This week's SFist Memoirs takes us to the East Bay in the early 1990s, as contributor Rene Becker shares some coming-of-age stories from her time spent as a teenager throwing spaghetti at Blatz at the 924 Gilman, smoking weed on Telegraph Avenue, and most importantly, giving Mr. Bungle's Mike Patton a piggy-back ride on stage. Rene moved to Albany from Sacramento at age twelve and lives in San Francisco now. Take it away, Rene!
We went to this Mr. Bungle concert at the Warfield in '92 or '93, and everyone we knew was there. I see these three girls stage-diving, and I was like, "They are stage-diving at a Mr. Bungle concert? I will not be one-upped!" I was taking it personally for some reason, and I was like, "I gotta do it. I gotta get on the stage."
Somehow — I don't know how, it feels like a dream — I got up on stage and was getting ready to jump. Then all of a sudden Mike Patton comes swinging at me while hanging on the curtains, lands on my shoulders, and I'm thinking, "This is not happening." I was really embarrassed and super shocked.
He somehow gets off me, and I looked around and thought, "Alright, time to do what I came here to do." I jumped off and was standing there afterwards, thinking, "Did that just really happen or did I dream it?"
My friends and I hung out at the Gilman every weekend in high school. We did some crazy stuff there.
Our favorite bands always played there, like NOFX or Blatz, and when Blatz played, we would all go over to my house and bag up the leftovers that needed to go, like old spaghetti or something. I don't know why, but at Blatz, you just threw stuff at the band, and that's what we'd throw at them. Or we'd bring squirt guns, Chinese firecrackers, bouncy balls. Whenever Blatz was playing, I'd say, "Oh, time to go clean out my mom's refrigerator." And my mom would say, "Thanks, Guys!"
I loved being part of the scene and getting to know everyone in it, hanging out at the club and in the mosh pits, getting all our energy out and letting it go completely.
Some friends of mine moved to Albany from Nevada at a time when no one dressed like punk-rockers, except a few who were more like gutter punks. You didn't see people with pink hair like you do today, and then these kids from Nevada showed up with this crazy hair and were all punk rock, and their parents listened to Morrissey and The Smiths. Their parents would drink with us, and their dad would give us joints sometimes.
I just felt alive when I met them. There weren't very many people at my school who were interested in the same things as me. It was more of a hip-hop scene. People were listening to Digital Underground and New Kids on the Block and dressing a little more preppy and clean-cut. It was boring in a safe and close-knit way.
These new kids were just so alive. They were considered freaks at the time but would be completely normal now. Mundane now almost.
Albany was a really good place to grow up. I'm glad I grew up in Albany. You'd get these characters there, which was kind of neat about the time. Dario, the old guy who'd right his bike around and get drunk sometimes, one of the 12-year-old kids with a purple mohawk who was kind of a loner, the old lady with a bun who drove an orange hot-rod Mustang...
We'd take the 52 bus from Albany up to Telegraph, which is where everybody hung out. There were a bunch of different spots for people to hang out. I don't think I ever paid for weed when I was hanging out on Telegraph as a kid.
The first time I smoked weed was under Sather Gate on the U.C. Berkeley campus. We'd go up there and wander around, meet people and hang out with older guys. We'd hang out at Kip's, which was a bar that would serve us. Or we'd go to this store, Le Petit and pick up some beers. I remember smoking in front of Rasputins, which used to be a Levi's, and the cops came by and didn't do anything. We were little kids.
KOFY Dance Party:
We all went on KOFY Dance Party a lot. Everybody would go and buy outfits from Goodwill to wear on the show, and they'd end up with holes in their clothes halfway through the show. So a lot of times people would be wearing trenchcoats during the second half.
Moving to Albany from Sacramento:
It was the first time that I stopped feeling shy. There was so much going on. In Sacramento, you hop on your bike and ride around all day or play in your backyard. In the Bay Area, education is embraced and there are so many events going on. There are different expectations. You're expected to be morally responsible, creative, and to care about your community.
Moving to Albany felt like home right away. Even though I was weirdo, everybody was kind of a weirdo. I didn't fit in, but that was cool. Then these kids moved in from Nevada and I found my home with some people that even though I wasn't like them, it was right.