The Punk Rock Sewing Circle’s origins can be traced back to a chain of posts on the Mabuhay Gardens Facebook page. What began as reminiscences about the small community of musicians, artists, poets, writers, roadies, and fans in the late 1970s and early 1980s, evolved into shared expressions of a desire to see one-another again and recapture the sense of creativity, community, artistic innovation, and a bond forged by a small group of the rejects of mainstream society, who didn’t try to regain admission to the mainstream or feel shamed by the rejection. Instead, they wore their “otherness” as a defiant badge of honor. These were not individuals ashamed of their failure to fit in, but proud of their inability to be a part of a society they found alien and repugnant. They responded to the rejection from the mainstream by, in turn, rejecting that society and forging their own community.
With those feelings rediscovered, the sentiments of those engaged in the ongoing dialogue on Facebook gave rise to new social media pages, springing up to facilitate sharing memories of a time whose importance in the lives of those who experienced them, remained undiminished. Quite naturally, expressions of a desire to experience participation in that vibrant and unique community were aired.
Several voices emerged, calling for a reunion of that early San Francisco punk community. Interestingly, those who eventually worked to transform those yearnings into a reality were not the same people who expressed those yearnings most urgently and passionately in the early period.
Whether first or not, a small circle began to manifest itself, made up of women and men, who were prepared to exert the effort necessary to bring about a resurrection of the original San Francisco punk community. Those involved included members of punk rock bands, writers and publishers of punk zines, sound techs and employees of the various clubs and concert promoters, owners of independent record stores and rehearsal studios, members of New Youth, DJs of punk radio shows, photographers, artists, promoters, and band managers.
The group, which would mature into the Punk Rock Sewing Circle, hosted their premier event in September of 2012. It was a three-day long extravaganza, which kicked off with a meet and greet reception, which featured acoustic musical performances and spoken word; followed by a marathon concert that saw 26 bands performing, an exhibition of the work of almost a dozen pioneering punk photographers, projection of hours of original films and videos exploring the early punk scene, an exhibition of poster art from those early days, and more. Over the course of the three-days of the event, several hundred punk rockers—many who had not seen one-another for 30 years or more—reunited, as though they had only parted ways the day before. Friendships were renewed, bonds re-forged, and testament was shared that reaffirmed the tremendous vitality and creativity of the punk rock community of San Francisco.
The SF Punk Reunion 2012 brought together seminal bands, photographers, artists, and performers, many of whom had not played together or exhibited since the 80’s. Frightwig, the Urge, the Afflicted, and Animal Things reformed to play the event. VKTMS had only been playing sporadically. The Avengers were joined by their original drummer Danny Furious and The Mutants were joined by Sue; both captivating the audience. The Lewd, originally from the Seattle punk scene, played as well as the Toiling Midgets. Zeros came up from LA, Noh Mercy, the Offs( including Billy Hawk in from Thailand) No Alternative, and other luminaries of San Francisco’s punk pioneers performed during this historic reunion event.
The success of the first undertaking, dubbed “San Francisco Punk Reunion: Shut the Fuck Up (STFU),“ drove the small band of individuals responsible for making the event happen to press forward with the staging of a two-day long benefit concert, with an even longer list of bands reuniting in order to participate. That event, entitled “What the Dickens” in a nod to the holiday season immediately preceding it, was held in early 2013.
After the success of the first two events, pleas and demands were endless, calling upon the coordinating circle of individuals to host another event. The result was a two-day concert event held at the Verdi club, called SF Punk Homecoming 2013, which culminated in a moving release of a river of lanterns into the night, as one of the organizers exhorted the crowd to “burn down the fucking sky.”
