Pragmatists and Idealists Clash Over the Future of 924 Gilman

Slideshow: Step inside 924 Gilman

Several vans sit parked outside 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley — a common sight on any weekend night at this legendary all-ages punk venue. But among the beat-up and bumper-stickered vans is a truck covered with Vans shoe company logos. Inside, the band OFF!, led by former Black Flag member Keith Morris, sells a 7-inch record with cover artwork featuring just a Vans shoe.

This scene is over a year old, but it and others like it remain seared into the memories of many who see the presence of corporate advertising as yet another sign that this once-holy church of punk has lost its moral compass. The recent abandonment of longstanding rules and principles has alienated many among Gilman's core group of artists and fans, and even spawned boycotts of the club. "[Gilman] will not be seeing my bands or my money until they make some fundamental changes to how they treat bands, show-goers, staff," says Boo Boo, singer of Hunting Party, one San Francisco hardcore band that is boycotting the club. He would not give permission to use his real name. Indeed, numerous boycotters — exhibiting a typically punk wariness of commercial media — refused to discuss their concerns on the record for this story, even as they strongly oppose the changes at Gilman.

Run by committee, and founded in 1986 on an explicit stance of opposition to major labels, big corporations, racism, sexism, and homophobia, 924 Gilman has long been viewed as a kind of a radical safe haven as well as a music venue. Countless punk bands got their start inside these spray-painted walls, including major artists like Green Day, Rancid, Operation Ivy, AFI, plus many others who didn't make the leap to popular success.

Seattle hardcore punk band Trial performs at 924 Gilman earlier this year. Some Gilman fans say the club has abandoned its founding ideals. Slideshow: Step inside 924 Gilman
Matt Gill
Seattle hardcore punk band Trial performs at 924 Gilman earlier this year. Some Gilman fans say the club has abandoned its founding ideals. Slideshow: Step inside 924 Gilman
OFF!, led by former Black Flag and Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris, performs at 924 Gilman in 2011. Slideshow: Step inside 924 Gilman.
OFF!, led by former Black Flag and Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris, performs at 924 Gilman in 2011. Slideshow: Step inside 924 Gilman.

But lately, with Gilman struggling to pay its $4,500-a-month rent, and with new volunteers cycling in and out of decision-making positions, the venue's leaders sometimes make decisions that deeply offend longtime patrons. Often, they're in direct contradiction of the club's stated ideals. The rule at Gilman used to be that if a band was on a major label, or sold a certain percentage of its records through a major label, it was not allowed to play. Before any band could perform at the club, it had to submit lyrics to all its songs so Gilman staff could ensure they didn't feature any sexist, racist, or homophobic content. That doesn't happen anymore — and bands with what would have been considered sexist, racist, or homophobic lyrics now regularly shout them onstage.

The pay system was rigidly egalitarian as well: Every show cost $5. At the end of the night, one member of each band went into the back room with the booker. The money was split between the house and the bands after security, the only paid staff at Gilman, got its cut. Bands were paid based on their perceived draw and crowd interaction, but there were no monetary guarantees.

Today, the payout rule has become relaxed or nonexistent. Show tickets range from $7 to $15. Opening acts are not told how much the headliner was paid, or what their guarantee was. The change makes Gilman more like a standard music venue, where headliners can be paid 30 times more than the opening act.

If there is one man who represents the changes at 924 Gilman, it's Mike Avilez. The 43-year-old singer of several local punk bands, including Oppressed Logic, has gone from being blacklisted from Gilman for his lyrics (Sample from 1994: "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") to becoming the club's head booker. And although all of Gilman's major decisions are put to a vote at the membership meetings, which anyone can attend, his influence is strongly felt.

Avilez seems more concerned about the survival of the venue than upholding its once-sacred rules. "Even if Bad Religion wanted to do a show, I would book them in a heartbeat," he says, referring to the veteran L.A. punk band, which signed a major-label deal in the '90s. "We need shows like that. People are going to bitch about how 'that band is on this label' or something — well, it's like, 'Why don't you pay the fucking rent, then!'"

Green Day, the most famous Bay Area punk band in the world, got its start at Gilman when its members were just teenagers. The band was famously outlawed from the venue once it signed with Warner Bros. in 1993. Would Avilez allow Green Day back? "We'd have to have a meeting on it and vote — but I'd be for it," he says.

