Interesting conversation about boycotting a legendary US venue

gilman street

This has nothing to do with Asia or our website BUT the conversation and discussion that this issue is causing is worthwhile to post up on this website. We support wholeheartedly all the venues across Asia who are doing their part to support music either for their local bands and/or traveling bands. A lot of venues are self-owned and thus the owner is throwing money down to invite foreign bands to come over who require guarantees, airfare, backline requirements, hospitality requirements, the list is endless of how much money is involved in putting on shows AND maintaing a venue.

924 Gilman Street is a famous punk rock venue that is well known across the punk/hardcore world. So to see this conversation coming up about people wanting to “boycott” the venue because according to them, the venue has meandered far away from its original ethos, is VERY intriguing.

Read through it below if you have time – it’s long – also go through the “list of incidents” that garnered this whole boycott in the first place (further below).

Let’s also have a discussion in the comments sections please! Would love to hear what everyone thinks since we’re not clear on our own thoughts about this whole thing yet either!

From the: Boycott 924 Gilman Street FB page:

“924 Gilman Street is over as we know it.

This is a call for a wide-scale boycott of 924 Gilman by those of us who give a fuck about things that matter. We are punks who care deeply about the club. Most of us have put in many hours (if not years, even decades) there, and we feel it is important that a collective space lives up to its own explicitly-stated community standards. Otherwise, it becomes meaningless. Despite our best efforts within the club to effect positive change, we feel that 924 Gilman’s accountability to its own community remains sorely lacking, and so we must call for this boycott as a last resort.

Since its beginning, punk has had a split between those who are of a radical/revolutionary mindset that is anti-oppression, and those who are more reactionary and tend to either cultivate or make excuses for behavior and content that denigrates and oppresses marginalized people. While 924 Gilman was founded 30 years ago on a radical philosophy and operated that way for many years, it has decidedly turned reactionary as of late. This call to boycott Gilman has not happened overnight, and is the sad consequence of a struggle that has gone on for at least 6 years.

While NO SEXISM, NO RACISM, NO HOMOPHOBIA, NO TRANSPHOBIA, NO FUCKED-UP/ OPPRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, and NO MAJOR LABEL BANDS are painted at 924 Gilman’s front door and/or clearly stated in the club’s bylaws, there are a number of core volunteers who pay lip service to these stated ethics of the club but often ignore these principles. Exceptions to the club’s ethical standards are regularly made for personal cronies, high social capital individuals (including some regular volunteers), bands that draw a crowd, and any other situation that would make it slightly inconvenient for these aforementioned core volunteers to examine their own beliefs and biases in the face of a crucial, vibrant, worldwide punk scene that is very much changing without them, and may be leaving them (and 924 Gilman) behind. Gilman has a culture of curation (not to be confused with “censorship”) based on a set of ethics agreed upon by a community. Bands who don’t hold these ethics can theoretically play anywhere else but a space like Gilman, and that’s what makes Gilman special. However, Gilman has been coasting on its ethical reputation while not really doing the work for years now, and it’s time the world knows it.

Can Gilman be saved? We hope so. Is it necessary to save it? Not if it means continuing to sell out in the many ways that the majority has been so quick to support. We plan to open and help out with other existing all-ages community spaces locally with genuinely radical politics and ideals.

In the meantime, we are calling for major changes at 924 Gilman, and the boycott will continue:

– UNTIL and UNLESS the current membership and board are once again made up of people who understand and support both the spirit in which the club was founded and the requirements for an all-ages community safer space today, including bookers who uphold the club’s stated values for content, safety, and accessibility, core volunteers without continually heated tempers and aggressive demeanors, and board members who abide by the pre-incorporation promises to not interfere with the daily running of shows and the club environment,

– UNTIL and UNLESS abuse is consistently addressed in an accountable way,

– UNTIL and UNLESS 924 Gilman starts holding bands to its own stated standards for lyrical content and systemically oppressive behavior, and does not let bands who are not able to do this play the club – this includes bands that refuse to take public accountability for such content or behavior in general; simply “taking a night off” from playing specific songs isn’t enough,

– UNTIL and UNLESS 924 Gilman begins using its now-official status as a non-profit corporation to preserve its true legacy and take its place in today’s punk community instead of continually selling out in order to survive at any cost,

IF you are in a band, a show booker/promoter, a showgoer, someone who runs an independent record label, someone who puts out a zine or blog, a shitworker, or anyone else who gives a fuck about what is happening with the direction of our punk community (worldwide), we are calling on you to BOYCOTT 924 Gilman Street.

