Tying up the loose ends of a life in hardcore from 1986 until yesterday lunchtime

'Punkier-than-thou' - The Wire, June 2013.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Bl'ast on Discharge's grave in the new world

If you haven't already read this appraisal of Discharge's fall from grace in 1986, do so. It's a pretty entertaining and well-researched read (if a little short on actual new information), but the real gem is Nate Wilson's recording of the show, which definitely deserves to join the (admittedly quite small) pantheon of 'great gig riots caught on tape'.

By sheer coincidence, during an interview with Clifford Dinsmore of Bl'ast, we took a detour from talking about his old band's pretty fucking amazing bit of archive raiding for Southern Lord (the interview can be found on The Quietus btw) to discuss Discharge, their ill-fated US tour in 1986, and Bl'ast being witnesses to one of the more notorious episodes in punk rock history.

Dinsmore takes up the story:
“We played with them on that tour in San Diego. We were in New York at the Ritz. It was a bill we were supposed to be on. It was Discharge, DRI and Corrosion of Conformity. It was supposed to be us, but that was our first tour and Chris Williamson [infamous NY promoter] was like: 'Oh we can't have that unknown California band on that tour, we have to have Youth Of Today.' So we left
after DRI after played. We were like: 'Ah, we heard what's happened to Discharge. We've heard the record. We don't even have to check this out.' And I guess it got really, really hectic. Everyone flipped out and really hated it. And HR from Bad Brains walked up on stage with a garbage can and dumped it on Cal's head. And it spread like wildfire about how bad they'd gotten.

"I feel bad saying this because I can appreciate bands want get into different stuff, and they want to go in different directions. But it's almost like you should just break up – form a different band with a new name. Die hard fans who want to see a certain thing are not going to react that pleasantly when you totally change your whole format.

"So, we were playing with them in San Diego, and we went across the whole country and the word was just spreading across the country. So by the time we got to San Diego ... it was us and Dr Know playing with them, in a YMCA with bleachers behind the stage. And we were all sitting in the bleachers after our sets, us and Dr Know, watching Discharge from behind, basically. And of all a sudden the crowd started pelting them with shit - cans, bottles, you name it – anything they could throw they were throwing. And we were sitting behind them, so we all jumped off the bleachers pretty fast!

"I guess it got to a point where … well, they were playing Fender's Ballroom the next night, which is basically the most violent place in the history of hardcore – just straight up. I mean, maybe there was places on the east coast that were similar, but Fenders was a phenomenon – it was just war! If Discharge had gone there, I don't know if they would have came out there alive. [NB It seems they did indeed play Fender's, and then The Farm in San Francisco the following night - the one caught on tape by Nate. One has to applaud their tenacity, if nothing else, given the reception they received.]

"But it was pretty blatant, though – it was kind of appalling for them to come out the way they did, all glammed up, and the drummer was wearing these weird shiny Kiss boots. It really was just a mindfuck!"


  1. I recall those gigs...we (Dr. Know) played with them the next night at Fenders...and it didn't go well for them there, either. I blame Discharge's fall from grace not so much on the fact they made a record with more metal riffing, I think the audience would have been relatively ok with that, but that Cal changed his vocal delivery so radically and ended up sounding like a cat with a sword in it's gut. I recall Gary and Cal crying after the show. Not a good night for them. Good to see Bl'ast back at it!!

  2. Interesting stuff! Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Wow! Interesting this was brought up. My good friend at the time and I went to see Discharge at Fenders, thinking that the vocals would be the original Cal on live sets. Right before they went on, we were sort of close to Ron Martinez from Final Conflict and totally warned us. We were hopeful it wasn't true, since it was our first time seeing Discharge live. We were still in high school, catching up on good ass hardcore. The shit they got. Thanks for the memories. Glad Bl'ast is doing this shit. We were big fans when Bl'ast was out and about.