Mariam Bastani, one of the head coordinators at Maximum Rocknroll — San Francisco's oldest and largest underground punk magazine, whose founders started Gilman in 1986 — says she "still believes" in the club, despite recent decisions she calls "embarrassing." But Bastani notes that many in the community don't think Gilman is what it used be. "At this point I feel that many punks regard Gilman as sort of 'just another venue,'" she says. "It's sad."

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
29 comments
looselipssinkships
looselipssinkships

boo boo should do everyone a favor in the bay and shut his big fat fuckin diahria mouth and go back to boston with the rest of the assholes.....

924GilmanStreet
924GilmanStreet

Dear Mr. Saincome and Editors,

 

Re: "Pragmatists and Idealists Clash Over the Future of 924 Gilman"

 

The following are points that 924 Gilman Street would like to offer as correction to some inaccurate statements in the recent article which appeared on SFWeekly.com, along with some of the club's current operating information:

 

• In 2009-2011, 924 Gilman Street handed out to independent bands nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

• The original rules are that, after security is paid (security being the only paid position), the club and the bands split proceeds 50/50. Over the last couple of years, it has been averaging closer to 60/40, because the club is dipping into its money so that it can pay out more money to the bands.

• The idea that Gilman pays headliners 30 times more than opening bands is false. There isn't a booker or coordinator there who would not make sure that touring bands have money in their pocket. The number one financial priority is to pay bands on tour.

• There are many shows where the club gives the entire door proceeds to the bands.

• There are many benefit shows where the entire door proceeds are given to a specific cause.

• Almost $2,500 was paid out of Gilman's pocket for food for bands last year.

• Gilman's rent has more than doubled since the club opened and the insurance has gone up significantly. The cost of insurance alone is nearly $10,000 per year.

• The price of a $5 show in 1986, adjusted for inflation, would be $10.45 in today's prices.

• The average door price this year and for the last four years is just over $8 per show, effectively cheaper than it was in 1986. In 2011, there were some higher priced doors, and it averaged $8.87. In 2009 and 2010 it was closer to $7.50. We also have had a number of $5 shows. Our records show one $15 door / $13 pre-sale show, a React Records showcase with a huge number of bands.

• Unlike most clubs, Gilman Street doesn't have a bar, and the only real income we generate is based on the number of people who pay at the front door. With a bar, keeping the door price down even further might be possible but this club does not have that option.

• A handful of people complain infrequently but vocally outside of the club environment about perceived current Gilman policies, but they don't volunteer, don't come to volunteer meetings (which is how the club is run), and we assume they don't come to shows. Nobody has been pushed out, marginalized, blacklisted, or exiled. They simply don't participate. We wish they would.

 

Mike Avilez, Head Booker, was unfairly made out as a scapegoat in this article for people who left Gilman long ago and occasionally vent elsewhere. It was unfortunately based largely on outdated or second hand and inaccurate information. It also left out the overall positive and unique experience Gilman has been and continues to be for many bands and many people.

 

It's important to acknowledge that we all respect the work and the heart that Mike has for the club. He didn't ask to be Head Booker at Gilman. He was written in during voting when nobody ran for the position last year. He generously accepted the role, and he puts in as much time at the club as anyone. Mike works very hard, cares about Gilman a lot, and would probably welcome some help. He's had nothing to do with the change in door prices, which, as noted before, are cheaper today than they were in 1986 after adjustment for inflation. Mike is only one of several bookers.  To quote song lyrics he wrote twenty years ago to characterize him as a screw-it-all type of loose cannon is irresponsible. Just as irresponsible as making Mike the only current and active Gilman member quoted in the article.

 

To the Idealists we say: Thank you for all you do. Your passion and vision keep things moving with fresh and challenging ideas. If you have thoughts on how to fight the pull of our audience to a gentrified Oakland, how to keep shows at $5 door prices, and how make the club a space where everyone feels absolutely safe and welcome 100% of the time without a challenge to anyone's sensitivities in this modern, fragmented age, come and help us figure out how to do it. Gilman needs you.