Gilman needs to stop giving lip service to its ideals and prove that it is able to contribute to today’s punk scene instead of acting like some obsolete punk museum frozen in time and run by an in-crowd carrying banners of self-proclaimed “anti-pc” sentiment, all of which is profoundly hypocritical given Gilman’s stated ethics.”

LIST OF INCIDENTS:

“BOYCOTT 924 GILMAN STREET

–DETAILS & INCIDENTS–

Among the major issues just in recent years:

? When the club took on Mike Avilez as head booker several years ago (in 2009 or 2010), many warned of the consequences. Mike has been the leader of such shock-punk bands as Oppressed Logic, with songs like “Little Girls” (“Little girls, little girls in my fucking bed / Little fucking hooker gave me some head / Found a little slut, shoved it up her butt / Next thing you know my life is in a rut”, which they played onstage at Gilman as recently as December 2015), and Guantanamo Dogpile, a “joke” (read: racist af) cover band with the players dressed up as Muslim “terrorists” in ski masks and women in burqas screaming about “infidels” between songs.

? Though Mike is no longer the head of booking at 924 Gilman, several years of his policies (booking bands such as the self-described “Rape Rock” band The Mentors) have left their mark, and he continues to book many shows at the club with bands that are openly contrary to Gilman’s stated values. It’s clear that he has semi-permanently remade the club in his own image, and many of the people who are firmly planted in place are very much products of (or were complacent about) his tenure as head booker and unofficial voice of Gilman. Fighting his philosophy has been hard, because it is an ideologically reactionary stance that is not compatible with (explicitly contrary to, in fact) the type of radical PUNK thinking that got the club to embrace the principles written on the walls and in the booking in the first place. This has done damage to the club’s reputation locally, nationally, and internationally.

? When current Co-Head of Sound (past Co-Head Booker, and member of Fang & Oppressed Logic) Obadiah Bowling and longtime Chief Financial Officer Jeff Armstrong were told that a core female volunteer was being physically abused by her partner (another volunteer) their first reaction was to tell her that she should “step away from the club for a while”, effectively making her the problem instead of addressing the issue directly until the abuser was outed publicly and a wider community response occurred.

? In early 2014 several core volunteers quit over a culmination of several issues relating to sexism, transphobia, and misogyny. Shortly after a long and ugly battle to get NO TRANSPHOBIA added to the rules, membership consistently refused to designate the Gilman restrooms as gender neutral with signs. Instead, older members and some younger acolytes dug their heels in, citing the same unsupported safety arguments that states like North Carolina are currently using, and preferring a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which continues to leave people who have legitimate safety concerns about which bathroom to use without any clues to how the club will see or support them.

? At the same time in 2014, volunteers complained about a song played onstage “Backstabber (You’re Such a Bitch)” by NJ band Joy Ride — who have played with other notable acts such as Aaron Carter and Kelly Clarkson (not SF greats Joyride!). These volunteers experienced weeks of passive aggressive online harassment with the word “bitch” becoming an inside meme, being posted in blocks of text on walls on Facebook, in private messaging, and in defacing shared online internal documents. Many participated, including the Head of Stoar at the time, the meeting secretary, Head of Security, a person who later became Head Coordinator, and, of course, Mike Avilez, who had returned to simply booking bands at the club by this time. By the end of this series of incidents, multiple volunteers, fed up with the club’s refusal to uphold its principles and with the harassment and personal attacks they had faced from multiple members, quit the club.

