i read the news today, oh boy
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kezar 1979

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.

Comments

Charlie Bertsch

Great post! I wish I'd been there. I should start writing about great shows I've seen, now that I'm getting "old" myself.

Also, am I the only one who thinks "Remote Control" is a better song than "Complete Control." I always read how the latter is stronger and a big middle finger to the industry. But it seems kind of silly to me, given that the label put it on the album, to celebrate it as the apex of Clash politics. "Remote Control" now strikes me as having a better long-term point, too, in addition to being a catchier tune.

Steven Rubio

I love the chords on "Complete Control." As with virtually every early Clash song, I had no idea what they were singing about, so that didn't enter into the picture, short term. (One of my faves for that was "London's Burning," which to my ears went "London's burning with boredom now, London's burning, di nuh nuh nuh nuh NUH!")

Paul Stuart

My memories are dim, but I believe it was the Readymades, not the Rebels that played.

Paul Stuart

Erp, old age has merged the memories.... the Readymades was a different show.

Steven Rubio

Hi Paul! I saw the Readymades several times, but I don't recall them at that show. Somewhere out there you can find a review or two of the show, including that link I added which doesn't seem to go anywhere now ... I think that's where I got The Rebels. But enough of that ... you were at the show? Wasn't it a great one?

Rod

So I had my jacket at my feet when the DKs started playing. The crowd would moved ten feet at a time
and I immediately lost my jacket and never saw it again.......that is, until when a
near naked Jello was thrown clothing from the crowd and my buddy said, "hey, Jello's wearing your jacket!"

Steven Rubio

Maybe it's time Jello gave that jacket back!

dB

Hey there, Rodney! Been a while (like 15 years). It's Dave, the "buddy" from your post. Yeah, I remember this show quite vividly. (BTW, the opener was, "The Rockabilly Rebels", members of which joined The Clash for one of the encores). The temporary stage sitting on a flexible basketball court made for some serious pogo-ing and I recall the resulting vibration transferred to the stage itself. It shook so severely that at one point during The Clash's set, a bank of lights came loose and crashed down right behind the drum kit. Topper Headon damn near beat Curtis Mayfield to the punch. Also, upon recognizing the clothing thrown on stage, I believe my exact words were, "Hey Rodney... where's your jacket?" You had tied it around your waste but it must have come off in the chaos. You looked down only to find it gone. At that point I gestured towards Good Ol' Jello (his mayoral candidacy slogan, "There's Always Room for Jello") and you craned your neck to spy your jacket, tied around Mr. Biafra's waste, acting as a a combination skirt/jockstrap (his junk was flying about out of his shredded "tightie-whities" - I've the pictures I took to prove it). Your words of resignation were, as I recall, "He can keep it!" The Cramps were also spectacular that night. It was as true a Rock'n'Roll evening as I've ever had. Hope you're well. I'm in L.A. now, getting paid to do what I used to get sent to the principal for. Take THAT, Mr. Rice! - dB

tshore

Just found this post. I was at this show. I remember it well but a little differently. Jello dove into the crowd and the crowd ripped every shred of clothing from him. He did the next few songs buck naked before somebody tossed the crotchless remains of his trousers back onstage, which he attempted to "wear" for the rest of the show.

Decades later, maybe '89 or '90, I heard an interview with Jello and he brought up this show. I always figured it was all part of the normal show for the DKs. But no, it he said he was totally surprised and didn't know what to do, but the show must go on. Anyway, it was cool to hear his perspective years later. Hell of a show.

MartinSoundLabs

I had recently turned 15 when i mom let me go with older friend's son and his friend. Can still smell the sweat as Jello was crowd surfing and remember him in skivvies flowing on hands. The Clash set was spectacular, particularly since we heard songs from London Calling before the record even came out. One of my great memories, and IIRC, it was my second live show. Remember Jello spraying "Thank you San Francisco for XXXX Votes" on the stairwell at The Temple Beautiful later...

Thanks to Michael Lucas for taking me to that show.. I am forever indebted to you for that memory. * Bassist for The Junior Executives

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