Like most things in my life, the Biker’s Bashes started out by accident.
In 1982 I was publishing an underground punk rock newspaper, Twisted Image. I was also working full-time as a San Francisco bike messenger. So I always kept a stack of the latest issue of Twisted Image in the basket of my bicycle. And in between making my deliveries I would drop off copies at all the hip record stores, book stores and rock clubs in San Francisco, in the hopes of drumming up advertisers. That’s how I ended up talking to Dirk Dirksen inside the legendary On Broadway theater one afternoon.
“Listen,” said Dirksen, taking note of my nifty bike messenger uniform. “I can’t afford to take out any more ads right now. But how about this? Let’s put on a bike messenger show. We could get bike messenger bands to play. And you can take all the money at the door. And I’ll take all the money at the bar. Then you can write about it in your newspaper. That way we get publicity and you get money.”
“Sounds interesting,” I said.
Thus began the Biker’s Bashes. And my unlikely career as a concert promoter.
The first Biker’s Bash turned out pretty good. A lot of people showed up (bike messengers liked to party). And the bike messenger rock bands were pretty good. And there were only a couple of fights. Which wasn’t bad considering the bike messenger scene. And that savvy Dirk Dirksen made out like a bandit because bike messengers drink like fish (you build up a powerful thirst pedaling up and down the hills of San Francisco 8 hours a day). The show ended abruptly when the guitarist in the last band got hit on the head with a beer can (sorry, kids, no encore tonight!). But a good time was had by all.
That first Biker’s Bash generated a bit of excitement. So we decided we wanted to put on more these Biker’s Bashes. The whole bike messenger scene was a pretty dynamic and vibrant subculture back then. 1982 for God’s sake. There were a lot of artists, writers, musicians, poets and film-makers that worked as bike messengers. So there was a wealth of artistic talent for putting on multi-media shows of all persuasions. And, unlike so many of the other artsy subcultures in San Francisco at the time — which tended to revolve around the latest trends and fashions — the bike messenger artists were a very unpretentious and down-to-earth lot. There was a blue collar ethos befitting of people who worked extremely hard, sweating their asses off on a bicycle all day long.
But the problem was, Dirk Dirksen would only give us weekdays at the On Broadway theater. The weekends were reserved for all the big-name punk rock bands like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys. But Friday night was when all the bike messengers wanted to party.
So then somebody — probably Jason or Dog Paw or Pete Moss — came up with the bright idea of putting on weekend Biker’s Bashes at this other happening rock venue, the Farm. . . .
I remember that first Farm show. I remember hanging out alone with Jason inside the empty Farm building an hour before the show was about to start. Jason was an interesting cat — a black dude with a day-glo Mohawk. And well-respected amongst the other bike messengers. But we were both nervous as shit. We had never really put on a show all by ourselves before. We weren’t even sure if we knew what we were doing. So we were worrying, wondering if anyone would even show up. Or if we would have the bomb of all-time on our hands.
And then Dog Paw and a bunch of other bike messengers came rushing into the Farm carrying case after case of beer. Which we ended up selling at the make-shift bar in the kitchen area. And it was like the cavalry charging in to the rescue with fresh supplies.
And at that point I knew we had a party on our hands. And the rest, as they say, is history.
3 thoughts on “The Biker’s Bashes”
Why not set up something like this now? There are still good bands around and people who want to see music without paying huge amounts of money.
Great blog. There is a guy named Kevin Freeman from Molalla, Oregon. He was an Olympic equestrian . I gave him five dollars the last time I saw him.
I really was caught between being a Dead Head and a Punk Rocker while I was a bike messenger. I would go to The Farm for the Biker Bash shows and be all slam danced out, then I would do a Dead Show and be all mellow. The Dead won out in the end, I grew my hair long, started associating with some hardcore Deadheads and some of what I learned in the Punk scene translated over. I felt comfortable an right at home – as I still do now. Hey, does anyone know what happened to Rebel Rick? We did a few Dead shows together. I had some good times with him and I hope all is well for him.