? In May of 2015, the major label band Green Day was booked for a secret show at 924 Gilman, a booking decision that was approved by a plurality of volunteers at a membership meeting. In recent years, a number of core volunteers have stated they don’t feel the “No Major Labels” policy is still necessary given the state of the music industry (including board member Jesse “Lucious” Townley, who helped write the policy in the first place). However, even a cursory internet search reveals that there are still huge differences between major record labels and independent record labels: Major labels are corporations with shareholder profit as a primary concern above all other considerations, and in service of this regularly engage in monopolistic business practices to squeeze out independents (see current major label monopolization of the vinyl pressing plants for a prime example), Additionally, these entities are part of larger umbrella corporations that are diversified into such exploitative industries as armaments manufacture, junk food, fossil fuel extraction, and more.

? The Green Day show was approved despite security concerns, a no-tickets-at-the-door policy, valid questions about a band playing the club all of whose albums have been major label releases for the last 22 years (their history at the club prior to signing to Warner Bros in 1993 notwithstanding), and the elitist nature of a secret show sold out via internet presales to begin with. Though the show was a benefit (one of two) for the victims of a fire that gutted a large warehouse which held many residents and punk businesses/ collectives, it was duly noted in the lead-up to the show that it could only raise around $15,000 for the displaced residents of the warehouse, while if it had been held at a more appropriate local venue (i.e. the Fox Theater, the Paramount, Zellerbach Hall or the Greek Theater) it would have made many times that amount – and the residents may have been able to stave off eviction, a notice of which they were served a few months after the benefit.

In addition, video and audio footage was taken at the show of the band’s performance, with no information about whether it was for their upcoming band documentary, which may likely be released by a major corporate entity such as their label, Warner Bros.

? Also in May of 2015, the band Negative Approach was booked to play a show at Gilman. This band had stayed on tour with the Casualties despite the fact that their singer has been publicly and independently outed by dozens of women as a serial rapist. Not long prior to this booking, the bassist of the band was documented in an interview posted to (and later taken down from) YouTube using extremely sexist and rape-apologist language in regards to this decision, specifically that forced fingerbanging and groping isn’t rape (around eight and a half minutes into the video),

? On February 16, 2016, an email was sent to the bookers by a trans woman regarding abusive and ableist language used by staffers. She had witnessed “an older staffer complaining to security about folks that were drinking outside. The staffer called these kids, ‘retarded’ very loudly.” Bringing the issue to a friend, this person was sent a screenshot floating around from 2014, just after the trans rights/”bitch” debacle, where current Head Booker Ilya Slabodkin went on a rant about how “someone’s sexuality/gender/pretty much most personal information should not be put on blast on a consistent broken record towards the internet regardless of what medium is chosen.” Ilya has made many such comments and still not taken accountability. Her email was not answered until it made its way to the other current Co-Head of Sound, who is also trans, and one of the few with a desire to address such issues with immediacy and sincerity.

? Longtime volunteers such as Obadiah Bowling, Jesse “Luscious” Townley, Jeff Armstrong, etc have consistently made it clear that they are not interested in challenging the reactionary mindset much at all and have made numerous “exceptions” the new rule, especially when it comes to waiving the ethics and broader community/moral considerations for anyone who is a past or present shitworker, anyone who has been around long enough (including lots of fucked up HC bands from the 80s), and certain corporate entities that want some kind of explicit dual association/branding (ie Jack Daniels at a fundraising event co-sponsored by 924 Gilman at the Fox Theater, Green Day carefully filming their “homecoming” as mentioned previously). When people have raised questions about any of this, they have been gaslighted, quickly shut down, and/or essentially told they “just don’t get it” and are being judgmental/fascists/whatever.

? The final straw for so many of us is the booking of Slapshot and Fang on July 22nd. Either band alone should not be playing at Gilman by the club’s own rules. Both together are a giant middle finger to everything Gilman has stood for during the last 30 years.

Slapshot have a history of violent shows, documented embracing of the Nazi portion of its fanbase, have used homophobic slurs onstage in the past, and were turned down at several other venues in the bay area.

