History of Tucson Punk, Part I,
History of Tucson Punk Part I
Industrial Hall and 814
Note: I’m starting this series with a personal tale in the hopes to set the stage for more adventures and info to come.
People say that when it comes to college you usually remember your freshman year the most and the individuals you meet then will be the ones you keep or at least recall for life. In my case this is certainly true, for many crazy things happened to me during my first year in Arizona.
One of the biggest changes was my introduction into the punk rock music and scene. Now I had actually seen my first punk rock show in 1982 at the tender age of 16, but as far as really knowing what it was about or being immersed into the scene that had yet to happen. Sure I listened to the Clash, Sex Pistols and DK, but for instance I thought the Cure was punk, so embarrassing, shoot I should delete that.
In Tucson things were different. In 1985 the punk scene was in full swing. All around campus there were people with torn leather jackets, piercings, and big red Mohawks, although almost none of them actually attended the school. At that first party I went to at Fremont Labs, I saw this strange character, and oh boy this is nerdy, but I actually asked him, “Hey are you a punk rocker?” He was, his name was Jon Mount and even stranger he actually lived in my dorm.
Soon Jon was keeping me in the loop and I began to frequent punk shows. These were beyond intense for a small suburbanite like me. The colors, wild tattoos, the torn clothes and crazy hair. Also the girls were all so flippin’ hot that my only mildly experienced mind got sent into overload. Then there was the hard riving music of course.
At the time Tucson had its own type of sound. It was a type of speed core ruled by the band Useless Pieces of Shit (UPS). It set the stage for many of the bands that were to follow such as Opinion Zero, Blood Spasm, Cosmic Jackhammer, Civil Order, What Went Wrong, and American Death Trip. These bands talked about everything, but love, and played as fast as their mortal bodies would allow. It did not take me long to get hooked and frankly I still am.
Then there was also the pit. Now these are not always like the movies with forty souls trashing in a chaotic circle, but they can be. More often than not, they started slow with only a few people and like normal dancing you are putting yourself out there on display, trying to be cool in front of everyone else. I liked to skank a little so my arms looked like the kids on the ped xing signs. People in general were nice and would help those who fell over and the like. Usually we went in a circle, but of course there were no real rules.
Yes, slam dancing was the first and, for a very long time, the only type of dancing I would ever do. Have I gotten hurt, well yes, but I often did not notice, like when I was at a DOA show and got a bloody nose and kept dancing until my girlfriend (yes, eventually I get girlfriends) pulled me out. There were other times, like when I decided to go against traffic at a UPS show and smacked heads with another kid. I was so dazed that I was lucky to make it out of the pit before I went under.
Still those days of bigger shows were mostly in the future, back then it was house parties and mostly local shows, with maybe an out of town band slumming for gas money, if they were lucky. One of the first and definitely most intense places that I ever saw a show was a place we called Industrial Hall. I am not sure how it all happened, but a friend of mine named Terry Trash, who was a true punk rocker and always 50 cents away from homelessness, somehow was able to take over the three level business set into between a dozen others along a city block downtown.
This place was run down and wet from all the leaks. You could not go up on the upper floors for fear of falling through to your death below, but this was okay, since I doubt Trash spent even a penny for rent there. No naturally, as soon as the place was his, enough for him to at least own a set of keys before he was kicked out; he began to put on shows. Like I said, it was downtown and boy howdy were those shows wild.
Bands from all over America would somehow show up there and rock the house. Multi-colored punks of all ages would crowd the place and complain about paying two dollars to get in. As a kid that had saved money for a year, I would often almost give Trash a heart attack, by doing something crazy like throwing a whole five spot into the beer collection box.
I remember one show where it was raining pretty hard. I was at a keg party with a few friends. One of them had the great idea of covering a pitcher of beer with saran wrap, so he could carry it over. We only lost about half of it, but that still let us start off with a beer, once we got there. Once there, we found that the rain was leaking in from many places, creating large dirty puddles.
This became more interesting when the pit started. Now there seemed to be plenty of cheap beer there that night as well and soon spilled beer was mixing with the water in front of the stage so the dancing became, step, step, fall, get up, step, step, fall, get up. It was pretty fun to be a part of and even funnier to watch. I particularly liked watching Jon Mount pointing his finger to the other side of the pit then trying to causally walk through and then end up on his ass.
Industrial Hall went on just long enough to fix itself into the memories of everyone lucky enough to be a part of its brief and dirty glory. Still when one is not paying rent, you cannot expect to be able to linger on forever and eventually Trash had to flee.