The events coordinated by what had by now evolved into the Punk Rock Sewing Circle, brought the Alley Cats and Nervous Gender from Southern California; the group Rampage, made up of some of the best known members of Vancouver’s punk scene; the Rubber City Rebels, The Mutants, Frightwig, Winston Tong w Lx Rudis and Moucci, Factrix, Offs, White Trash Debutantes, Thrill of the Pull, Impatient Youth, the Job, Roy Looney and the Phantom Movers were joined by newer punk bands Gimme Danger. Death Valley Girls, Jack Killed Jill. Several non punk bands comprised of seminal punk musicians such as Penelope Houston and the Honey Badgers, TB Slick Revue performed and were joined by Elliot Schneider and the Big Bang. San Francisco’s punk performance artists and spoken word pioneers from DOG Swan with Ronnie Guitar and Petunia, Jeorgia Anderson, to Brendan Early took the stage. Participants trekked from as far away as Belgium, the Netherlands, Thailand, Canada, New York, Texas, Washington state and Washington, DC, amongst other locales, to share in the celebration of San Francisco’s original punk rock community.
The historic events led to the release of a compilation CD, became the focus of a new film project, launched tours by bands which had ceased to exist decades before, and launched new voices in the world of spoken word performance.
Now, 40 years after the birth of punk rock in 1975 in the scattered urban environments of the UK, New York, Akron, Boston, Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the Punk Rock Sewing Circle is preparing for its largest series of events in its brief history. Punk Rock Renaissance: Final Warning is a week-long celebration of the creative explosion in music, art, film, video, fashion, political expression, writing that became known as punk rock. Distributed across a number of venues, Final Warning is planned to include a series of events strewn over the course of the third week of September 2015. It will include exhibitions of punk photography and graphic arts drawn for a number of artistic mediums; live music featuring representatives of the first-wave, the art and industrial scene spawned by punk rock; readings of prose and poetry from a number of genres; a book release and signing; a film release; and many other expressions of the unique, irrepressible vision the world has come to know as “Punk Rock.”
Our events have always reflected our old school roots. Featured bands and performers at the events have included the Avengers, Mutants, Frightwig, Alice Bag, the Alley Cats, the Offs, the Lewd, Rubber City Rebels, and Winston Tong with LX Rudis and Moucci, the Toiling Midgets, Thrill of the Pull, Frightwig, the Deadbeats w/ Geza X, Cheetah Chrome w the Street Walking Cheetahs and James Williamson, Rampage, No Alternative, Animal Things, The Urge, Altar de Fay, Factrix, the Alley Cats, Nervous Gender, Zeros, Noh Mercy, White Trash Debutantes, Death Valley Girls, Silke Berlinn, Impatient Youth, Translator, John Shirley, the Afflicted, DOG Swan with Ronnie Guitar and Petunia, The Next, VKTMS, David Microwave and the Legendary TB Slick Revue, Elliot Schneider and the Big Bang, Jack Killed Jill, Brendan Early, and Gimme Danger( Iggy Tribute Band)
Photographers and artists include: James Stark, George Sera, Elaine Vestal, Richard Alden Peterson, Jim Jocoy, Eric Brogger, Winston Smith, Bobby Castro, Ruby Ray, Eddie Valentine, JoJo Planteen, Winston Tong, Kamera Zie, Chester Simpson, Sue Brisk, Alanna Alberts, Mark Hanford, Andy Zicklin, Russell Allen, Vicky Berndt, Kelly Detweiler, Michael Engle, Jim Jocoy, Ruby Ray, Jack Johnston, Vincent Anton, Joe Truck, Gwen Waters, Dennis Kernohan, Greg Langston, Lou Rudoph, Savage Pencil, Winston Smith, Deborah Valentine, Sally Webster, Fast Cheap and Easy Graphics.
Spoken Word and Performance Artists have included: Winston Tong with Lx Rudis and Moucci; Patrick O’Neil Jeorgia Anderson; Michael Stewart Foley, Mark Zegans, Brixton Key Linda XYZ; Eddie Valentine; Jennifer Blowdryer; Marc Olmsted; Joel Landmine; Anne Leonard; Dominique Leslie; Peter Urban; D Mickey Sampson; Michael Reid, Iris Berry, Siobhan Shamama Lowe, DOG Swan with Ronnie Guitar and Petunia, Dominique Leslie, Jack Grisham, L’Egregore