Punk Riot LA (1985 Street Scene Film footage)

Punk 2Starting at around the age of 12 right around the time of this video document, I was a young lad in Buffalo, completely bored with popular culture already. I started hanging out with the very few kids in my neighborhood who were into skateboarding and launch ramps, (Slappy’s),  bombing hills in the city etc. Generally someone would have a boombox set up near the launch ramp pumping high energy punk and hardcore music and just as often old school hip-hop, which was a completely new form of American music being birthed before our ears! I initially got into this music via WBNY the local college radio station that boasted a Thursday night no holds barred Hardcore and Punk show and every Sunday was the underground Hip-Hop show. Both featured the latest in underground music from opposite sides of the tracks.

I moved through varying groups within’ this music constantly searching out new and exciting stuff within the genres, which was easy back then cause it was all so fresh and urgent in both sound and spirit. The message was basically fuck Reagan, let’s have fun! Oh, and don’t censor me!

WBNY played Hip-Hop roots classics like ‘Rockmaster Scott: The Roof is on Fire’ which boasted the group chant WEDON’TNEEDNOWATERLETTHEMUTHAHFUCKABURN!!!!!BURNMUTHAFUCKEHBURN!!!’ and BDP’s ‘The ‘P’ is Free’ which was also a track that boasted straight profanity in the face of Reagan and The FCC which was crawling up the ass of American musical artists and censoring everything even slightly challenging to their image of cookie cutter America and whatever tired values they had lost grip of.

On the Hardcore show they played Black Flag ‘Slip it in’ and bands with names like ‘Bad Brains’ ‘Circle Jerks’ all very challenging artists in this era of conservative Springsteens and whatever left over exhaust fumes the giant stage acts were belching out at this point in their careers.

It was all reactionary, status quo challenging and most importantly FUN!

Punk

The fun part and the subversive nature of this stuff was obviously the attraction to me as well as the element of danger. My friends and I got off on the sneers and looks we’d get tearing down the street on our skateboards with funny colored hair etc. we’d get chased by the black kids, who thought we were ‘Heavy Metal Satanists’, we got chased by the Heavy Metal kids cause we hated metal…and we got chased by the white suburban jocks who just chased us cause it was another sport to them.

Eventually the jocks pretty much got over their fear of whatever and infiltrated the hardcore scene to the point that the shows became more violent than entertaining, and this violence was coming from within the scene not from Authorities or what have you, so this was obviously no longer for me. This was also happening on The West Coast in Cali where the punk scene had a split between Hollywood Punks and the younger fiestier Hermosa Beach area where Black Flag emerged from. This was a highly charged scene with a complex structure that directly informed the way the scene went in the East Coast, but I was really attracted to the element of diversity in the west Coast bands. As you can see from these old handbills the bands that would play together seldom sounded even similar to each other.

Punks unite

Currently everything is homogenized and I see more black folks with funny colored hair than I ever saw back then at all, and at some point (probably 1990 or so) Mohawks, torn clothing and weird colored hair became a uniform in and of itself. The element of danger is long gone and I still search for the diversity in these underground movements that seem to retread the same old stuff over and over, nothing reactionary at all.

This is why I was excited to have this pop up in my feed. This is an insiders perspective on what the scene in LA was like back in ’85’ at the height of the punk riots when just about every show was marred by violence between local factions within the scene but mostly from the LAPD! Some things never change huh?

This video put’s you right in the middle of it, you can feel the excitement. Enjoy this rare glimpse into the LA scene as it was in October of ’85’


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7 thoughts on “Punk Riot LA (1985 Street Scene Film footage)”

  1. So great.

    I went to my first LA Street Scene the following year (I was 12 or 13), and there was also a riot of sorts that year. At the same time there was some great anti-apartheid work going on in LA as well with a lot of folks from the punk scene involved. One day–hopefully!–I’ll get it together share all my fliers from LA punk shows back then (lots of Fenders Ballroom stuff in Long Beach).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant stuff. Sadly I have to experience it all second-hand; there’s a great book, you probably know, called American Hardcore by Steven Blush. So I’m reduced to that and picking up all those Posh Boy compilations.

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    1. I’m still relatively young compared to the people from that scene, but was lucky enough to live in LA long enough to meet some of the OG’s! Also playing with Chris D. for 5 years I got introduced to a lot of ’em that way. There are still a few of them around! Another good book that gets into some of the West Coast East Coast cross influence is ‘Spraypaint the Walls’ the Black Flag story. One thing I learned from that book was the actual origins of the black X’s the straigh edge kids used to rock. Ian MacKaye was in SF and he went to an all ages show and that’s how they marked the under ager’s, with a giant black permanent marker! He just ran with it back East and it stuck. SF’s contribution to the scene!

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      1. Yes, I used to run into him and Bob Forrest at record swaps and they shopped at a couple of the record stores I worked at, Don Bolles too, a huge vinyl junkie! All really great people that love music and the culture of the artifacts more than most, it’s why they’re good at what they do!

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