 

To the Pragmatists we say: Thank you for all you do. Your hard work and practicality really get things done. Don't take it too far or Gilman really will be in danger of becoming just another rock club. To the Members who Left (whether it was in 1987 or 2011) we say: We welcome you back. Bring your time, your energy, your heart, your skills. We welcome you back, anytime.

 

To the Journalists we say: Please, for punx' sake, do your homework. You are welcome at volunteer meetings if you have questions.

 

To Everybody we say: Isn't it incredible that, despite all of our differences, we can still come together and keep moving forward with a venue that has such a legacy, such great music, such fun, and a sense of community and participation? Yes, it's pretty amazing.

 

Volunteer meetings are the first and third Saturdays of each month at 5:00pm at 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley.

 

Onward.

 

Yours,

 

924 Gilman Street

roseyposey99
roseyposey99

I agree with bobby_adopted, times have changed and the old 5$ shows like  back in the day would be great etc etc , but as an almost 40 year old mom who literally grew up in the arms of 924 Gilman, I have to say I cant turn my back on a place that allowed me such freedoms as being myself and surrounding myself with interesting people and music..it was my healing salve and I hold on to those memories fondly and am proud to pass Gilman on to my, now 13 year old daughter, who I am quite sure will volunteer and make her mark  on such an important institution!

bobby_adopted
bobby_adopted

I volunteered at the 924 Gilman St. project for over a year and it was a tough, thankless job that I was honored to have. It's Gilman St,  and to me that was (and is) a big deal. However, I always thought I sucked at my volunteer duties as a booker (If it wasn't for Jeff Armstrong always saving my brown ass I wouldn't have lasted a month). Waaaay later after the fact I realized that the reason I felt I sucked so badly was because everyone has a different opinion on how the place should be run and if you try to please everyone (like I did) you will always feel like a failure. In the end, I still think it's a very cool, safe place for people young and old to go and enjoy some great and sometimes some not so great bands. I respect the people who give all their time to the club because without them there would be no club. It would be very cool for every show  to be a $5 dollar door like old times, but that's not reality. Shit cost money. I hate it for Mike getting thrown under the bus like that for writing bad lyrics a long time ago, no dice. I know Mike and I consider him a friend (a very strange friend) who works hard for the club.  And what's up with all the anonymous post? Say something and stand by it people. I hope the guy the wrote this article reads my post because I have a message for him: If I ever meet you, I'm gonna put my foot in your ass for trying to divide people who do their very best for something they love. Times are tough, things have changed and they do their best with the resources they have. My name is Bobby and I am part of the problem.

Sammy
Sammy

Raising the door price was long overdue. The other values should remain as originally intended, except that the people who judge lyrical content need to have a sense of humor and check their facts before banning a band.

Keith Morris said that hardcore died when the Circle Jerks broke up. The hell with him.

anothershitworker
anothershitworker

This is bad journalism- it's in bad taste to publicly tear down an all ages local punk collective. The whole corporate/straight world would love to see this place disappear - and apparently that's news for the SF Weekly (not a local independent weekly - owned by Village Voice Media). Everybody knows you can't judge a collective whole by one person's actions. Mike Avilez doesn't speak for the whole club. Many people who are heavily involved criticize him, and don't like what he does there- but they didn't get interviewed. I hope that people see the flaws in this lame article and are inspired to get involved with the club and hold it up to the values it was built on.

meatsack
meatsack

Back in the 90's the drummer of the band I was in wanted to play there, he informed me I needed to send the lyrics to Gillman so we could get a show.  I thought about it for about two seconds and said no.  Fuck no.  PC punks are the most tiresome children to be found, they make neo hippies seem tolerant and open minded.

 

It always puzzled me when punks would write retarded lyrics like those mentioned in the article, lyrics like that just means you are not clever enough to come up with something interesting or funny.  But why anyone would let their thing be judged by a bunch of hippy/punk/krusties in need of a bath is a mystery.  Might as well as let the PMRC run Gillman.

Andrea Ackerman
Andrea Ackerman

sorry for being an asshole...just didn't want mis compadres all vandalized n shiite..lol

Andrea Ackerman
Andrea Ackerman

love u guys...sry, those are my homies up there in that damn vans van...and they played there when they were poor ass kids and we all helped each other be fine..thats all

norcalskimboarder
norcalskimboarder

So the anti-establishment/anti-corporate grass roots punk rocker complains on Facebook, owned by one of the richest people in the world.  Oh the irony.  I wonder if he bought their stock when they went public on the stock market?

