Notes from the Nest

Journals of homeless punk life in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.


Kurt Brecht (Dirty Rotten Publishing, 1988)

Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI) was one of the biggest and best hardcore thrash bands during the 1980s. They first became known for playing songs of a faster and shorter nature than most punk bands; their debut record managed to fit 22 songs onto a 33-RPM 7-inch! DRI would then become one of the first hardcore bands to merge their sound with that of heavy metal with the release of their 1987 album Crossover. Bands such as Metallica and Slayer had been emulating hardcore’s fast pace throughout the decade to create thrash, speed, and death metal; DRI had simply returned the favor and hit the big time themselves.

DRI in the Crossover era: Kurt Brecht (vocals), Spike Cassidy (guitar), Felix Griffin (drums), Josh Pappe (bass).

DRI’s members weren’t exactly living the rock star life while much of this was taking place. They had moved to the Bay Area from Texas in 1984, living in their tour van for the time being. Notes from the Nest gathers journal entries written by vocalist Kurt Brecht during his final weeks as an outdoor resident of San Francisco’s Haight District. I actually received a copy of Notes from the Nest while living on the streets of Berkeley and Oakland in my early twenties, so these stories were (and still are) a lot of fun for me to read.

Golden Gate Park is bigger than New York’s Central Park, taking up 1.583 miles and over a thousand acres. There are plenty of places for a resourceful homeless person to hide.

Kurt briefly explains his current situation—he sings and writes lyrics for DRI, sleeps in a tree in Golden Gate Park, and eats at a nearby soup kitchen. He doesn’t have anywhere else to go for now and crashing out on the grass isn’t a good idea, as he is aware of stories about local homeless people being assaulted and killed in their sleep. Kurt manages to find the perfect configuration of branches to form a “nest” where he can sleep in relative comfort well above ground. Cops, murderous thugs, and passers-by in general are unaware of his presence. He works part-time for a flaky jeweler and might move into a place with his new girlfriend if a potential better job works out. Kurt even has a cat that lives in the tree with him.

One can be assured that this show was the site of dance floor warfare between metalheads, skinheads, and punk rock’s gang element.

DRI also plays a show with Slayer at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, in which one of the four simultaneous circle pits erupts into gang warfare between skinheads, metalheads, and Suicidal members. Kurt returns home to find that life is changing fast. He and his girlfriend will be moving into a room in Oakland after all. One more night in the nest to end this chapter of Kurt Brecht’s life as another one begins.

Notes from the Nest is not easy to come by; I saw a single copy listed on Amazon for $150. I was lucky to have acquired my copy when I did; it often lifted my spirits when homeless punk life had me down. You probably should have been a down-and-out DRI fan to appreciate these tales, but Notes from the Nest is a fun and fast read if you ever find a copy for yourself.

 

 

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.