This article is reprinted from the September 7, 1983 issue of City Pages.
The Wild Ones
Vandalism and Violence at Hardcore's Last Stand
By Martin Keller
For the nearly 100 hardcore punk fans gathered downtown to witness the closing of the Upper Deck and to see one of their favorite bands, Final Conflict, Tuesday night's drama was a certifiable riot on Second Avenue North. When it was over, Market Bar-B-Que owner Howard Polski, who shares the Glenwood Avenue corner next to the Upper Deck, called the whole thing "the icing on the cake." The bar sustained $3,000 worth of damage; seven or eight Minneapolis police cars and "at least a dozen police" were called; smoke bombs were set off; a teen-aged girl was slugged by an unknown cop; fan and racist graffiti was etched and sprayed into newly painted walls and bathrooms; toilets were ripped out and chairs stolen; a window was broken; one person was arrested; and a complaint was filed with the police department's internal affairs unit alleging "excessive force in affecting arrest."
Billy Burns, a bouncer involved in the wild events last Tuesday night said it was a "volatile situation." Upper Deck and Goofy's bar owner Dan Cotlow viewed the affair in cinematic terms, like something out of The Warriors, in which gangs of New York street toughs take each other on in a series of choreographed fights and mad chase scenes that make West Side Story look like a Puerto Rican picnic.
Who was to blame? Depending on whom you talk to, nearly everyone involved - from police to bouncers, punks to managers - was, at some time during the night, responsible for the Upper Deck's final conflict. It was a night for "doing things without thinking about them," as Mike Etoll said, describing why he threw a chair through the window around 10 p.m. Pure and simple, it was a night for many to behave like "an asshole." No matter if you wore police blue or a skinhead haircut with studded leather motorcycle jewelry. No matter if you were a paid employee built like a linebacker or a scrawny bald girl with multiple earposts driven through her ear to form a spiky crown. Last Tuesday night, the right elements combined to turn law officers into thugs, hardcore rock fans into vandals and bouncers into maniacs. Glenwood and Second Avenue filled with Cain.
"If the bouncers hadn't pulled the plug on the band," said Fred Gartner, the Upper Deck's manager and music booker, "the trouble could have been avoided."
"If Fred had gotten his kids to clean up their act over the last month, I would have kept the place open," Cotlow said.
If nobody had yelled "no fuckin' one pig is gonna tell 50 of us to leave" at the police outside the bar, Final Conflict fan Tim Daly would be without the scabs on his neck and face today. And Daly's complaint with the internal affairs department of his alleged mistreatment by arresting officers would lessen the caseload of police investigator Lt. Ed Scott, who said last week that Daly's charge against three Minneapolis cops looks valid.
HARDCORE punk rock, as the genre is usually called, is a faction, a splinter style of rock that grew, in part, out of the Ramones cartoon vision of the world: power pop gooniness aimed at people with a Mad Magazine sensibility. A seething reaction to complacency, falseness and a sense of powerlessness in their own youthful ranks, hardcore has all the elements that made rock'n'roll dangerous to America 25 years ago when Presley was in his prime.
Its recent historical lines go back to the Sex Pistols, early Clash and Generation X in 1976-77. But the genre today looks and sounds like nearly nothing from that period, except for the rage and rawness that remain. Hardcore is defined by its three-chord limits and the classic pose of teenage rebellion. More often than not, hardcore is underscored by a band's inability to play their instruments beyond the "loud and fast" rules that it sets for itself.
Hardcore is rock democracy at its most anarchistic level. It allows anyone to be in a rock band without good clothes, tons of equipment or connections. It always objects to the poser, anyone who parades a punk facade.
In the past, British skinheads have rallied around right-wing hate parties like the National Front with its racist and anti-Semitic doctrines. In America, there has been no substantial alliance with neo-Nazis. But there are some ugly veins of racist bigotry running through the local hardcore scene; the word "n******" was prominently spray-painted in black over one of the joint's dressing-room windows.
Twin Cities hardcore culture has created a viable underground outlet for creative expression. Among its enterprises, the local punk culture has produced records and small independent record labels. Your Flesh fanzine, a primitive monthly mag put out by Ron Clark and Peter Davis, features fresh and exciting comic strips by David Roth and others, plus humor, satire, gory and glorified graphics, and straight fan gush writing on hardcore bands and issues. Last year, many local hardcore and affiliated bands played an all-night benefit, raising $2,000 for Minneapolis Children's Hospital and Health Center.
Slamdancing, hardcore's mostly male dance ritual, appears violent only to those on its outer edges. Most slammers are friends, in spite of bloody noses or the occasional busted head. Slamdancing is merely another teen-age rite of passage, the Twist turned into a projectile.
Before the whip came down Tuesday, Lori Barbero, the girlfriend of a Final Conflict member, recalled that "people were having a good time, they were even dancing to records." Barbero and others frequented the Deck; it had become in recent months their place. And, she pointed out, they shared in some of its responsibilities: She and 15 other fans once spent six to seven hours painting the Deck black. Cotlow bought the supplies.
