Sunday, August 28, 2005

Elks Lodge Riot, March 17, 1979


from the Flipside Fanzine site

On Saturday, March 17, 1979, I was a senior at UCLA, and on the following Monday at 8 AM, I would have a final in French 5; at noon, I would have a final in a class on French drama, concentrating on Racine; and at 6 PM, I would have a final in a class about James Joyce's "Ulysses." It would have been imprudent to go out Saturday night, but I was going stir-crazy. The entire school year, I barely spoke English during the day. Three of my four classes were in French or French literature and not in translation. Going out to meet my friends and see punk rock bands would give me all the English language vulgate I yearned to hear. But it was not to be. My sister, who had just graduated mid-term from high school, decided she was going to move in with me. That very weekend. Nevermind that I had no time to entertain her since I was going to be in the middle of a grueling week of final exams, three of which were on the first day of finals week. I had tough decisions to make about my studies and my social life, and I had already spent two late nights out seeing Ultravox, although since they played at the Whisky, at least I could tell myself I was working...even though I could have gone home at 11 PM after selling the last ticket or checking off the last name on the guest list for the late show.

Dave Alvin & his ladies

That night, March 17 - St. Patrick's Day to many people, was the day of a really big show - a "festival" if you will, at the Elks Lodge in downtown LA, near MacArthur Park. You can see from the flyer who was playing. Or who was supposed to play. Because it was an all ages show, and my sister was just 17 at the time, I thought this was our only option for something to do together. Besides, she too knew Belinda Carlisle from home. Unfortunately, because my sister is one of those girls who must groom herself like crazy before going out, we missed the Go-Go's, who were playing first, and as it turns out, were the only band to actually play. Driving up to the Elks Lodge, we see police in riot gear and a human stampede of sorts - a chaotic one. We simply turn back and fiddle with the dial on the radio, trying to learn what's going on.

The biggest brouhaha in LA punk and I'm not in the middle of it. You see, I am a troublemaker, and I like to be in such a fracas. And twenty-six years later, I can't tell you from first hand experience what went on. But this event has been memorialized by many people who were in the middle of it. I recommend reading the account on Dementlieu Punk Archive's Youth Brigade page. Click it!

One of the best online resources for LA punk rock is the Flipside Fanzine website lovingly maintained by Michele Flipside. She's got scans of several issues, scores of punk gig flyers like the one above, newspapers clippings and other memorabilia. Bookmark her site and revel in the memories. I rely on her Gig Database often when I try to verify what I may have scrawled on my negative sleeves about when I shot particular rolls of film. The database is pretty accurate and thorough. My ticket stubs and her data match!

I discovered a site called Punk Information Directory maintained by a couple of guys - Willy and Mario. Its a fascinating read chock full of their memories. I love the charts they made of the shows they saw and the ticket prices! Its a lot of reading, so again, bookmark it and come back time and again.

All eyes seem to be on CBGB this week and this month, but my heart is always in LA. Here's an LA homeboy - Leonard Graves Phillips of the Dickies in a photo I took on my birthday in 1978 at the long-gone Starwood.

Leonard of the Dickies

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