924 Gilman: The Story So Far

A book about Berkeley’s landmark punk rock club


Compiled by Brian Edge (MaximumRocknRoll, 2004)

You practically can’t read a single article about Green Day or Rancid without at least one mention of 924 Gilman Street, still located in Berkeley, California. They cut their teeth on the Gilman stage as part of the East Bay punk underground before ascending to mainstream success and blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard all of this before, haven’t you? There is a lot more to Gilman Street than those bands; this exhaustive 416-page book about the volunteer-run club’s first 18 years proves that point. You will have to figure out a way to prevent the book from falling apart due to its binding, but it is worth the effort.

924 Gilman Street as it has existed in Berkeley, CA since 1986.

924 Gilman’s story comes from the volunteer staff perspective rather than that of well-known musicians and tastemakers. Matt Freeman is the only member of the aforementioned huge bands on hand here, but barely says anything about Operation Ivy or Rancid at all. He opts for a funny story about his early days performing post-show Gilman cleanup duties instead. Expect anecdotes of that nature over tales of bands and records. Chapters are broken up according to whoever ran the club at the time, with each participant getting a few pages to say their piece. One or two ex-staffers try to dish some political dirt, but Brian Edge changes names in the interest of fairness. 924 Gilman is not a book for settling old scores, something that I think got in the way of some volunteers speaking in detail about negative experiences at the club. I know from my own participation as a Gilman volunteer that it is not always fun and that punks’ dysfunctional personalities often clash.

What should make this book valuable to its readers is that this is how you do it—discovering a space with potential in no-man’s land and making it happen above board. How much effort goes into its creation and maintenance, dealing with licensing and zoning boards, and how the very community the space intends to serve often undermines its goals much more than “the Man” does. Although the stories become repetitive and less interesting after a while, 924 Gilman is often a fun read coupled with awesome visual representation. There are few pages without some kind of photo, flyer, newspaper clipping, or even staff meeting notes accompanying the text. All books about punk rock should be this visually stimulating, yet so few of them are lately. Could we get a second edition that corrects the bookbinding issue sometime?

 

Written by Jake Kelly

Proud author of the Rock 'n' Wrestling column as seen in PORK, a free quarterly magazine from Portland. Wrestling fan since 1985. TSM lurker since 2003. Semi-functional human being since 1978.