To a large degree, many Upper Deck patrons must have thought they were being driven from their nest. Daly said it was like a protest.
The Deck never had any trouble until about two months ago when it seemed like, Cotlow thought, "a few people wanted to screw the place up every night." The muscular former athlete told the crowds that he didn't care if they threw each other around, just don't wreck the building. He supplied a $10,000 PA system and put in lights. Cotlow allowed Gartner to book whatever acts he wanted inside the fairly comfortable room. Gartner supplied a variety of rock, soul and even some avant-garde jazz. He booked national acts like Black Flag (with Cotlow's approval) as well as the myriad garage and punk combos who travel the broken glass circuit trying to get a break.
In January of 1982, Eric Lindbom wrote in the Minnesota Daily that "Goofy's management is pretty loose about giving new bands a shot at the stage and this bodes well." The story hangs today in Cotlow's office. Since last week's riot, however, he's changed his tune from his original working philosophy for the Upper Deck: "I can't see any club bookin' hardcore after this. They have no respect for property; they must hate the world or something. They went nuts." Burns, an off-duty bouncer who got involved in the fracas that night when it began to reach the boiling point, said the whole thing looked like an act of revenge. "Around 4:30 in the afternoon, I saw a bunch of them flipping baseball bats around inside a car in the parking lot. It [the outbreak] definitely looked like it was planned."
Gartner denied that anything was planned outside of the "Upper Deck is Dead" three-day wake he had arranged. Cotlow went along with it, thinking the "Deck could die gracefully," but was quick to point out last week that he and Gartner never did see eye to eye on managing the club. Etoll, remorseful over his part in the trouble at the Upper Deck, admitted that he wasn't trying to make trouble when he threw the chair through the window. "But I mean the place was closing, and there was so much of that kind of thing going on - people pounding on electrical boxes, and a seat in the dressing room was ripped up, and chairs were broken - that I just did it. This was the only place for bands to go where you didn't need a tape, you didn't need no reference. It was a good place to get noticed and build a following."
In the weeks before the Deck's last hurrah, $3,000 more in damages added up. "It was more headache than it was worth," Cotlow said, with a profit margin too low to cover expenses for punched-in walls, graffiti, stolen chairs. "They tore down my cedar-shingle that outlined the stage." Cotlow said. "It ended up in my garbage. Some drapes in the rear - they ate those," he joked.
As owner of the self-described working man's bar with daily strip shows that attract blue collar guys, vagrants and businessmen in suits and ties, Cotlow said he never hassled anyone - not "their forms of expression, their dress, their hair or the bald girls - this was the nitty-gritty group."
"Eventually," Cotlow added, "that element that comes from everywhere and seeks its own kind" started making a hangout of the place and its surrounding turf, which included Polski's Market Bar-B-Que restaurant, a local police haunt. Tuesday night, after he discovered a chair on the sidewalk and a broken glass - both thrown through the Etoll window - Polski notified the four or five squad cars he'd seen near the restaurant that there might be trouble later that night.
When Final Conflict finally hit the stage around midnight, they were told that Cotlow was closing the place down. The request came at Polski's suggestion. Cotlow was at home. Polski was working the restaurant next door, chatting at 11:30 p.m. with four police, including two officers, a man and a woman, in plain clothes.
Inside the club, irate fans began booing and cursing bouncer, Tom Summers, who had pulled the plug on Final Conflict. Noel Morgan from Final Conflict remembered that when they finally went on, they "got the crowd movin' and riled up; they'd been waiting for us a pretty long time." Said Gartner, who chided opening act, Ground Zero, for playing too long, "This was a Final Conflict crowd; everybody was waiting to see them."
An audio verite tape made by Deejay Jon Copeland that night features Summers screaming at the crowd to "hit the fucking road" while trading invectives with punks who taunted him with loud choruses of "fuck you, fuck you." Barbero, who said she was angry at not being able to see the band, hit the microphone against a beam and then went off with a chair in hand to look for her boyfriend, Noel Morgan. It was then, she claimed, that Summers grabbed her and said she was under arrest. "Before I could say anything," Barbero continued, "he picked me up by the throat and dragged me off the ground."
The crowd reacted by ganging up on Summers. "I grabbed her by the neck, yes, I did, to make a citizen's arrest," Summers said Saturday by phone. "She resisted. When the eight to 10 people jumped me, she got away." Burns came upstairs with pool cues and a wine bottle to help clear the angry, shrieking crowd.
Deejay Copeland tried to soothe everyone with, "Cool down everybody; just leave in peace - we don't need a scene here, we don't ant any riot." In a few minutes, someone lit a smoke bomb and forced the horde into the street, where the police were circling their wagons. Gartner and others believed the smoke bomb prevented further injuries and destruction inside the Deck. "When the order came to close it down, the bouncers overreacted," Gartner claimed. "They have a habit of going into overkill at times like that. "Defending his actions, Summers said 15 minutes more of music would have meant 15 minutes more to destroy property. "I reacted as necessary. It was done in a very business-like manner at first."
