Literary punk history, 924 Gilman celebrated in Berkeley

The Mr. T Experience , who’ll perform at Gilman 924 on Saturday, Jan. 7 — after frontman Dr. Frank gives a reading at the Berkeley Public Library.

By Emma Silvers / KQED Arts

There’s this thing that happens when you’re a fan of punk rock — though it surely afflicts other scenes as well — in which it always seems like you just missed the party.

“Real punk was over by 1984,” is a phrase you might have heard, if you started getting into it in 1985. I grew up blocks from 924 Gilman, but by the time I went to my first show there in 1999, it was apparent that I’d missed the golden age of East Bay punk by five to 15 years, depending on whom I asked.

Luckily, there are history books — though I don’t expect the ones being feted this Saturday, Jan. 7 at The Lookout! Bookout! Bash at the Berkeley Public Library’s North Berkeley Branch to appear on standardized high-school reading lists anytime soon.


Featuring appearances by Lookout Records founder Larry Livermore, Pansy Division’s Jon Ginoli, Mr. T Experience’s Frank Portman,  Jüke’s Nick Wolfinger, and the Smugglers’ Grant Lawrence, this afternoon event is an aptly named celebration of books about Bay Area punk. It also serves as the literary component to The Lookouting, a four-day festival celebrating the 30th anniversary of 924 Gilman via a slew of bands affiliated with Lookout Records in the early ’90s.

One benefit of waiting 30-odd years to wax poetic on a scene is, apparently, that several of its central figures have actually authored books — and in at least one case, have gone on to legit literary careers. MTX’s Portman, or Dr. Frank, has made a second name for himself as a novelist, with his well-received King Dork series.

Read more about The Lookouting, a celebration of Lookout Records.

And hey, nothing like the best of both worlds: If an afternoon at the library leaves you feeling a little tame, both he and Ginoli (whose memoir Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division chronicles his experiences with the groundbreaking queer punk band) will also perform later in the evening, with full bands, at Gilman — the all-ages club where, despite what nostalgia might tell you, the party is absolutely still going strong.

This story first appeared on KQED Arts on Jan. 5, 2017.


Want to know what else is going on in Berkeley and nearby? Visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. Submit your own events for free if they aren’t there already — and give them featured status for a few dollars a day.