Larry Livermore, founder of Lookout Records, recently wrote a nice piece about the atmosphere and attitude of the early days of Gilman St, the punk rock venue where Green Day got their start. It’s a bit of nostalgia, I suppose, but it’s interesting in that it seems to represent a point of view that left a strong mark on Green Day and their attitude toward punk and making music.
Punk is a concept that is so often misunderstood, but it seems to me that’s partly because it does not mean the same thing to all people, or even to the various punk scenes, even to the same scene as it evolves over time. One of the wonderful things about Gilman St. is that it made punk fun, and accessible even to those of us who might have felt intimidated by its more aggressive, more traditional, form.
Below is an excerpt. Read the whole post here. Isocracy, as you may know, is the band that John Kiffmeier, Green Day’s first drummer, was in.
It’s hard to describe just what was so amazing or hilarious about an Isocracy show; in essence, we’re not talking about much more than a lot of smart-ass remarks and random insults coupled with the band’s trademark gimmick of bringing in great bags and boxes of rubbish (er, “found art) and throwing it at the audience (who of course threw it right back). But it was a refreshing change from what had by then become the very formulaic sort of punk rock shows we’d been seeing since the late 70s. By the end of an Isocracy set, there would typically be more audience members than band members on stage, and the audience might well have commandeered the microphones and be outsinging the band as well.
Some of the older punks tut-tutted about how “these kids” were making a mockery of long-standing punk traditions, but they were soon outnumbered by the influx of yet more kids, every other one of whom seemed to want to start a band and play at Gilman, too.
It was a big part of what made Gilman so special and so different from most punk rock clubs: the fact that you could act as silly or as carefree as you wanted and not have to worry about conforming to some rigid ideal of what “punk” was supposed to look or sound like.
Ironically, and, I thought, a bit sadly, the era of the Gilman geek lasted only a couple years before a counterreaction began to emerge. Once bands like Green Day started gaining recognition in the larger world and the whole “shiny happy smartpunk sound” (as one of our detractors had it) showed signs of crowding out most other forms of punk rock, there was a tendency on the part of many Gilman old schoolers (those same kids who’d been 16 or 17 when the club opened but were now entering their angst-ridden 20s) to revive the dark and nihilistic styles of early 80s hardcore.