Wednesday, January 25, 2012
As I stated in last night’s post, I wrote an article for this week’s issue of the Philadelphia Weekly about the Better Youth Organization that ran in the town during the early 80’s. I interviewed many a person for the piece, but sadly, not everyone made the final edit. So I decided to post the raw interviews I conducted here on DCXX. Hope y’all enjoy it and make sure to check out the actual article or pick up a hard copy of the mag if you live in the Philadelphia area. -Tony Rettman
Ian MacKaye and Brain Baker with Minor Threat, Photo: Jim Saah
Below are Ian MacKaye’s memories from Minor Threat playing a show the Philly BYO put on in November of 1982 at Buff Hall in Camden, N.J.
It was our third or fourth show as a five piece with Steve Hansgen on bass. Our first with him was in Baltimore and then we opened for P.I.L. on Halloween at Ritchie Coliseum here in D.C. We don’t know anything about Camden. We saw it was right over the river from Philadelphia, so we assumed it was like a suburb of Philly or something; we didn’t know! I don’t know what Camden is like today, but it was really, really, really sketchy. Really frightening. Most punk rock shows at the time were in ‘the hood’ but this was really scary.
We sound checked and set up and we were hanging out in the street while some kids were skateboarding. We were waiting for SSD to show up from Boston. I saw SSD’s van pull up, so I went over and started talking to Al and the rest of the Boston Crew through the driver’s seat window. I heard a car racing down the street, so I said to these kids who were skateboarding ‘Y’all better get out of the street, this guy is moving really fast’. I pushed myself up as close as I could against the van to give the guy as much room as I could, but then he just centered right in and hit the van head on. I think he was out of his mind and high. To this day, I remember this explosion of sound and pain and then being in the fetal position. One of my shoes was off and it was later found about 40 feet down the street. People started chasing this guys’ car and then when they realized I was injured, they ran back to help me. Someone got the license plate number. I ended up breaking my toe and my right calf was completely messed up. I also had this huge knot on the back of my head the size of a grapefruit that was bleeding. I had this… bleeding grapefruit on the back of my head!
There was this long discussion about whether or not I was going to the hospital. I ended up going and the nurses told me I was lucky to be alive. I remember being in the hospital saying ‘We gotta play!’ because I was there to represent. We came all the way up there to play. After we left the hospital, I remember we went to McDonalds’, had some French fries and did the show. A local biker group, The Ghetto Riders, showed up and just decided they were going to run security for the show.
I was in bad shape. Watching the video, I’m like milliseconds off on some songs. I’m off my usual mark. In the video, you can see this point where I’m taking a drink of Pepsi and some guy in the crowd screams out ‘Hey! Isn’t caffeine a drug?’ I was so fucked up and beat up and that was the last thing I wanted to hear. If you watch the video, you see me sorta poke him and tell him to cut it out. That show was a very legendary show as it was this meeting of the tribes. It was a definite throwdown where everybody tried to top themselves. It was a very long night. I remember passing out on the way back. I was seriously injured. I couldn’t get out of bed that next morning.
We gave the licenses plate to the police and they went to the guys’ house and the cops brought him back to the hall so people could identify him. Everyone said he was the guy, but he claimed that his car was stolen. I remember the guy seemed real loopy. The cops were very hostile towards us. I remember they told me ‘If you want to press charges, you and all your friends have to come back for a trial on the day of our choosing’. All of us were stone broke, so we didn’t have the money to come back to Camden and testify. I already spent $60 at the hospital, so that wasn’t going to happen. But the police just seemed so irritated at me, like I had nerve for being hit by a car in their town.
The first time we went up to Philly was for a Black Flag show in Kensington that ended up in this huge riot. Then second time I went there, I got hit by a car. So when we came into Philly the third time to play Love Hall, I was like ‘What’s going to happen this time?’ But it ended up being a great show. That was when we were back to a four piece and we were lean and mean; firing on all cylinders.
The Philly BYO thing was very brief, but they managed to put on some pivotal shows. That show wouldn’t have happened at the East Side Club, you know? Minor Threat was not connected to the industry whatsoever. Black Flag or the Bad Brains could play the clubs. But we played VFW Halls and things like that.
(The following response was in regards to a question I asked regarding whether or not Ian thought there was going to be trouble that night since there was going to be a significant amount of New York people at the show due to Agnostic Front being on the bill)
Agnostic Front was not the New York that we had beef with. The problem we had was with the old school Johnny Thunders New York types who looked down on us when we’d come up there to see shows. They just thought we were stupid kids. Agnostic Front was kids like us, so they were cool with me. Some of their dudes were sorta mook-ish, but so were some of the D.C. guys, so it was no big deal on my part. I will say this though: Every time we played, I planned to destroy the stage. Like I was more into the idea of three great bands being on the bill and each one attempting to kick each other’s ass with the music. I remember a show we did that was Minor Threat, SSD and MDC at Irving Plaza and that show was like that. Not that I want to make any of those bands look bad or anything; I just wanted to show them what we got.