THE FIRST TWO SHOWS I EVER PLAYED: BIAFRA and D.O.A. SAN FRANCISCO 1989
This still surprises me. I mean, how the f—k?
In 1989 the great Canadian punk stalwarts D.O.A. were doing a final west coast tour before calling it quits (yes, they’re still together and rocking at the time I am writing, I am pleased to report). This show at Club DV8 in San Francisco was to be their last S.F. appearance and would be filmed for a commemorative video to be called “The End” by the promoter of the show, the man who put the “fab” in the Fab Mab, the one and only “Pope of Punk” Mr. Dirk Dirksen.
If I remember correctly, in the hustle bustle of setting up the show and the taping Dirk had neglected to book an opening act for the evening and he mentioned this problem to everyone while swinging by Alternative Tentacles where I worked at the time. I had recently agreed to play my FIRST SHOW EVER opening for a Biafra spoken word date at the fancy new club Slim’s down on 11th St.,south of Market. Dirk caught wind of this fact and he off the cuff asked me if I wanted to open his D.O.A. show the night after my concert debut. Against my better judgement I said I would. I mean why not, right?
This two night stand playing my first two shows EVER back to back opening for my friends D.O.A. and Biafra also happened to be a two night stand opening for two acts that were once major heroes of mine and who were also still a lot of other people’s heroes. No pressure, no problem. After all I played weird pretentious psychedelic prog-punk alone with an electric guitar and had zero stage experience, what could go wrong?
The weirdest part of it is…nothing really went wrong.
Sure, I shroomed the first night at Slim’s before walking out in front of oh, say 800 people. I heard my voice through a P.A. for the first time in my life tripping. I totally sucked. The crowd was stunned or maybe puzzled is a better word, whatever they were they were seated and were mostly quiet and respectful. My only real memory of my time on stage was seeing Klaus Flouride near the front looking at me through his glasses with an expression of metaphysical sorrow and compassion and I felt a wash of Buddha-like acceptance of life’s suffering engulf me. Man, I must’ve sucked.
I got off stage in a halo of techno-Aztec arabesque filigree patterns, wept in my dressing room, and got paid $500!!!
The next night at DV8 opening for D.O.A. I had the good sense to get semi-hammered instead of psychedelic before playing. Dutch courage seemed more appropriate for playing to a sold-out crowd of punks who were there to wish D.O.A. happy trails. This crowd would not be seated.
With videotape rolling, Dirk Dirksen introduced me in the style he made famous as emcee at The Mabuhay Gardens back before my time by talking sh-t about how lame I was and how the crowd shouldn’t give me the time of day. They all knew about his spiel and took it in good humor. I walked out, plugged my SG straight into Joey Shithead’s Marshall 1/2 stack and let the good times roll.
I know I had to have been wretched and I definitely had no business being up there, but even though I did get heckled and stuff, most of the punks actually seemed to respect the insanity of me standing up there all alone just doing it. It went o…k…
The only person I remember seeing in the crowd was Karin Gembus. Smiling brightly, looking like a ray of sunshine in the dark clouds all around. Thanks Karin!
Later when Dirk thanked me and handed me $300 and a VHS tape of my performance, I was elated. I’d made $800.00 in two nights! I thought “fame and fortune, here I come!”
I only ever made that much from music maybe once or twice ever after that…whaa-whaaaa. (Miles Davis trumpet sound).
I set that VHS tape on top of my player at home and stared at it off and on for a couple days before gutting it and tossing it in the garbage. I have not one ounce of regret about that decision.
R.I.P. Dirk Dirksen and Ken Jensen
Photo from the D.O.A. show by Damon Malloy (?)