soon this was not even enough and other Arizona bands had to be called in from Phoenix and Tucson. Ernie’s Rubber Ducky was hugely popular in flag. Horace Pinker, Apathy, B.A.M.F., Cosmic Jackhammer, Opinion Zero, and Feast Upon Cactus Thorns would play up in Flagstaff as often as they could.”

Alex Bone Publisher of C.H.A.O.S. and show promoter

Soon they were shows happening as often as three times a week and for a small town like Flagstaff that was a pretty big deal, but things did not stop there. 

“One of the first wilder events was the C.H.A.O.S benefit show. Just about every band from Flagstaff played with both Horace Pinker and B.A.M.F coming up from Phoenix. Primitive Tribes and B.A.M.F. played last. Of course Primitive Tribes got the crowd worked up, but what I didn’t know was that the lead singer from B.A.M.F. had been giving out free dose during Tribes gig so that half the audience was tripping. Then before they went on they tossed a whole QP into the mosh pit. Things only got more insane after that.”

“The next big deal was the Lollapoloser show. This was mostly bands from Seattle that were making fun of the first Lollapolsa tour. These guys cleaned the whole Primitive Tribes house while I was living there and that was a serious task. We had nine bands staying there that night. The guys were having nosebleeds due to our high elevation and people were getting it on inside tents pitched in the yard. It was wild. At the show DUMT played last and their giant singer flopped like a dying fish on the cement floor of the Ramada at Fort Tut Hill. It was totally insane. Those guys were very hardcore.”

“A few months later we did a legal marijuana show. Bands from all over played for that one. The best part was watching everyone downtown freaking out when people marched behind a twelve-foot fake joint yelling, ‘we smoke pot and we like it a lot.’”

Alex Bone Publisher of C.H.A.O.S. and show promoter.

Things were changing in Flagstaff and as the punk scene grew lots of people were becoming involved. More bands started up. The Bob Chops recording studio opened. Gopher Sounds was now around giving Flagstaff two record stores. Punks could be seen all over the place, but with this also came problems. The arrests and the fines began. Soon it was getting harder to put on shows again.

“Things started to go south for me. I was young and I got a little overwhelmed by my own and the general anarchy. I lost my job and lived off just doing shows during the summer of 92. Soon though I was getting hassled by the man. It got bad enough that I decided to bail. It was a questionable choice, but I had a young daughter and needed to get my act together, at least for her. So after that summer I moved to Tucson and started up A.B.C. the Anti-Boredom Coalition with Vegetable and Beef. My father always said that they sounded like they would make a good soup.”

Alex Bone Publisher of C.H.A.O.S. and show promoter.

There was a slight lull when Alex Bone left, but the slack was taken up and the void quickly filled. People came and went, but this can be a healthy thing too. It creates change and variety and keeps a scene from growing stagnant.

 

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39 Responses to “The History of Flagstaff Punk Rock”

  1. Thanks to Resist And Exist. I wouldn’t have been able to find out about my Northern AZ Punk history. They told me to look up Primitive Tribes from Flag, because they were friends with them. Only thing I was able to find was music on youtube.

    Same with Insurrection. I typed in “80s AZ punk” on youtube and they came up.

    I always loved the Flag scene. Now that Bro Dog Party has broken up, the only band I know is Let the World Die. It good stuff!

    Thanks for the info history on early Flag punk scene!

    -Eric Wren

  2. Flag puk scene is still alive!!! Cottage still puts on shows. Check out Shredface, Rise Like Lions, (and soon) Dirty Rig.

  3. I would add This Tripper Chick, Codpiece, the ShitBastards, Table Grapes, and Unlikely to Abide to the list of punk bands in the mix from ’91 to 2005. I would also point out that most of the shows were booked by the bands themselves…Elk’s Lodge, Fort Tuthill, Doney Park, etc. The first punk show I saw in Flagstaff was RN and Primitive Tribes inside a downtown record store in ’91. Rock on.