Out on the streets Melanie Johnson said kids were yelling for their money back and mouthing off at the cops. The police declared the street an unlawful assembly and told the crowd to go home. "I was standing at the bottom of the stairs asking what happened and yelling 'fuck off' - lots of people were." Suddenly, she said, a cop with dark curly hair and a mustache hit her beneath the eye. "I didn't see his badge number."
Barbero verifies this slug. "I saw a police officer hit a girl." Seconds later, someone yelled out, "No fuckin' one pig is gonna tell 50 of us to leave." A plainclothes male cop grabbed Daly, thinking he had yelled the remark. "The plainclothes guy grabbed me by the arm and said I was under arrest; he didn't show his badge," Daly said. (Internal affairs officer Scott said that the plainclothes woman showed her badge at the time of the arrest.)
Daly claimed two other cops tackled him from behind; he was handcuffed immediately. "I was fazed once they hit me. I didn't resist. I couldn't." According to Scott, who took three photos of Daly's face, "Unfortunately, the officers haven't said in their [report] that he resisted."
Daly continued his story, sifting through it on his front porch Friday evening, "People started pushing, I couldn't see, plus they had me face down on the sidewalk in front of Goofy's. They turned my head and pumped it into the ground three times. I blacked out for about 10 or 15 seconds. Then I was dragged over to the police car - Number 410. They twisted my head sideways as they slumped me over the car, and one guy said, 'do some slamdancing now, motherfucker,''' dashing Daly's skull into the squad car's hard metal. The jail nurse cleaned him up, and he was booked for disorderly conduct. Wednesday, he pleaded guilty, paid a $25 fine and then filed his complaint with the internal affairs unit. Said Scott, "His marks don't look like the kind of marks you get in a normal arrest. Either he was resisting, or he was in a scuffle."
"I don't want to sound political 'cuz I'm not," Daly said later. "I'm into punk to say 'fuck you, cops,' or 'fuck you, Reagan.'" Ruddy, potato-skinned scabs covered his young face. Daly moved here from Chicago four months ago after losing his pressman's job at a print shop. He was laid off, he said, because the union was going to have to hire more Hispanics and Blacks once Washington was elected mayor. He believed both Washington and Epton "sucked. They were both shitty politicians.
"I just like the aggression of punk," Daly said. "It's not fake. It's not like that new wave crap like disco. New wave is just a fad now - glorified disco, not like Travolta, but close. I like how punk gets the adrenaline going; it moves you."
Thursday after the incident, a hot sun beat down on Goofy's newly painted facade, where graffiti had been sprayed Tuesday night. The old marquee above the Deck read "The Deck is Dead." Beneath the funereal expression, it said "Closed." Inside, a large padlock sealed the Deck doors tightly together. The place was already being cleaned up as Cotlow pointed out damages. Downstairs a strip show was in progress, filling the bar with another breed of customer. In the Upper Deck, spray paint veiled the surfaces of walls, cataloging the list of groups who'd played the club, all run together with a chaos of other slurs and slogans. A few capital A's with circles around them signifying anarchy stood out against the afternoon sunlight.
What happened upstairs at the Deck over Goofy's bar and out on the streets is an American Tale. We've seen this movie before; once it was called Riot on Sunset Strip, one of the first youth exploitation films of the '60s. Last Tuesday, it happened here with predictable results. Surely, it was nowhere as bad or as savage as the events one cold winter day at Met Stadium. That day "respectable" football fans turned the final Vikings game into a booze-fueled orgy of destruction. That particular occasion makes the Upper Deck debacle look like a rerun of Roundhouse Rodney.
In issue number three of Your Flesh, there's a review of Jeremy Rifkin and Ted Howard's book Entropy: A World View, by "Shannon." The review's opening lines read: "The word entropy refers to the second law of thermodynamics which states that all matter constantly moves from order to disorder. A corollary of that law states that when order is created artificially in a system, an equal degree of disorder is always created somewhere else in that system simultaneously... What does that mean for you and I?
Well, you and I as living beings live and die by this law... "At the end of the review, Shannon urges her readers to read the book.* "History judges very harshly the irresponsible and the vacuous," she warns. Someone should have read the piece aloud to punks, police, posers and other people involved in last week's riot on Second Avenue North.
*Shannon turns out to be Shannon Selberg, future lead singer of Twin Cities noise band, COWS, and the narrator for this web series.
Featured image by Shelly Hawes.
This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.
Check out additional episodes of Minnesota Hardcore.
Discover more about the origins of the hardcore music scene in the Twin Cities and the people who fueled it in Minnesota Hardcore, Episode 1: Backstory.
And of course, Minnesota Hardcore, Episode 2: The Fastest Band in the World revolves around the early days of Hüsker Dü. “The songs [of the band’s live album Land Speed Record] were short and chaotically fast; the lyrical content was angry, bitingly satirical and cynical. It was a calling card for hardcore. For a 14-year-old punk, confusing or not, it was the perfect invitation.”