OK, settle in, because I’m gonna talk about a concert I saw 30 years ago today, October 13, 1979. Tickets were $8.50.
The venue was Kezar Pavilion, a shithole that in my youth was best known as the home of the Bay Bombers roller derby team. First on the bill was The Rebels … don’t remember a thing about them. Next up were local faves The Dead Kennedys. Far as I can tell, the only thing they’d released on record at that time was the “California Über Alles” single (what goes around comes around … Jerry Brown is running for Governor again). They were on fire that night … Jello ended up in the crowd, and when he finally made it back on stage, the only part of his clothes that remained was a shred of underpants. He was running for Mayor of San Francisco at the time (he actually came in third place). The next-to-last act was The Cramps, fresh off their debut EP, Gravest Hits. Not bad for $8.50.
Oh yeah, the headliners … The Clash, just before London Calling was released. This was the second of the four times I saw them; it was also the best of the shows. Actually, searching the web for information about the show, I found many people who claimed this night was the best concert they ever saw. Since I put The Clash in my pantheon of live acts, and since this was my fave that I saw, I suppose that puts this one pretty high on my list, too.
Among my favorite quotes from a now-defunct website:
once the first band came on, it was Bedlam: arms flying, punches thrown, and people bouncing up and down frantically. The breaks in between bands were interminable, especially for those of us up front who were drunk, hot, dehydrated, and soaked through with sweat. In a misguided attempt to restore calm, a local radio geek was sent out to babble to the surly, unreceptive crowd who booed and cursed him, flipped him off, and threw shoes and other debris at him. …
A lot of anger from The Clash, it must have been hard to play with people spitting on you and jumping on the stage just to show off.
Still the energy, humor and wit of joe are what i remember best. For better or worse, all venues had no seating anywhere near the floor, so it was general crush down front. No mercy was shown to the weak. …
The Clash and Dead Kennedys played the Kezar to a spit-drenched, sweat-soaked, high-flying crowd milling about in 'festival seating' [code word: chaos] accommodations. The atmosphere outside the auditorium was hostile, pitting punks in ripped t-shirts, leather accoutrements and spiked hair against horn-honking hoi polloi
One thing I remember about that DJ: at one point during a song that the crowd didn’t like, we realized that if we jumped up and down on the old basketball-court floor, we could make the record skip. After that, the DJ could only play songs we liked.
The Clash were remarkable, even by their own lofty standards. They opened with “Safe European Home,” which is a good thing, because it’s one of the all-time great set openers. They played stuff from the old albums … they played stuff from the unreleased album … they played obscure-in-America stuff like “Jail Guitar Doors” … they played “I Fought the Law” and “Be Bop a Lula.” And they played every song as if their lives and ours were in the balance.
And now that I realize it was 30 years ago … jesus. R.I.P. Joe.