 

I know people who volunteer at Gilman (I don't, I don't have the time) and they work hundreds (and some work thousands) of hours for zero pay, for the love of Gilman, for the survival of the club.  Not one of them earns a dime and not one of them is sexist, racist or homophobic.  Quite the opposite actually.

 

So a booker wrote sexist lyrics 18 years ago?  That's evidence that Gilman has lost sight of it's core values?  Really?

 

Well since hard core punk rock anti-establishment people are down with mega corps like Facebook (who steal your personal info btw) but whine  about a $3 ticket increase, I'm gonna go to another mega corp who steals your personal info, Google, and find out who owns SF Weekly.

 

Hmmm.  Village Voice Media.  And how do they make their money?

 

Hmmm.  Nice.  Prostitution, child porn, sex trafficking, etc. 

 

"Backpage contains a section for listing "adult entertainment" services. Although it officially prohibits illegal services including prostitution, the site still contains listings explicitly for sex.[3] Content submitted to Backpage is surveyed by an automated scan for terms related to prostitution. A team of around 100 people also oversees each entry before it is posted. Each month the team finds around 400 ads offering potentially underage sex. These are sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which in turn alerts law enforcement. Potentially illegal ads are not removed and the team does not attempt to identify whether the subjects of the listings are participating of their own free will"

 

Consider the source, folks.

 

*sent from my iphone*

Andrea Ackerman
Andrea Ackerman

Forget the minions, they're on their own. When they protest it, they'll piss and moan. Caught in a windstorm, blow me away. While on the subject of give and take, The filthy scoundrels, let them eat cake. Piece it together, pray for good luck.

Andrea Ackerman
Andrea Ackerman

does Gilman still sell those veggie burritos..those were yummmy

Andrea Ackerman
Andrea Ackerman

OFF's vans van is in Berkeley?? Cool Beans. shit! i'd be buying some 7 inches from that dreaded dude if i were a mofo

Mike Rivera
Mike Rivera

they should quit calling green day a punk band. its disrespectful to punk rock.

Guerro
Guerro

This is so hilarious.  Idealism vs realism.  How do you pay 4500 a month rent while charging 5 bucks at the door.  "Tim would have wanted it that way"?

 

BTW when Lynn Breedlove threw out a used, bloody,and potentially infectious tampon into the crowd no one balked.  But use the word "fag" or "bitch" and you are banned from the club.  Hilarious double standard there.

 

You can't count on volunteers to run something this complicated, especially in Uber PC land.

Josh
Josh

I'm involved at Gilman too, and I felt the article didn't give enough voice to the people currently working very hard there to be a great community resource.  It was mostly talking to people who left under previous times and aren't involved anymore or as aware of the current culture, especially the implication at the end that Gilman isn't a safe space anymore.  I've talked to many people, old and new about this idea in order to see how we can improve, and almost everyone says Gilman is safer than it's ever been.  That's saying a lot, and some people are still striving to improve and update it.    Remember, talking and writing are great, but nothing happens until people come, give their time and their passion and get involved!  Volunteer meetings are the first and 3rd Saturdays at 5pm at the club!

nobody
nobody

I am a coordinator at gilman.  I rarely work there anymore because there doesn't seem to be anyone organizing things, so I don't get any calls or anyone contacting me to work.  However, every time I do coordinate, I try my hardest to run the show like I was trained to 10 years ago.  I purposely do not work shows I find offensive in any way and I do not tolerate any sexism, homophobia, drugs or alcohol at shows while trying to be reasonable with everyone as well. 

 

I don't really agree with this article being put out, as it was not approved at any of the meetings and it kind of puts the club in a bad light.  I would like people to know that there are people out there that are still trying to keep this club together, people that still care.  Also a correction:  the only paid staff at gilman are the security guards because it is legally required by the city for the club to have paid security.  EVERYONE else is completely volunteer.  Nobody takes a cut from any show and there is a roof on how much security gets paid.  The money is split 50/50 after security is paid and if it is a small show, I always tend to lean towards giving more money to the bands.  This is at least how I run things when I coordinate a show, which is rare nowadays. 

