Mabuhay Gardens

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The Mabuhay Gardens. The Fab Mab . . . I put on a show at the Mab in 1983. It was a benefit to raise money for a zine I was publishing at the time. In a way it was just another show. Five bands. Kwikway. Slug Lords. Teenage Warning or Teenage something or other. I forget. Nothing really memorable. But it was a strange feeling. Like you were a small part of history. Even today, I was watching a Youtube video of Jim Carroll at the Mab. And I’ll look at the stage and think: I stood up on that very same stage. And its like stepping into a legend. Or a very strange, heavily symbolic dream. With all these secret meanings and mysterious histories. Lotta’ ghosts in that room. I’m proud to have been a small part of it.

“As we all age, those memories are very special,” wrote Kareem K. on the Mab Facebook page.  “To hear recordings from those times and shows, especially with some background talking, really transports me back.”10562546_10152807108703994_5202043241092406302_o.jpg

The first time I went to the Mabuhay was on the night John Lennon got shot in December of 1980.  I was out of my head on LSD and looking for a candle-light memorial that was supposedly taking place somewhere on the San Francisco marina, but I was in no shape to find it.  So I went to the Mabuhay as a way to have my own private memorial at the rocknroll church.

The place was surprisingly small for such a legendary venue.  It could maybe fit a couple of hundred people.  And the stage was only a couple feet off the ground, you could step right up on it.  I always liked those small club stages, because it was so cramped you could get all four band members in one camera shot.  Really gave the feel of the band as one unified entity.  I like that about the old ’60s concerts, too.  Where you could see all four Beatles at the same time standing on stage.  Nowadays at these live shows, the venues are so huge, its like the lead guitarist is playing on one side of the stage, and the bass player is off somewhere else in another part of the building.
Anyways, there was always something dark and decadent and even dangerous about the Mabuhay.  This eerie, haunted vibe almost.  You half expected Joel Grey to hit the stage at any moment in leering white-face, belting out “Life is a cabaret, my friend!!”  And it was located right in the middle of all the strip clubs on Broadway and Columbus.   Carol Doda-land.   So when you walked to and from the club, you were right in the middle of the non-stop barkers wars in front of all the clubs.  “Hey pal-zy!  Come on in!! Check it out! Check it out!  We got the real thing in here! Come on in and take a quick look-see, buddy ole’ boy!!”  When you were buzzing around the streets of that neon circus around 1 in the morning, you really had that feeling that you had stepped into the Fast Lane.  Whatever fantasies you had about Sex and Drugs and Rocknroll, you were definitely flirting with that danger every time you stepped into the Mab’s mileau.  And many, many people would step onto that neon merry-go-round over the years, and keep spinning around faster and faster until they had spun right off the face of the earth.  “Hey, did you hear about Johnny Raven?”  Another one bites the dust.

To me, the Bay Area punk scene had two distinct periods.  The first one was from about 1977 to 1981.  It was mostly an older scene then.  The first wave of punks.  Mostly inspired by the English bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash.

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The Fab Mab.

But there were also plenty of  oldsters who were  inspired just as much by old-school punks like Lou Reed and Andy Warhol.  There were a lot of former long-haired hippie rocknroll types who had just cut their hair and donned skinny ties, eager to be part of an exciting new modern movement.  Plenty of art-damage types, too; college art-school drop-outs and bohemian hipsters.  And, of course, plenty of the nightclub scenesters and lounge lizards, too.

The second period, from 1982 to 1984, was mostly made up of suburban high school punkers that sort of overwhelmed the scene.  They were mostly inspired by California hardcore bands like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and MDC.

It all seems like a strange dream when I look back on it now.  Like a barely-remembered movie with some other person playing the role of me.

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4 thoughts on “Mabuhay Gardens

  1. Funny what I remember when I look at those photos. We were too broke to get em photo-screened — which could cost you ten bucks each. So we took this transparent plastic screen and pit it on the xerox machine and put the photos on top of the screen to make our own home-made screens for ten cents each. Then I made them two-tones by colring in the black areas with a felt pen. That was kind of the Do It Yourself spirit that everybody had back then.

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