Fang’s lyrics alone (in songs they very much still play and have played at Gilman recently) should preclude them from playing the club, particularly in songs like “Destroy The Handicapped”, “Berkeley Heathen Scum”, and “Law And Order”. When a group of Gilman staffers (mostly femmes and survivors) tried to get this show moved from Gilman due to concerns that the headlining bands (SLAPSHOT and FANG) were inappropriate to play this particular community/safe space, Gilman board member, fundraising committee member, and politician Jesse ”Lucious” Townley launched into a tirade (ignoring the point) about how personal redemption trumps all other considerations and that we can’t tell if someone is a homophobe/sexist/racist etc at the door or whatever so we shouldn’t try to read minds [nevermind that membership was assured when the club got nonprofit status and a board in 2014 that the board would always be completely separate from day-to-day business and wouldn’t interfere with the running of the club].

Not being psychic doesn’t mean we should literally hand someone who already has a long track record (at the club, no less!) of spouting sexist, ableist, and homophobic vitriol a microphone to amplify those sentiments. This is BASIC curation, not censorship, and isn’t even accounting for the fact that the mythology and reality of Sammy’s past actions (he went to prison for murdering his girlfriend), personal redemption and sobriety notwithstanding, is going to seriously alienate a hell of a lot of potential (and current) volunteers. Suffice to say, a person simply attending a show or being otherwise positively involved in a community is very different from giving them a microphone and putting them onstage to sing songs that are actually fucked up.

Obadiah, who has been the Head Booker and Head of Sound in the past, plays guitar in Fang, and while we think he is more clueless and inept than malicious, his behavior and those of other Gilman staffers is not acceptable. By dismissing the concerns of fellow staffers and taking the side of his bros over the needs of survivors he and others have shown that they are not capable of helping to run the safer space the Gilman claims to be. As a primary entry point for young punks in the Bay Area, it is so important that the space live up to the ideals it represents and claims as its own.

? A recent response to current issues from a core Gilman staffer about the Fang/Slapshot debate included a public Facebook post “Y’all got some fuckin Daddy Issues and keep Gilman outta yo fuckin mouths! You guys are no longer welcome to me.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

This isn’t just about Fang, either. Shitty, sketchy bands have a right to exist but some don’t belong at Gilman — bands like Oppressed Logic, Guantanamo Dogpile, or the Angry Samoans, as well as others. For years, people with complaints, both online and in meetings at the club have met similarly stiff resistance from all the same people and same type of people. Their disagreement mostly seems to be on personal/sentimental grounds or some kind of “anti-PC thought police fascists” angle or whatever other Trump-sounding excuse reactionaries love to use when trying to shut down a real conversation on what a community space should be explicitly endorsing via its supposedly ethics-guided booking policy.

Depending on the direction this action and responses to it take, there are many other incidents and witnesses willing to share their stories. This handful of examples is shared here in consideration of both space and the time it takes to organize documents such as these.”

UniteAsia.org is an underground Asian music news website created for the sole purpose of supporting our own world. We support all bands and genres HOWEVER we do not support nor have any sympathy for homophobic, racist, sexist rhetoric in lyrical content or band material. UNITE ASIA!

5 Comments

  1. Shaun

    May 19, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Probably best solved by removing the bylaws and those not happy to find new spaces. Even better if they change the name from 924 Gilman. I think it’s only natural that things like this evolve over time and often away from the original intent. No point to be nostalgic, time is too short. It’s a shame for its legacy but not much from the origins of punk rock has remained intact – DKs, Black Flag, Misfits, Ramones etc. Kill Yr Idols!

  2. yeah

    July 22, 2016 at 12:44 am

    1987 alleged rape by BL’AST

  3. American Jesus

    February 24, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    A lot of this is whining about an all ages venue managed by 60 year old cokeheads where 16 year old girls are statutorily raped by unsigned bands and prostitutes prowl the avenue. What did you expect? They’re evil and the music is bad.

  4. JFK

    March 13, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Fang was one of the few 80’s bands with a black member and now they have Latino members…how is that racist???

  5. P.O.

    July 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    @JFK: where in the article do Fang get called racist?

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