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.