Blatz Reunites : the Cultural Earthquake Felt ‘Round the Bay

Disclaimer: My intent for this piece was to give the readers a glimpse into the bay area punk scene, more specifically, the Blatz reunion show that I attended in December 2013. I felt it was important to include this in Slingshot as a reminder that our counter–culture and the music shows that we attend can be an escape from the struggles that we face in our daily lives. Unfortunately, my piece failed to mention providing a safe space for all. On the night of the show, a trans member in our community was violently assaulted outside the venue by a group of skinheads. I learned this from a member of the collective while writing this article. Trying to get the details of the attack was hard, as it seemed that no one could give me any information. My failure to include this topic upset many collective members and there were angry emails in our inbox regarding the issue. On the morning of the layout party, the collective had a heated discussion about the issue and resolved that I write a disclaimer, while another member would write a response. If you have any feedback or want to further the discussion, please email us at slingshot@tao.ca. We’d love to hear from you.

When Blatz formed in 1989, I was barely 2–years–old and so was the 924 Gilman Street Project. Any punk from the bay area can tell you that this venue, along with the bands that performed on it’s stage, had a huge part in creating the diverse and politically charged scene that we have today. An all–ages venue with an anything–goes–attitude was the perfect platform for a band like Blatz. This east bay band had 5, sometimes 6 members, who were mostly in their teens. Their performances were messy, chaotic, and fun, which helped them gain several fans from the bay area and beyond.

The legend that surrounded Blatz would make sure I would hear them as a teen. In high school, my friends and I would escape our lifeless, suburban hometown to the cool streets of Berkeley. Our favorite place to hangout was Telegraph Avenue, more specifically, Amoeba Records. As we cruised the aisles looking for new music to discover, I came across the ‘Shit Split’ by Blatz and Filth. I especially loved the Blatz side thanks to the shrieking female vocals and the anthemic songs about fucking shit up. When I got my drivers license, that specific cd ended up getting scratched up and lost inside my car forever.

Fast forward to December 2013, it was announced that Blatz would be reuniting to play a show at Gilman at the end of the month. Odd, since several of the members lived in different parts of the states and hadn’t played together as a band in 21 years. It turns out this was a benefit show for their friend, Mike–O the Psycho of Filth, who is fighting cancer. The buzz surrounding this show was huge and was

talked about through various circles in the punk community. People who hadn’t seen Blatz in decades and people who hadn’t even seen them at all would finally get their chance. I was stoked.

On the night of December 27th, 2013, I arrived at the venue with some friends and was surprised that the line wasn’t snaked around the block as previous reunion shows at Gilman have been (ie: FILTH). Several

people I know bought advance tickets online for $20, while others decided to stay home, thinking there was no chance they were getting in. At 7pm, the volunteers opened the doors and started letting everyone in.

The asking price for the show was a sliding scale of $5–$20, all proceeds going to Mike from Filth to help with his medical expenses. After paying my share, I checked out the merch tables where they were selling Blatz t–shirts, records, and even a few zines. Not wanting to spend my money on merch, I decided to walk across the street to Pyramid Brewery to drink with old and new friends. After hearing stories about “the good ol’ days of Gilman” and sharing several pitchers, we decided it was time to head back and see what was happening.

As we entered Gilman, the crowd had tripled in size. Trying to squeeze my way to the bathroom was a feat, but I made it to the graffiti drenched stall to empty my bladder before watching the main attraction. Special Forces was the last band to play before Blatz and I caught the tail–end of their set. The band was wearing ski masks and had a fog machine onstage. Nice try, but even dramatic stage theatrics didn’t phase the crowd who were waiting to see the headlining band. I had missed Aspergers, World of Shit, and Death March, but that was fine by me. As Special Forces closed their set and thanked the crowd, I made my way to the stage to secure a spot in the first few rows. As I looked around, I saw a lot of familiar faces and the energy in the room was mostly excitement. The excitement increased as the members took the stage to set–up their instruments. All original members of the band were there except John Santos, their sometimes bass player and co–founder. The nervous energy was heightened for the band as all eyes were on them as they fumbled onstage to get everything in place. Jesse Luscious and Robert Eggplant were yelling about something, Marshall Stax looked calm, Anna Joy Springer and Joey Perales looked excited, Annie Lalania looked nervous. At around 11pm, the band was ready to play. Springer asked the crowd to send good vibes to Mike Filth and then they jumped into ‘Homemade Speed.’ The crowd instantly started swaying back and forth and sang along to every word. After the first song, the crowd finally recovered and some

people from the audience tried to hop on stage but were shot down by Luscious, who waved a finger in their face and told them to get off the stage. It seemed both Luscious and Springer had control over the crowd, both of them charismatic and confident, while the other members held down their instruments. The band sounded great, transmitting all their punk energy into the crowd even though they had confessed to only practicing once before the show. A trash bag of shredded newspapers was revealed and members of the band and audience started throwing paper around the room. I’m just glad it wasn’t cat food, which I heard Blatz liked to throw at the audience back in the day.

When the band broke into their cover of ‘Nausea’ by X, all hell broke loose. The sea of bodies went from swaying back and forth, to full on storming the stage. After almost getting trampled, I had no choice but to hop onstage where I made my way near the drum kit. The view from up top was amazing. I looked into the crowd and felt like I knew everyone there, whether it was through zines, their bands, or going to shows. The entire place was packed and that’s when I realized how truly special this band was. Blatz still sounded fresh, still had chemistry, and still had the ability to bring so many people out to a place that they helped create. The band played almost all of their songs, and at the end of their set, Springer thanked everyone for coming out to help support Mike, telling the crowd that “we have to take care of each other.” Unfortunately not everyone was taken care of that night. The day after the show, it was revealed that a trans member of our community was violently assaulted outside the venue. Whether or not those people were held accountable, I’m not sure. After the band stopped playing, hundreds of sweaty punks exited the venue, everyone hung around outside looking energized and excited about what they had just experienced.

Most reunion shows leave me feeling depressed, wondering why I wasted
my time seeing a band that should have stayed in the past. Fortunately this was not the case with Blatz. As a bay area native, the energy I felt at this show was one I hadn’t experienced in a long time and I have to wonder if this is what it was like to be a part of the scene that Blatz was a part of in the early 90′s. This specific scene has a rich history that can be traced back to the late 70′s through fanzines like Maximum Rock N Roll and venues like the 924 Gilman Street Project, both originating in Berkeley and both affected by the recent economy. As we all continue the fight to survive, whether it’s combating the government, poverty, or sexist, racist, and classist assholes, Blatz reuniting was a reminder for all of us to get together and ‘fuk shit up.’