Municipal Honors for 924 Gilman? Punk Really is Dead

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Green Day at 924 Gilman in the early 1990s. (Murray Bowles)

Maybe it was inevitable. Those who grew up with punk are going to find some way to tie a bow on 30 years of wild and woolly music in an official sense, and that happened Tuesday night, when the Berkeley City Council took a moment at the start of its meeting to honor 924 Gilman.

No, seriously. Check out this clip from the video the city makes available for public download. That's Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin speaking first:

924 Gilman, you'll recall, is the music collective that helped birth Green Day, Rancid and a host of other East Bay punk bands, starting in the 1980s. At the time, its founders proclaimed it to be a safe, all-ages space without drugs, alcohol, or violence, and it's managed to hang on to that credo through several generations of music lovers. Now 924 Gilman is a non-profit, and turning 30 -- 30! -- which means it's middle-aged.

"It was pretty surreal," says Jesse Townley, who became involved with 924 Gilman with his first band, Blatz. "This is the only time it's happened to us in 30 years.  It's pretty great that we were able to gain recognition as a DIY underground space, run by a ragtag bunch of volunteers."


Townley (who notes he speaks for himself and not the collective) says 924 Gilman had a testy relationship with local police back in 1989/1990, leading him to get interested in zoning politics. Around that time, a zoning board member called the club a "festering sore," and 924 Gilman's supporters readily adopted that as their nickname.

Townley has since become a longtime, elected commissioner on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, and he says relations with the police have improved.

As word of the city's commendation spread on Townley's Facebook page, one Mark Grody affectionately commented "Did anyone tag the lectern?!!!??"

The rules posted at the entry to 924 Gilman.
The rules posted at the entry to 924 Gilman. (Courtesy 924 Gilman)

All grown up

If anything, 924 Gilman's greatest threat these days is gentrification. There's a Whole Foods two blocks away, and some of the club's most stalwart supporters are raising money to buy it preemptively, even though the owner is also a longtime supporter of the club, and there are no imminent indications he's considering any offers from condo developers yet.

In the meantime, the club continues to function as a safe space to appreciate punk music, for young and old alike. The Offspring have announced they're going to play their classic 1992 album Ignition in its entirety at a 30th anniversary birthday bash on April 13th.

Also, indie distributor Abramorama is teaming up with Green Day to distribute Turn It Around: The Story Of East Bay Punk, a documentary directed by Corbett Redford and executive produced by the band. Iggy Pop narrates, naturally.