Where did Trash end up? He along with many other punks such as Geek, Hellrad Dave, Gob Awful, and Lyle moved into a place called 814. This was a punk rock squat of sorts where some people tried to make sure that the rent was still paid. Dave Wilner, the only person in the house attending school like I was, did most of the bills and such. He was also from the east coast we were tended to get along, at least at first, but that is another story.
814 was the most punk place I have ever seen. There had dug out and expanded the basement into twisting underground rooms and passages. There was a jam room down there and if you wanted to hear PCP Psychic Cartoon People play the same song for thirty minutes, that was the place to go. Crazy posters and art competed with stolen junk, for floor and wall space.
One of my favorite things, especially since I was still underage, was the beer machine. Another Dave had taken a Pepsi machine and converted it to beer. So one only needed fifty cents to grab a cold one. So yes it was probably the only place in town where you could see little punker chicks, who should have been studying for some high school exam, buying beer when their spange money at three in the morning.
Despite being in the middle of a city this place was about as close as to a TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone) as you could get within the confides of civilization. Mohawks and piercings, tattoos and drugs ruled the scene. Yes there were a lot of drugs. Acid was particularly big at that time and during any show one could figure that maybe half the crowd was tripping. ETC, was also entering the Tucson scene for the first time, and seeped into the punk underground as well. I remember one night there at 814 where I really felt like I had reached some sort of punk heaven, until Trevor No-hair stepped on some kittens and Gob Awful had to crush them with a rock, because their spines were broken. Yes, some things can bring you down no matter how good you feel.
All this and there were shows, yes lots of shows. Usually some out of town band would somehow find out about us and we would get a few local bands to open up for them. I remember one show, where the Blood Spasm was playing. I was in the back when suddenly the room began to become filed with a noxious gray cloud of smoke. I thought that the police were tear-gassing the place so I quickly opened a window, pushed my girlfriend through, and then followed her out into the fresh air. Later, I found out that it have only been a fire extinguisher, still it did make me look good with my lady at the time.
Without a doubt there was one event, the event at 814 which burned itself into the memory of everyone present and that was the electric watermelon punch. It started like this. Some more than half crazed acid dealer had come by to visit. They had carved out a watermelon and were going to fill it with hundreds of doses of LSD. Luckily for me and everyone else involved they used Everclear as the mixer. This was a very wise move, because you can not drink Everclear too quickly.
I remember sitting with Laura and saying to her, “This is great I’m going to have a few of these.” However, since it was strait vodka, I could only drink it so fast. This was a good thing because by the end of the first glass I realized that I did not need any more, no I definitely did not need any more.
People went wild that night. There were bands, but I could not tell you their names. Cops showed up, but it did not matter, there were too many of us to do anything. Besides our bride of Frankenstein Goth girl Kiki always flirted with the cops and kept them distracted. I was stumbling and freaked out. I had never or have ever since been that high. It was totally sick house. Paul Young had three cups and became a screaming barbarian. Rick the Dick tried to molest some girl, but Trash busted him over the head with Nun-chucks.
One thing I remember vividly was when I was really beginning to peek. I had made out with a girl, but it was so freaky I had to stop. Things were getting wilder. The scene was too intense to stay, but how could I leave either? I wanted a little help. I just needed to be grounded for a second.
I saw Dave Wilner. He was a level headed man and headed his way. He might be able to help or so I thought until I neared him and saw that he was playing with sand and gravel going la-la-la, la-la-la. Nope there would be no help there.
Somehow I made it through the night and back home, but in many ways my life did change that night. I could almost divide my life in two parts, things that happened to me before and after that night. Before that night I was still young and despite some of my wild experiences I was still a kid. After that night reality began to close in on me. It was not long after that night that I became a dad and later a husband, then an even stranger thing happened and I actually tried to do well at school. Soon I became twenty-one and could buy alcohol. I don’t care what anyone says, but that is the real milestone between kids and adults.
In many ways Industrial Hall and 814 were the last hurrahs, before I quickly found myself dwelling in a world of far more responsibility than I had ever imagined. I would not have guessed it in those days, but soon my life would begin to drastically change. I would not have chosen it and certainly did not ask for it, but for good and bad, things were going to be different. Still as Jimi Hendrik once put it on those “long, long hot summer nights as far as my eye could see,” I had found my place in the sun and would forever be a punk rocker and anarchist at heart.