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Gonzo Report: Punchy pit punctuates Tourist show in Point Loma

Punk and print, gone underground

“No booze, no bullshit” reads the digital flyer I receive from Se Vende singer Collin Smith. It’s an ad for an underground punk show at a print shop, but the show is not being publicly advertised. All ages, no alcohol, and hopefully no fights. The alcohol is easy enough to police once inside, but I laugh when I arrive to see a group of punks down the street with a bottle big enough to share. One woman looks like a more extreme version of 1970s Rock ‘N’ Roll High School cutie P. J. Soles. Her pigtails don’t clash with the spiked gloves; rather, they reinforce each other.

Shirts are more than a fashion statement for punks. They’re a signal that someone is into the same scene and so probably safe to approach. Chris is from Michigan, and starts up a conversation with Collin over Collin’s T-shirt featuring Gabe Serbian’s local costumed noise-rock band, The Locust. He doesn’t get into detail, just says he’s grateful he met Collin. We check out the first band, Gene Stealer, a two-man grindcore outfit that goes over well — though I suspect they weren’t supposed to play as long as they did. A Simpsons cartoon plays on a small television courtesy of a bootleg VHS tape, and the band’s cookie monster growls and blasted beats synch perfectly with Bart’s nightmare.

The courtyard area outside is filling up, and the cool air is a relief. It’s impossible to get into the tiny shop itself for the next band, Peace Clinic, but the sound carries well out here. I overhear a man my age talking about Negative Approach, and I inject myself into the conversation. His name is Scooby; he’s the guitarist for Vertigoat, who supported Negative Approach and Circle Jerks on a recent tour. He just got back in town and came straight to the shop to support the scene.

The next band, L.I.C.E., hits the stage and I’m again outside. I notice a man named Zack holding a cassette tape of Metallica’s …And Justice For All, which he describes as one of the greatest recordings in history. He’s very polite as we go through the band’s catalog, his high points (St. Anger) being my low points. It’s a respectful exchange of perspective, and we head into the shop to make sure we can see the next band, Tourist.

The performance area fills up within minutes, and I find myself standing against the wall. I haven’t had the urge to get into a pit in decades, I’m content looking in from the edge. When the band starts, the ritual begins: some head-nodding, the crowd catching the groove. It’s not possible to say who pushes who first, but it sets off the controlled violence of a circle pit with wall-to-wall circumference. It’s second nature to watch both the band and the accompanying syncopated chaos at the same time; there’s no more division between patron and performer. Zack with the Metallica tape is glaring at the band between songs in a manner that an outsider would see as threatening. But it’s just adrenaline being (barely) held in check before the music starts again.

There are more fists flying than I prefer, and I reserve the right to hit back if a stray one lands on me. I shoot a few pictures without getting hit, but 16-year-old McKenna is not so fortunate, and squeezes her way out with her friend Alexis. I talk to her after the set and her face is swelling before my eyes. It doesn’t bother her. She understands: it’s a risk of the pit.

Back outside, the P. J. Soles doppelgänger appears to be passing out, sitting near a car in the courtyard. But no: it turns out she’s just talking on her phone, and she jumps up to grab a spot inside for the next band, Violencia. As most of the crowd came to see them, I’m unable to get indoors past the crush of studded leather, so I listen at the entryway. Uriel has been DJing between sets, playing Spanish music to signal the end of each band’s time. The post-show is accentuated by ‘80s songs and I catch Collin, the consummate punk, dancing to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark with bandmate Jonathon Robinson Espich. No fights, no bullshit.

P.J. 2022 gives me a fist bump and her spikes dig into my knuckles. She looks shocked and I laugh. Punk’s not dead, and it’s not sitting home on a Saturday night. It’s underground, where roots grow strongest.

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“No booze, no bullshit” reads the digital flyer I receive from Se Vende singer Collin Smith. It’s an ad for an underground punk show at a print shop, but the show is not being publicly advertised. All ages, no alcohol, and hopefully no fights. The alcohol is easy enough to police once inside, but I laugh when I arrive to see a group of punks down the street with a bottle big enough to share. One woman looks like a more extreme version of 1970s Rock ‘N’ Roll High School cutie P. J. Soles. Her pigtails don’t clash with the spiked gloves; rather, they reinforce each other.

Shirts are more than a fashion statement for punks. They’re a signal that someone is into the same scene and so probably safe to approach. Chris is from Michigan, and starts up a conversation with Collin over Collin’s T-shirt featuring Gabe Serbian’s local costumed noise-rock band, The Locust. He doesn’t get into detail, just says he’s grateful he met Collin. We check out the first band, Gene Stealer, a two-man grindcore outfit that goes over well — though I suspect they weren’t supposed to play as long as they did. A Simpsons cartoon plays on a small television courtesy of a bootleg VHS tape, and the band’s cookie monster growls and blasted beats synch perfectly with Bart’s nightmare.

The courtyard area outside is filling up, and the cool air is a relief. It’s impossible to get into the tiny shop itself for the next band, Peace Clinic, but the sound carries well out here. I overhear a man my age talking about Negative Approach, and I inject myself into the conversation. His name is Scooby; he’s the guitarist for Vertigoat, who supported Negative Approach and Circle Jerks on a recent tour. He just got back in town and came straight to the shop to support the scene.

The next band, L.I.C.E., hits the stage and I’m again outside. I notice a man named Zack holding a cassette tape of Metallica’s …And Justice For All, which he describes as one of the greatest recordings in history. He’s very polite as we go through the band’s catalog, his high points (St. Anger) being my low points. It’s a respectful exchange of perspective, and we head into the shop to make sure we can see the next band, Tourist.

The performance area fills up within minutes, and I find myself standing against the wall. I haven’t had the urge to get into a pit in decades, I’m content looking in from the edge. When the band starts, the ritual begins: some head-nodding, the crowd catching the groove. It’s not possible to say who pushes who first, but it sets off the controlled violence of a circle pit with wall-to-wall circumference. It’s second nature to watch both the band and the accompanying syncopated chaos at the same time; there’s no more division between patron and performer. Zack with the Metallica tape is glaring at the band between songs in a manner that an outsider would see as threatening. But it’s just adrenaline being (barely) held in check before the music starts again.

There are more fists flying than I prefer, and I reserve the right to hit back if a stray one lands on me. I shoot a few pictures without getting hit, but 16-year-old McKenna is not so fortunate, and squeezes her way out with her friend Alexis. I talk to her after the set and her face is swelling before my eyes. It doesn’t bother her. She understands: it’s a risk of the pit.

Back outside, the P. J. Soles doppelgänger appears to be passing out, sitting near a car in the courtyard. But no: it turns out she’s just talking on her phone, and she jumps up to grab a spot inside for the next band, Violencia. As most of the crowd came to see them, I’m unable to get indoors past the crush of studded leather, so I listen at the entryway. Uriel has been DJing between sets, playing Spanish music to signal the end of each band’s time. The post-show is accentuated by ‘80s songs and I catch Collin, the consummate punk, dancing to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark with bandmate Jonathon Robinson Espich. No fights, no bullshit.

P.J. 2022 gives me a fist bump and her spikes dig into my knuckles. She looks shocked and I laugh. Punk’s not dead, and it’s not sitting home on a Saturday night. It’s underground, where roots grow strongest.

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