‘Punk/Performance in the ’Loin’ is as Chaotic as the Scene it Seeks to Document

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A chaotic looking museum wall, covered in scattered flyers, three large portraits and 15 small TV screens with attached headphones.
'Punk/Performance in the 'Loin' by Dale Hoyt offers glimpses of San Francisco's punk rock history told by 15 subjects who lived it. (Rae Alexandra)

The Punk/Performance in the ’Loin exhibit carries the unusual trait of being simultaneously far too much and not nearly enough.

Not nearly enough, because, aside from a small collection of flyers and three (wonderful as usual) Jeanne Hansen photos, there’s not much to look at. (Four screens playing experimental clips on a loop are alluring for only a matter of minutes.)

Far too much because the core of the show is 13 hours of uncut video interviews, which would be a challenge to watch even from the comfort of one’s own living room. In the Tenderloin Museum, that task is even more herculean due to the format: small wall-mounted screens attached to very basic headphones with fairly short cords. The couple of chairs made available to viewers are as uninviting as the headwear.

That’s not to say that these interviews—all conducted by videographer Dale Hoyt—aren’t worth your time. Subjects include 15 musicians and rabble-rousers from San Francisco’s often overlooked ’80s underground punk scene. Each one is a character. All have anecdotes of the grime and danger and joy and rebellion they witnessed in the city during the period.

Interested parties might be tempted to expedite their visit by focusing on only one or two subjects—Ted Falcone from Flipper, say, or Connie Champagne from The Mutants. Winston Tong from Tuxedomoon perhaps. But honestly, some of the most compelling content comes from the lesser-known interviewees.

Three small flat screens mounted on a wall covered haphazardly with old punk flyers. Wires dangle from the screens.
(Top) Ted Falcone of Flipper, (Middle) Connie Champagne of the Mutants, (Bottom) Dave 'Dog' Swan of Longshoremen all appear on separate small screens at 'Punk/Performance in the 'Loin' at the Tenderloin Museum. (Rae Alexandra)

Record producer John Coon shares tales of filth from the DNA Lounge. Frightwig’s Mia d’Bruzzi talks poignantly about addiction in the punk scene, and how she grappled with her own. Dominique Leslie from Animal Things shares her great love of the Tenderloin—back in the day and now. (Leslie’s anecdotes about lovable oddballs in the neighborhood are a reminder of what still makes the TL special.)

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In the end, the best approach to Punk/Performance in the ’Loin is to treat the video interviews as you would eavesdropping at a party. You’re never going to understand every element of the conversation you’re dipping into, and not everyone is going to hold your interest. But now and again, you’ll strike gold and pick up a conversational thread at just the right time. Luck out, and you’ll find yourself enthralled.

Does the formatting of these videos sound unfinished? It is. Dale Hoyt—who himself is the subject of one of the videos in the exhibit—fell terminally ill very soon after completing all the interviews for Punk/Performance in the ’Loin. Not well enough to give them the editing treatment himself, he asked that the interviews be presented in their raw, unedited form. The Tenderloin Museum is honoring that last wish. Hoyt died just three weeks before the exhibit went up, and its opening reception more closely resembled a celebration of life than an art show.

If hearing each interview in its entirety feels like a necessity—or the best way to remember Hoyt—sit tight. Each of them will be available after the exhibit, on the Tenderloin Museum’s YouTube page. In the meantime, try and enjoy Punk/Performance in the ’Loin as a reflection of San Francisco’s ’80s punk scene as it was—chaotic, messy, and a labor of love for everyone involved.

‘Punk/Performance in the ’Loin’ is on display at the Tenderloin Museum through July 2. Exhibition details here.

In collaboration with the exhibit, Flipper, The Mutants and Longshoremen are performing at Great American Music Hall on Thursday, May 26 at 8pm. Concert details here.

The Tenderloin Museum is also holding a screening of Dale Hoyt’s work, titled ‘Once Upon a Time in the TL: Punk/Performance on Screen’ on Thursday, June 23, starting at 6:30pm. Screening details here.