— Enemy You
I finally made it to Gilman after all of these years. I have been listening to punk rock for nearly 17 years, and had never made it to the legendary performance space in West Berkeley. Perhaps when I was younger, I was into the bands that had outgrown the Gilman vibe. Furthermore, over the past few years, I have spent a considerable amount of time away from the Bay Area. I have been back around for the past few months, and took this opportunity to cross 924 Gilman Street off of the ‘ole bucket list.
Now, I know what you are thinking. “This guy is nothing more than a goddamn, trendy-ass poser!”
Indeed, on Saturday night at 924 Gilman Street, I felt a bit out of place upon entering the community center. All around, there was a sea of kids, kids, and more kids. At the ripe age of 30, I thought to myself, “Am I getting too old for this shit?” The short answer: “HELL NO.”
I am older, wiser, and a bit more jaded than the average Gilman attendee. I do not go to as many shows nowadays, but I have not lost touch just yet. I am just a bit more selective; I attend the great shows. Saturday night’s bill just happened to feature Walnut Creek’s own, The Story So Far.
While admiring the landscape at this “DIY, cultural landmark,” I realized that I was standing in the same dingy auditorium where Jesse Michaels and Tim Armstrong had spread “Knowledge and “Unity” amongst the local community. Meanwhile, I stood in the same venue where Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool got their start. And I was, in fact, in the same room where Mike Burkett and Davey Havok launched their careers. Indeed, 924 Gilman is a Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll institution. It remains a breeding ground for greatness.
The fascinating aspect is that, aside from hairstyles, nothing has really changed in the past 29 years. The global economy is still dictated by which God you believe in. Americans are still politically divided; our education system is still flawed; and violence and corruption are still rampant.
Meanwhile, the kids are still singing along, crowd surfing, and forming circle pits. They are fed up with the status quo, the notion of conformity, and other societal issues.
At 924 Gilman Street, there is no B.S. allowed. No drugs. No alcohol. No graffiti. No stage diving. No violence. No racism. No vandalism. The experience is therapeutic. It is good old-fashioned fun. It is live music for all ages.
It was evident that most everybody in the room came to see The Story So Far. Once U.S. Light Brigade and Culture Abuse (I missed Mobins Child) finished their sets, it was go time. Parker Cannon (lead vocals), Kelen Capener (bass), Kevin Geyer (guitar/vocals), William Levy (guitar), and Ryan Torf (drums) emerged on stage and encouraged the crowd to “get rowdy.” The audience subsequently rushed forward and erupted in unison to the tune of “Empty Space.” The band promptly switched gears and delivered “Nerve,” the lead single from their self-titled album, released in May 2015.
The well-balanced set list featured cuts from all three LPs: the aforementioned The Story So Far, What You Don’t See (2013), and Under Soil and Dirt (2011). New tracks like “Heavy Gloom” and “Distaste” coupled with previous standouts like “Things I Can’t Change,” “Quicksand,” and “Face Value” were received with a great deal of enthusiasm from the sold-out, capacity crowd.
Lacking were classics like “Brevity,” “Mt. Diablo,” and “Rally Cap,” but the band’s professionalism and maturity were on display on this cold December evening. Between songs, Parker and his band mates would clap along with the fans to bid thanks for the overwhelming support from the Bay Area punk rock community.
Frankly, this is what it is all about. It is not about album sales anymore. It is not about going viral. It is about coming together as one, leaving your problems at the door, and simply enjoying yourself for a few hours.
The show ended, as all good things do, after a short encore highlighted by “States and Minds” and “Roam.” The crowd wanted more, but reluctantly filed out of the venue back into the 30-degree weather. As for me, I enjoyed my first time at 924 Gilman Street. I will be back. Apparently, punk rock is not just for kids.
“Things I Can’t Change”
“States and Minds”