When I first
heard about the Mabuhay Gardens "Class Reunion Show", I emailed friend Paula
K here in Portland and asked if she was going; her reply, "... I'll go see
what all the fuss is about", was enough to tilt me toward heading South. And
fuss there was, rumor was everywhere, especially about who would turn up
after so many years, about Bruce and his apocryphal spinal cord
transplant-would he be wheeled in and propped up in front of the mic. What
about the new DKs frontman, Jeff Penalty-would he satisfy die-hard fans.
Some of the noisiest fuss though, came from a backhanded promotion of the
event by a local(SF) label head which peaked interest
considerably-especially after characterizing it as a scam. Well, after
some twenty plus years since having originally been part of the Mabuhay
scene, these "mature" attendees were quite willing to be led down the Garden
path for twenty five bucks even though the ultimate cashier was BGP/Clearchannel.
The show sold out in short order.
This was not
really to be a corporate show, however; Steve DePace, Flipper drummer,
pulled the concept together as a reunion and remembrance of the Broadway
Filipino supper/theatre club, The Mabuhay Gardens, with a lineup of four
bands that performed there from the earliest days. The emcee duties were
assigned to the man with the plan, and caustic wit, Dirk Dirksen who
originally booked the Mab in '76 and changed the face of the San Francisco
music scene. The Mab has been called the San Francisco CBGBs. The show was
to be at the Fillmore, an intimate club for an intimate reunion- complete
with great sound, which has hosted many bands from the early punk days. This
bit of history from the Fillmore website: "...in the early 1980s, Paul Rat
produced shows at the building (dubbed the Elite Club) with Black Flag, Bad
Brains, The Dead Kennedys, TSOL, Flipper, Public Image Ltd., and others...."
The event ended up being like a family get together with everyone checking
each other out and catching up. Many came from all across the US and brought
were the bands, which to everyones' surprise and delight, were
outstanding-maybe better than their original incarnations. Kicking it
off was the original seventies art-damage band, The Mutants, playing in
front of an ongoing Russ Meyer movie. The floor was full and appreciative of
this colorful and snotty fun-punk act. Closing my eyes and hearing "Insect
Lounge" it seemed like I was back at The Fab Mab.
The mood for
the entire evening was set! Next up was the Avengers fronted by the
amazingly energetic Penelope Houston doing about as good a power-old school
punk set as it gets,
with a rousing "American In Me" and a stellar cover of "Fade To Black".
Another history note: The Avengers and The Nuns opened for Sex Pistols' last
ever show which took place in San Francisco at Winterland. Flipper
rules next. The not punk, not pop, not rock foursome [+ Ward on Sax at
times] did their attitudinal heavy bass line, noise guitar best hits with
Bruce Loose doing a poignant "Life" and "The way of the World". At about
this point I went into an altered state and rational recollection became a
was remembered along with many others who have since departed in a
tribute/elegy presented by Dirk. Last up was the Dead Kennedys with
new vocal front talent, Jeff Penalty, belting out many of the standards with
no lack of gusto, bounding about with the athletic gestures that have been
a part of the DKs tradition. Complete power punk with a definite political
edge; they played as well as they ever did. The pit was fired up.
And to cap it all off, Bruce Loose returned, backed by the DKs and did "Sex
I know I didn't entirely do this show justice-you had to have been there.
Well, we had to be there.