    David Niekrasz – Cosmic Hearse

    • In 91 and 92 I booked the majority of the shows that happen in those places. I know I booked about 10 shows that Cosmic Hearse played at ha ha. Tables Grapes was just coming onto the scene in 92 and probably should have been mentioned. But since this article covers up to August 92, I think they had only done a couple of shows, mostly because Matt had just recently returned to towns. I don’t think those other 3 bands were playing out in Flagstaff at that time. I could be wrong, certainly. The Casebeers were actually living in Tucson in 92 and were involved with the ABC Anti-Boredom Coalition down there which I was also booking bands for. Jus sayin

  4. This made my day. Thanks for the historical run-down of the early 90s Flag punk scene. I was a freshman in ’91 @ NAU and wandered down to the south campus student union upstairs ballroom for a Friday night battle of the bands with a few friends on a whim. A band by the name of Primitive Tribes hit the stage and it was the most ridiculous, insane, honest, unpretentious live music I had ever experienced. I was hooked. Many a night spent @ The Elks Lodge and Fort Tuthill from there on.

    Primitive Tribes. Shitbastard. Refrigerated Nurses. Ernie’s Rubber Duckie. Cosmic Hearse. Codpiece. All kinds of flashbacks bringing a smile to my face. For some reason I remember a band with a sitar – Sili Pudi or something like that – @ The Elks Lodge.

    Much love to all, including the writer(s) here, who made these memories possible.

  5. Love this. Been thinking about doing a chronology of sorts as well. I didn’t come to Flag until ’92 but have been able to see a few ‘scenes’ take place. I have some pics from Elk’s Lodge and other places around that time. A few C.H.A.O.S. zones as well. Kudos.

  6. I’ve been trying to figure out the name of a band that played the Elk’s Lodge from Flag (during this time period) that had a trippy fast psychedelic sound. I used to like to drink Robitussin and go check them out. They were danceable although i just stood against the wall and loved the sound. I recall all the bands listed here but this one band was not quite so “punk” as the other bands. Any memory of other bands during this time? Thanks.

  7. Reading these comments brought a huge smile to my face and a warm glow to my heart. I’m so glad others had such good times listening to music played by a band that I was lucky to be in – that is all one can ask for!

  8. Some of the best shows I’ve ever been to were at the old Elk’s. My band, Ernie’s Rubber Duckie, around 93 was playing Flagstaff as much as we were playing in Metro Phoenix, mostly due to the lack of “all ages” venues. One of my favorite shows was with my good friends, Debristream from Los Angeles. I’ve been to a lot of shows, but there was something about the Elk’s shows that were special.

  9. you are truly a excellent webmaster. The web site loading velocity is incredible.

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  10. Actually, there was punk in Flagstaff prior to RN. At Flagstaff High in 1980-1983 a few of us…mainly me (Sean Johnson) and Steve Alesch were the resident punks. But the Sedona guys (the McCabe brothers, Joe [later in Insurrection] and others) would come up and cause trouble with us. I started Insurrection at a house party in Flagstaff in late ’82 or early ’83. Me, Steve, Joe and one other guy who’s name I can’t remember now had really no songs and it was more like the Germs first gig…lots of drugs and no talent but we looked like freaks with spiked hair and studded leather and we got up at the party and played. I have the cassette to this day. Later, I moved back to LA and Joe kept the name and restarted Insurrection in Sedona and later Phoenix. I saw him years later and we laughed about him stealing my band name. I lived in Flagstaff after that in the very late ’80s, but in those years I was pretty much busy being a junkie idiot and only played a bit with some friends like Brad from CA and Romero and those guys at the house we had on the south side. The main thing I wanted to say is that a few of us were around early and took lots of shit for being the only punks in a town of red necks.

  11. It’s an amazing post designed for all the internet visitors; they will take benefit from it I am sure.

  12. Terrific post however I was wanting to know if you could write
    a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Kudos!

  13. Wonderful article. I have to say those were exciting times at the Tribe house, the Elks Lodge and Fort Tuthill. I had the pleasure of being there at the beginning of all the excitement till almost the very end.

  14. I lived at the Downtowner for a year between august 1991 and august 1992. It was a great pleasure watching that scene come to life. The shows were usually quite a mix of people from different scenes. I remember one night at the end of April 1992 Keith Morris brought his first post-Circle Jerks’ band Bug Lamp to the Elk’s Lodge and admonished the crowd for supporting the riots in L.A. Don’t remember Joe’s Place on the corner of San Francisco and 66 having live music but I do recall them having one of the most eclectic jukeboxes in the state. There was even some tight as fuck thrash-metal in town…Does anyone remember Char?

