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Gonzo Report: Ché Café gets to punk paradise by way of Hong Kong

Electric exorcism

Punks swinging, crawling, dangling from the rafters
Punks swinging, crawling, dangling from the rafters

Noose Sweat’s van broke down on their way down from Vancouver. They’re supposed to headline the hardcore punk show on this early autumn night, but due to their shitty circumstances, they won’t be able to take the stage at UCSD’s favorite study space, the Ché Café. So who’s gonna step up and take the spotlight? Hell, I guess we’ll find out.

Place

Che Café

1000 Scholars Drive, San Diego

Outside the venue, punks meld into cliques, stomping the university yard in black combat boots and nearly blown-out Vans and Chucks. The crowd is young. Some sport pimples and braces. You can see the angst on their painted faces. “Do you have any more face paint?” one punk asks another. “Yeah, come to the bathroom with me,” she answers. The Ché is a legally an all-ages venue (and obstensibly a sober one), so this is where many teens and underage adults gravitate for punk and hardcore shows. However, the rules don’t stop a number of attendees from cracking beers and sucking on cigarette sticks in the nearby scarce woods while they wait for the show to begin. I mean, it’s punk.

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I start down the steps. At the bottom, a Ché volunteer with green hair and steel septum ring dangling from her nose demands to see my vax card. “You have to be vaxxed to enter,” she says. “No exceptions.” I left my vax card in my car, but fortunately there’s a barcode I can scan that pulls up my data, and I’m cleared. I don’t know how I feel about my information being in an easily accessible database — is that punk? — but at this moment, it helps. My brother-in-law and I find a wall to post up against next to the community fridge, a vegan recommended appliance where anyone is welcome to donate or take what they need at any time. Vegan recommendations are indeed stashed in there, however, so are McDonald’s bags. Shit, I’ll eat it. All of it.

The Ché reopened its doors last September, one of the volunteers tells me, and it only started hosting indoor shows again this past April. “The Ché is back!” one guy yells into the microphone before asking for more reverb. Inside the space next to the kitchen is a magazine rack with punk zines. I pick one up and am entertained by a story from local punk author Jim Ruland. Then I hear the drums start to bang and follow the beat. The first band is doing soundcheck, and before I know it, there’s a tornado of limbs swinging in a drippy mosh pit packed into the claustrophobic space. No studying tonight, boys and girls. I stand near the back and keep away from the chaos as long as I can.

I notice one band’s T-shirt, worn by many concert-goers, with a white and red graphic that reads “Hong Kong Fucking Kill Your Family.” I find out it’s for a Tijuana-based group on the bill named Hong Kong Fuck You. Punk band names always make me curious, because they’re often so guttural. Does this one relate to the old Hong Kong Phooey cartoon show and/or Sublime song? I ask lead vocalist Christian Hell how the name was derived. His reply: “One time, I inconspicuously crawled through my classroom window while everyone was distracted during recess, wrote ‘Hong Kong Fuck You’ on the dry erase board, and drew a picture of Jackie Chan eviscerating a buff silverback gorilla next to it. I was six years old.”

Following the opening acts, Hell’s three-bass-player band Hong Kong Fuck You ends up headlining the show. Nobody seems to know what happened to Noose Sweat after their highway breakdown. Most punks are there to see this group anyway. The sound is mean. The ceiling is low and there are punks swinging, crawling, and dangling from the rafters above the steam of an enraged mosh pit. Singer Hell is making shrieking sounds into the microphone that can only be described as a demon being exorcised by an old priest. He stands beatifically on the hands of punks in the crowd, screaming down on them. When the set comes to its close and the swarm of punks begin to pile out, I look for Hell, but he’s quick to go back outside and sling more merch.

After having witnessed the intensity of Hell’s electric exorcism, I hesitate to approach him right away. But, later, I ask if he plans to play the Ché again. “Who the Hong Kong fuck knows,” he replies.

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Punks swinging, crawling, dangling from the rafters
Punks swinging, crawling, dangling from the rafters

Noose Sweat’s van broke down on their way down from Vancouver. They’re supposed to headline the hardcore punk show on this early autumn night, but due to their shitty circumstances, they won’t be able to take the stage at UCSD’s favorite study space, the Ché Café. So who’s gonna step up and take the spotlight? Hell, I guess we’ll find out.

Place

Che Café

1000 Scholars Drive, San Diego

Outside the venue, punks meld into cliques, stomping the university yard in black combat boots and nearly blown-out Vans and Chucks. The crowd is young. Some sport pimples and braces. You can see the angst on their painted faces. “Do you have any more face paint?” one punk asks another. “Yeah, come to the bathroom with me,” she answers. The Ché is a legally an all-ages venue (and obstensibly a sober one), so this is where many teens and underage adults gravitate for punk and hardcore shows. However, the rules don’t stop a number of attendees from cracking beers and sucking on cigarette sticks in the nearby scarce woods while they wait for the show to begin. I mean, it’s punk.

Sponsored
Sponsored

I start down the steps. At the bottom, a Ché volunteer with green hair and steel septum ring dangling from her nose demands to see my vax card. “You have to be vaxxed to enter,” she says. “No exceptions.” I left my vax card in my car, but fortunately there’s a barcode I can scan that pulls up my data, and I’m cleared. I don’t know how I feel about my information being in an easily accessible database — is that punk? — but at this moment, it helps. My brother-in-law and I find a wall to post up against next to the community fridge, a vegan recommended appliance where anyone is welcome to donate or take what they need at any time. Vegan recommendations are indeed stashed in there, however, so are McDonald’s bags. Shit, I’ll eat it. All of it.

The Ché reopened its doors last September, one of the volunteers tells me, and it only started hosting indoor shows again this past April. “The Ché is back!” one guy yells into the microphone before asking for more reverb. Inside the space next to the kitchen is a magazine rack with punk zines. I pick one up and am entertained by a story from local punk author Jim Ruland. Then I hear the drums start to bang and follow the beat. The first band is doing soundcheck, and before I know it, there’s a tornado of limbs swinging in a drippy mosh pit packed into the claustrophobic space. No studying tonight, boys and girls. I stand near the back and keep away from the chaos as long as I can.

I notice one band’s T-shirt, worn by many concert-goers, with a white and red graphic that reads “Hong Kong Fucking Kill Your Family.” I find out it’s for a Tijuana-based group on the bill named Hong Kong Fuck You. Punk band names always make me curious, because they’re often so guttural. Does this one relate to the old Hong Kong Phooey cartoon show and/or Sublime song? I ask lead vocalist Christian Hell how the name was derived. His reply: “One time, I inconspicuously crawled through my classroom window while everyone was distracted during recess, wrote ‘Hong Kong Fuck You’ on the dry erase board, and drew a picture of Jackie Chan eviscerating a buff silverback gorilla next to it. I was six years old.”

Following the opening acts, Hell’s three-bass-player band Hong Kong Fuck You ends up headlining the show. Nobody seems to know what happened to Noose Sweat after their highway breakdown. Most punks are there to see this group anyway. The sound is mean. The ceiling is low and there are punks swinging, crawling, and dangling from the rafters above the steam of an enraged mosh pit. Singer Hell is making shrieking sounds into the microphone that can only be described as a demon being exorcised by an old priest. He stands beatifically on the hands of punks in the crowd, screaming down on them. When the set comes to its close and the swarm of punks begin to pile out, I look for Hell, but he’s quick to go back outside and sling more merch.

After having witnessed the intensity of Hell’s electric exorcism, I hesitate to approach him right away. But, later, I ask if he plans to play the Ché again. “Who the Hong Kong fuck knows,” he replies.

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