Punk reunion concert’s venue a far cry from desert digs of the ’80s

A t 9 a.m. on a Friday morning in January 1978, Las Vegas’ first punk rock show took place in a garage during an assembly at nearby Western High School.

Thirty or 40 kids ditched to see Bad Habits, a bunch of teenagers themselves, play at guitarist Eric Olsen’s house, returning his hospitality by guzzling the lone bottle of brandy in the cupboards and trashing the place.

“We did like eight or 10 songs and then we did them again an hour later,” recalls Bad Habits singer Eric Hill, sipping on a Starbucks coffee in place of distilled wine at Santa Fe Station on a Friday afternoon. “Everybody got ripped. We all passed out.”

One dude crashed in the bathtub, tearing down the shower curtain for a blanket.

Then Mom came home.

“She came in; she went nuts,” smiles Hill, long a parent himself. “We all went out the windows.”

And with that, a scene was born, rising steadily from the ashes of one burned bridge to the next.

Three decades later, Bad Habits and 11 other bands who planted the seeds for the Vegas punk ranks, nourishing them with blood, sweat and beer, are getting together for a show featuring some groups that haven’t played together in 30 years, back when they were still railing against Ronald Reagan and trying to score fake IDs.

“It’s our high school reunion, for all the punks who don’t go to high school reunions,” Hill says of the gig, which takes place at Backstage Bar & Billiards on Friday.The bands are performing in a setting foreign to most of them: a welcoming, professionally run music venue.

In their day, those places wanted nothing to do with punk, a then-new sound whose relentless pace, aggressive, anti-authority stance and slam dancing was anathema to parents and club owners alike.

“There was no place to play for our kind of bands back then,” notes Lance Gilman, sitting next to Hill, who also played in Bad Habits as well as Samsons Army, AWOL, Remains and others.

And so bands first started throwing shows at friends’ houses, which resulted in scenarios akin to Bad Habits’ first gig.

Next, they started renting out small storage spaces in the warehouse district, which was in the Desert Inn/Valley View area, turning rehearsal rooms into tiny impromptu concert clubs like the Roach Motel, Room 13, which Gilman opened, and Pinollas.

“Then, it was the outskirts of town,” Hill says of the area. “You could go out and play there at night and nobody was there. The cops didn’t care, because you were far away.”

Eventually, though, most places went the way of the Roach Motel, which was shuttered after a show where certain crowd members decided that they needed more space so they kicked down the wall that separated the room from the adjacent storage space.

There went another bridge, up in flames.

Time to turn to Vegas’ greatest natural resource: the desert.

This distinguished the local punk scene nationally and gave it its own sort of mythology, with shows thrown out in the middle of nowhere with no rules of any kind.

These gigs began in 1984, out on Ann Road, with the scent of the nearby RC pig farm thick in the air.

“We did it just off the side of the road in the dirt” says Danny Breeden, a member of long-running Vegas punks F.S.P., who threw the first desert shows and are also helping to organize the reunion concert. “The night before, me and a couple of guys brought some pallets out there and a big roll of carpet — that was the stage and the dance floor. I had the generator — I worked construction — and I used my PA.”

Later, the shows would take place in a retention basin off Losee Road, where three concrete walls and five 100-yard-long flood control tubes formed a kind of natural amphitheater.

Plenty of now-storied punk and hard-core bands such as Corrosion of Conformity, Suicidal Tendencies, Government Issue and NOFX played desert gigs and then talked them up in fanzines like “Flipside” and “Maximum Rock ’n’ Roll,” lending the Vegas scene a certain mystique and spreading the word to other touring acts of the day.

In a way, this was one of punk rock’s last American frontiers, a true DIY scene built by the hands of teenagers.

Eventually the desert shows came to an end thanks to too much skinhead violence, according to Breeden.

But by this point, a burgeoning punk community had been established and bands were able to migrate to the clubs more consistently, which they had previously only been able to play sporadically, often by lying about the type of music they performed.

This was the steppingstone to the punk scene of today.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Breeden sips a Corona at the Double Down Saloon, a venue that regularly hosts contemporary Vegas punk bands who are directly descended from the groups playing on Friday.

“It’s still a tight-knit community,” he says of the punk circles he grew up in, clad in a T-shirt from ska-punk icons Operation Ivy, who he once brought in for a desert gig near Stateline.

The reunion show began to take shape when Breeden heard that hard-core Vegas punks 5150 were planning to get together for their first gig in more than 20 years.

“I don’t want to be 50 years old and talk about what we should have done,” says 5150 singer Gene Bagley, who now lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. “Let’s do it one last time.”

Breeden offered to bring F.S.P. onboard, and things snowballed from there, with band after band joining the lineup over the past five months.

With Self Abuse, Remains, Lethal Injection and Substance-D also part of the show, just about every one of the most infamous punk and hard-core groups from the Vegas scene from ’79 to ’89 is a part of the bill save for Subterfuge, whose frontman lives in London and can’t make the trip.

Other bands such as Abeyance, AWOL, Schizoid, T.P.U. and Bad Attitude have members coming in from Seattle, New York, Portland, San Diego and Los Angeles to do the gig, which doubles as a food drive for the We Care Women’s Center and which will be prefaced by an old school punk flier art show at the MCQ Fine Art gallery on Thursday night.

Some notable figures from the first wave of Vegas punk bands have passed away in recent years, such as Mike Conley, best known as the singer for M.IA., and his predecessor in that band, Todd Sampson, who also played in Self Abuse and Samsons Army.

At around midnight at the reunion show, Breeden plans on reading the names of various members of the Vegas punk scene of his day who have since died and lead a toast in their honor.

They’re survived by a bunch of punk rock lifers now in their 40s and 50s.

Their music will come and go, and so will they, but not what they’ve built.

“If you want to give us any kind of credit, it’s that we hung in there when times sucked,” Hill says. “We kept it going to where these bands now have places to play. I think we started that,” he says matter-of-factly. “We toughed out the hard times.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like