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Culture Abuse’s Hometown Record Release Shows Were The Definition Of DIY Punk Rock, Friendship And Community

You know the feeling when you get to witness all your friends create something truly magical?”

Bay Area punx Culture Abuse have made one of our favourite records this year. Bay Dream is a punk rock record that goes way beyond punk rock — listen close and you’ll hear shades of the Beach Boys, the Strokes, Ramones and sound system culture in amongst the grade‑a classic songwriting — and it hints at a huge future for the band. However, to celebrate the release of Bay Dream a couple of weeks back, the band went back to their DIY punk roots and put on a two days of their friends’ bands in two tiny venues — in two separate cities, no less — to celebrate. 

Culture Abuse frontman David Kelling kindly wrote a few words for us about what went down that weekend:

We wanted to do something different and fun for our record release shows. Something that could involve everyone who has supported us, and something we could build on and take everywhere. 

The idea was to set up a full stage of equipment and let our friends jump up, plug right in and play a few songs, then trade off to the next band. Every band was going to be a surprise, so that way, it would be exciting, but also we could see who genuinely wanted to be a part of it!

A month before the show I made a flyer and sent it out to a ton of our friends with the headline DO YOU PLAY MUSIC FOR FUN?’ then we left for a European tour and announced the record release shows as CULTURE ABUSE & FRIENDS. It wasn’t until we were back and almost a week before the shows that I followed up with everyone.

It takes a lot to play a show, making sure everyone is down and available and able to get there, and it’s also easy for bands to expect more (money, recognition) especially when it starts to turn into work. So our idea was to organize a show where everything was provided: from the drums to the guitars, and every band is a secret so you don’t even have to bother promoting. That would weed out all the bullshit for us and see who actually wanted to be there!

It only took a day to solidify the lineup, so after that I was just waiting for the weekend! 

The first show was at the Echo in Los Angeles, CA. It sold out long before and no one even knew who all was going to play. 

The line up ended up being: No Win, Jr Slayer, World Be Free, Los Bolos, Nomads, Grave School, Dead Beat, Obliterations, The Bronx, Modern Life Is War, and ourselves!

We got there early to load in, Fender supplied all the amps and guitars for us, and Joey Castillo (The Bronx/Obliterations) let us borrow a drum kit. We blew up hundreds of balloons and putting ribbons around everything. I had used the xerox machine at the Epitaph offices before and made a sheet with everyone’s set times and printed out a copy for everyone in the bands so as the night began I was running around with the stack of those papers trying to pass them out so everyone would stay punctual, cuz with 11 bands in a little over 3 hours it would be very easy for it all to get fucked up! But the beautiful thing about surrounding yourself with people that are supportive and excited to be a part of what’s going on is that everything goes pretty smooth cuz everyone is there to help! 

I was pretty stressed out at the beginning because I tend to stress pretty easy. But then Cody Votolato (Jr Slayer/Blood Brothers) took my stack of papers and made me go get a drink with him. That’s when I sat back and started to soak in the overall vibe of the night. I watched every single band that night and definitely got teary eyed a few times. You know the feeling when you get to witness all your friends create something truly magical?

Alice Baxleys shots of the LA show

It was hard not going out after the show and partying our asses off because we had to do it all again the next day. 7 hours away in Oakland. We still got home around 2 am and had to wake up by 8 am to get there in time to set everything up. 

The next morning when we were getting ready to leave June Bug (our guitar player) asked what we were going to do about a PA (the microphone and speakers everyone would use to sing out of). We booked the show at an art gallery called Good Mother because we wanted to do something in our hometown that was free and all ages, but in the Bay Area (as much like everywhere) that is becoming so hard to find. Good Mother is one of the only DIY spaces like that still standing, but it’s so tiny. It’s one of those spots that once the band is set up it’s already packed! Luckily there was a barber shop next door that had recently shut down and they said if we emptied it out we could use it. 

So, we called around and tried to find a PA and once everyone got there, they got straight to work unloading the barber shop, sweeping, blowing up balloons and setting up the gear for everyone. Our homie Joey from Fearing tracked down a PA, we set up the merch next door in the art gallery and kids were already lining up outside. Once again I had my stack of papers with everyone’s set times on it passing them out. But once again everything went smooth! 

That night Cut Up, Jr Slayer, Shutups, Fearing, Toner, Meat Market, Tony Molina and Modern Life Is War played before us. 

When it was our turn to play our nerves were pretty shot and we may have had a little too much to drink. The room was already fucking packed and sweaty from the 10 bands who had played before us. By our second or third song, the crowd was so wild I had to have my girlfriend Barbara and my personal security guard Jaye Koonce hold me around the waist so no one could knock me over. We played a couple of songs like that; it was ridiculous and fun. Then all of a sudden the bass amp blew up! Who knew an amp in a humid room that was used for 23 sets in 2 days would eventually explode? I think it was a blessing because it was only getting more wild as the set went on and I was about to be swallowed. Drunk and pissed and with everyone shouting, we decided to just play So Busted without the bass and Shane (our bassist) jumped in the crowd. We got a total of 5 songs in that night and ended with everyone chanting I just wanted to be loved by you.”

Tommy Lys photos of the Bay Area show

That weekend was so full of love and support that it took a while to process what had actually happened, and it wasn’t what we had done, because every single person there did it: from the venue to the bands, everyone who agreed to show up to a secret show, Carlos de la Garza who recorded our record, our label, every person who’s listened to our record. All the love and interest feeds itself to create something more.

Thank you.

Culture Abuse playing at Good Mother Gallery in Oakland, CA on 7/28/18

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