The Penetrators got their break in the mid-’70s, opening for the Ramones at SDSU’s Montezuma Hall. “During that period,” says singer Gary Heffern, “we racked up a number of concert disasters all over San Diego.
“There was the time we played at the San Dieguito High School gym, and someone in the band got caught either smoking pot or drinking. The principal stopped the show, and the kids went crazy and had a teenage riot. One of those kids reminded me of that show years later; his name was Eddie Vedder.” The future Pearl Jam vocalist eventually appeared on Heffern’s Painful Days album.
“We played the California Theatre, and a bouncer started beating up a kid, and [the bouncer] ended up hitting me when I tried to stop him. Kids started pulling up their seats and throwing them at the bouncers.… I turned around, and a cop was telling me I was under arrest for inciting a riot. The news that night had cops in full riot gear showing up.…
“There was also the time we first headlined the Community Concourse [downtown], with Dick Dale opening, and after the show, punks were throwing garbage cans into the bank windows from the upper parking lot. Once again, cops showed up in riot gear. They were there again when we did the first of a two-night stand at the La Paloma [Theatre in Encinitas], along with the fire department, but that time it was because the music pit collapsed.”
Gary Heffern’s new album Consolation will be released on iTunes and Amazon on October 15, with guest players including Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Alejandro Escovedo, and Peter Case.
The Penetrators reunited in November 2005 to play a tribute show at the Casbah for Dan McLain (aka Country Dick Montana), the band’s drummer who’d died on stage ten years earlier. Heffern says, “The Penetrators will play one final reunion show in January, for the Casbah’s 25th anniversary. That’ll be two gigs in a row with no police intervention. Hopefully.”
– Jay Allen Sanford