  15. Awesome article. Wondering if you can help my band out with some contacts? We’re called Bud Bronson & The Good Timers and we’re coming to Flagstaff in May and looking for an awesome show — the kind of stuff you described above. Let us know, we wanna have fun in Flagstaff!

    budbronson.tumblr.com

  16. I loved listening to rn in the 80s. I am actually looking for a copy of their demo album. I don’t live in flag anymore so if anyone can get a hold of their demo or still has it. U can get a hold of me @ rivethead_vanpervert@yahoo.com. I wasn’t a punk. I was more of a metalhead but I still had fun @ their shows. The shows with cranium vex were cool. Knew most of the guys from school. The show with all the bands from cali, virulence and such was a cool show too. So please if anyone has a copy of that lemme know. Thanx

  17. Nice brief history of scene. What about early Black Fire? Basically most stuff in Flag in the 90s was “punk,” in the Mike Watt sense–homegrown music that was doing its own thing. I was a prog-rock kid, but because of the relative smallness of the scene, if you wanted to see shows you had to hear a bunch of different kinds of music that you might not normally be exposed to. Hence Black Fire, Primitive Tribes, etc. I remember a Vandals show at the Elks Lodge . . . NOMEANSNO played Flag at least once . . . And Watt played there at Monte Vista in 98 or 99. Flag was a hotbed of talented folks in the 80s-2000s. . . some of the folks are still there.
    –Rob Wallace (Shifter, Samba, etc.)

    • True. This article mostly just covers 91-92. I was the guy that put on the Vandals show at the Elks and brawled with 12 hicks at once with 3000$ in my jacket. It was a great time and a great scene.

      • Right on! Thanks again for this. Looking again at the piece and realizing how great the ‘net is for these kinds of “forgotten” but incredibly important history.

  18. Good to see this stuff is not forgotten. Weekend trips to Flag landed me at Gopher Sounds and C.H.A.O.S. zines (some of which I still have believe it or not), which then tipped me to Primitive Tribes, RN, etc. Saw my first concert ever at Fort Tut Hill Bands for Cans. Still some of the best punk EVER!. Soo sad when my tape of their first album was destroyed. These guys opened my eyes to a wonderful worldview of anarchy and fuckall. THANKS ALEX BONE AND P.T.!!!

    • Wow thanks. Glad to hear the positive threads of life changing memories. Some Primitive tribes songs are on Utube. A lot used to be on MySpace. Not sure now. If you like CHAOS check out some of my newer novels if you get the chance. Anarchy into action.

  19. ALEX BONE, Crazy man! Thank you so much for bringing back the memories. ELK’S LODGE, FORT TUTHILL, PRIMITVE TRIBES, COSMIC HEARSE! This is from Mark Canterbury. Do you remember going to Sycamore Creek with the PSEUDONYMPHS? Carrie road with me on my BMW down the Oak Creek Canyon switchbacks. And didn’t we go to Oak Creek with the NEPTUNAS? I remember TOAST. The VANDALS show was crazy. That was the biggest show in FLAG that I saw. I was kind of a factor in the brawl. I was just slamming around and hit some guy that took offense. He faced me up, and I grabbed him by the collar and bum rushed him out the door. I think he was a High School jock that had never been to a punk show before and didn’t get it. So, then all his buddies and a bunch of punks are out in the street fighting. I got sucker punched and knocked down, and I look up and it was a dude that I knew. So, I told him “WHAT THE FUCK” and he said “sorry I didn’t know that was you”. I think he just got caught up in the mayhem. By this time the Cops showed up, so I never I saw the rest of the brawl. For those of you that don’t know ALEX BONE, he’s a big dude – about 6′ 7″ – so I’m sure he held his own. It’s wild that he had $3000 cash in his pocket.

    I have more recollections that I will try to add in the future.

    Thanks,

    Mark

    • Thanks Mark. Nice to hear if from a different view point. Yep 3000$ in my jacket which was on the ground while you and I fought 12 guys. We might have been in trouble if Junior haven’t shown up. The three of use put 12 guys on the run and I got my jacket back.

  20. Does anyone know what became of Fred, the bass player from Primitive Tribes? I knew him before the band, but I left Flag about the time they were really getting going. A very good band.

  21. I was at that Vandals show! It was my first punk show ever and pretty much changed my life. Haven’t been able to find anything about this show anywhere else online.


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