 

The reason I am stating this also is because I don't think it should be a secret how gilman is run--the policy is that anyone can become a coordinator or booker, I was 17 when i started working there and I love gilman dearly and loved the openness of the club to people of all ages and the fact that you could get involved.  I fought the door prices when it first came up.  We came to an agreement that the cost of living had gone up so shows would have a lid of $8 maximum, which was thrown away and disobeyed extremely quickly by some workers that no longer work there today, which was then taught by them to the new workers etc etc...which would explain the decline.  I would love to see some staff that were forced out come back, I would love to see more people excited and enthusiastic about volunteering again.  I would love to see bookers following the ideals--i dont even know if this article is lying or not but I didn't even know all this controversy had been going on currently because I have been kept out of the loop--a few years ago I was PURPOSELY kept out of the loop by certain staff that no longer work there BECAUSE I held onto the older ideals of the club.  There were a lot of us FORCED out--bullied if you will,  of working shows and being involved because of people that were in charge a few years ago and the club hasn't fully recovered from it.  We were blacklisted, put on a no-call list and people that worked there accepted this as the new rule and still don't call. 

 

I want to see this club survive.  I really do.  I hope this truth inspires people to get involved again or for the first time.  It's a non profit punk club run by and for the community.  Lets make it happen again!  Lets take this article as a warning, a sign to rise up and fix this mess we've gotten into!  Most of us that work there have day jobs...maybe it's time for the new generation of teenage punks to take over and run this place and give it some life again.

joelmanton
joelmanton

 @looselipssinkships I really hope one day you have the guts to stop hiding behind anonymous internet usernames and say this to his face.

somebody
somebody

@nobody

You were never PURPOSELY kept out of any loops because of some grand conspiracy against you and your older ideals, but because some of your fellow staff were concerned about your mental well being, so precautions were taken to only schedule you for smaller, less stressful shows that the collective thought you'd be happier (and capable of) coordinating.  Since attendance at the club was up at that time, it became harder to schedule you for shows we thought you could handle without having a breakdown.  There has never been a volunteer BLACKLIST, and there was never a need to bully or FORCE you out because you rarely if ever attended membership meetings, and so most of us were unaware of your dedication to these so called "older ideals", until you started to post comments like this one on the internet.  

Lastly, volunteer staff nearly tripled in those years that you describe for self serving reasons as some dark period for the club, which just speaks to how oblivious you were and continue be when it comes to the state of 924 Gilman.  Unfortunately, as this article makes clear, you are not alone.  If I've addressed the wrong "Nobody" in this response, then please read this as a comment about how it's easier to write a hatchet piece about 924 Gilman, fueled by inaccuracies and sensationalism, then it is a fair and factual article using professional and ethical standards as a journalist.

 

 

 

meatsack
meatsack

What ideal? Not agreeing with your biases against drugs an alcyhol?

 

Third party articles need a vote to be put out?

 

What a strange post.

sackofmeat
sackofmeat

 @meatsack yeah you are totally right.  the club really wants to descriminate against people that drink alcohol and do drugs.  that's their main goal, to keep everyone and everything straight edge and be elitist about how they don't drink and don't do drugs.  of course it's not to keep it all ages or anything stupid and gay like for kids that cant go to bar shows or anything, right?  of course you are right.  you're always right.  everything you say and do is right and everyone ELSE is wrong. 

 

wow, you really think JUST like everyone at 924 gilman street thinks!  cause you know, every person that works there thinks exactly the same.  except you guys clash so which one of you is the REAL right one?

gilman_shitworker
gilman_shitworker

 @meatsack Get over it, bar punk. There are a million bars in the world and one Gilman Street. You can have a drink and go do blow in the bathroom just about anywhere while watching Hammerlock or MC Meathook or The Mentors or whatever mediocre bar punk band you want - there'll only be 35 people there, anyway, and only 10 of those people would show up if they played Gilman. Gilman could definitely use some new blood and new ideas (and maybe some more openness to non-punk bands with like-minded ideals playing there) to help it during this transitional period, but don't worry, it will survive fine without you and your ilk - because you never went there anyway.

 

Concert Calendar

  • April
  • Thu
    17
  • Fri
    18
  • Sat
    19
  • Sun
    20
  • Mon
    21
  • Tue
    22
  • Wed
    23
San Francisco Event Tickets
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...