A History Lesson Travels East by Dave Travis

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By Dave Travis


My movie A History Lesson part 1: Punk Rock in Los Angeles in 1984 did well enough on the west coast that I thought I would try doing a movie tour on the east coast. I hadn’t been on the road since the last millennium.

The first show was at the Basilica in Hudson, New York on Wednesday, July 6, 2011. I have been to New York City half a dozen times on various tours but from there always headed towards Boston or DC, which is all pretty urban or suburban. I had never gone north of Yonkers until now. Two hours north is surprisingly rural. It’s mainly mountains and farms and towns that are 300 years old but have less than 10, 000 people.

I traveled to Hudson by train. It is a two-hour ride north of New York City along the Hudson River. The Hudson was surprisingly wide and could be navigated by ocean-going boats. The train passed through Sleepy Hollow and by Hyde Park where FDR is from.

I got to Hudson and got off the train and was met by the promoter Nora Edison. We went across the street to Strongtree Coffee, the coffee house that she and her husband Chris own. They were closed for the day so they could deal with the screening, but people kept knocking on their door trying to buy coffee.

We drove a few blocks to the Basilica where Dez Cadena’s Broke Down Bitches were sound checking. The Basilica is a huge old brick building that was formerly a factory that made railroad train wheels in the previous century. It is kind of like the old Edison Building in the Brewery in Lincoln Heights. After the train wheel business hit bottom in America, the building fell into disuse. It has since been turned into an art complex and has been getting fixed up by owners Melissa Auf Du Maur and Tommy Stinson.

After soundcheck, Dez and I were interviewed for WGXC 90.7 FM. WGXC is a community station kind of like a cross between KPFK and KXLU. It is not affiliated with a college or a network; a collective of artists and activists runs it. Shannekia McIntosh did the interview and talked with us about the movie, and Dez’s projects and the older days of punk in L.A. Dez Cadena is one of punk’s great guitarists playing for Black Flag, Redd Kross, Twisted Roots, DC3, Bulimia Banquet, Vida, Carnage Asada, and for the last decade the Misfits. The first time I saw Dez play a guitar he was with Redd Kross at the Vex with the McDonald brothers and Janet Housden on drums. He was one of my best friends in the 80’s and 90’s but we kind of lost touch after he moved to the east coast and I got immersed in teaching school. It was great reconnecting with an old friend. Through all the time I knew him besides being in a couple of bands he would be working doing construction or painting. Finally, with the Misfits he earns a living playing guitar. I am so happy for him and the other people from our scene like Mike Watt, Pat Smear or Nels Cline that have pulled off success in music after decades of struggle. I screened the movie and it was great to see young and old sitting on a variety of cast-off and portable chairs listening and learning.

Dez Cadena’s Broke Down Bitches played next and had the kids from 6 to 60 doing anarchy dance moves. The Broke Down Bitches are Dez and his nephew Kyle Cadena on guitars, Oscar Hernandez on Bass and Danny Cashen or drums. They played mainly punk oldies like Jezebel by the Controllers and Born to Lose by Johnny Thunders along with some Dez songs like Vida and some Black Flack and Misfits covers. It was a good size crowd about a third old punks and hippies, a third local teens, and a third people who just came down because it was one of the only things going on in the county that night. I loved how in a small town you could see all these factions have a good time together while they would be spread into factions in a bigger city. The movie and concert were streamed by WGXC to their FM and Internet audience. The Basilica is a great place and if a band is touring it could be a great place to stop, just about two hours north of New York City.


I took the train down to New York Friday and stayed with my uncle Mike’s place in Brooklyn. I had reserved a car to rent with Enterprise and they closed at noon on Saturday, the day of my Brooklyn show. I needed a vehicle so I could pick up and transport the equipment to screen the movie in New York and New Jersey.

Saturday morning I left my uncles’ at 10:45, walked to the subway and found out that the subway going across Brooklyn was out of service and that I would have to take a subway to Manhattan, then another to Queens and then another to the station by the car rental place. I finally got to the station at 11:50 and ran two blocks to Enterprise. I made it through the door with two minutes to spare, and was inside, in line, thinking things were ok. When it was my turn we started doing the paperwork and then said they would not rent me a vehicle with a debit card and out of state driver’s license. I asked what should I do and they sent me to Uhaul where they would not rent to me with a California driver’s license at all. Realizing that I could not rent a car in New York I took a couple of trains to Newark Airport where Budget rented me a car right away with no hassle. They gave me a Crown Victoria. I picked up my merch at Kyle Cadena’s house in Madison, NJ and then headed back to Brooklyn. It was 5 and I was on my way, but then got stuck for almost an hour at the Holland Tunnel. The Holland Tunnel goes from New Jersey under the Hudson River to Manhattan. It is as if they made the 405 between West L.A. and the Valley into a 2 land tunnel. In New York besides for police cars, they also use Crown Victoria for unmarked cabs, so people kept flagging me down trying to get a ride I finally got through and cut through Manhattan and Brooklyn to DJ PA rentals in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Finally, a rental business in New York that was competent and helpful. I got the DVD player; video projector, screen, and two powered monitor wedges for sound and headed down for Duff’s Brooklyn. Of the twenty screenings I have done, Duff’s was the only one I did not book. I got it through the publicist of my distributor MVD. MVD puts out a lot of metal and hard rock material so this is where they hooked me up for New York City. When I got there the people that worked there did not even know there was a screening. I set up the projection system and P.A. and got a drink. The best way to describe Duff’s was that it was like the Rainbow with a New York attitude. It was the wrong place to show a movie about punk rock in Los Angeles in 1984 because the people don’t like punk rock or Los Angeles. After some people come in I showed the movie but people were not interested. They would walk into the room see D Boon dancing around and head back to the bar to hear more Twisted Sister or Dio. I screened the movie all the way through getting into a volume war with the bar, packed up and bailed. Out of 19 shows, this was definitely the most burnt.

A Better Day at the Brighton

The next day I ate lunch with my Aunt Kathy and her husband Paul and then headed down to the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, New Jersey. Instead of being stuck on the turnpike, I headed out on the scenic route. I drove over Staten Island and then east along the south side of Raritan Bay in New Jersey. When I got as far east as I could go I headed north up to Sandy Hook. Along the East Coast from Florida to New Jersey lies a chain of barrier Islands. They are narrow islands close to the east of the shore made of sand. The farthest north is a spit called Sandy Hook that reaches out into the lower bay of New York. I had time so I turned north and headed to the top. I went about 9 miles until the road ended. There were the remains of an old coast guard installation that protected New York Harbor against the Germans. It was like Sunken City in San Pedro only giant-sized and more intact. I hiked the last mile until lands end, looked out over the water at Staten Island and Brooklyn, stuck my feet in the water and headed back. I drove sound down the Jersey Shore to Long Branch, New Jersey.

The Brighton Bar is 2 blocks from the beach, an old school bar where the night before Commander Cody had played. I set up the projection system and p.a. It was another show with Dez Cadena. The bar was decently attended with people tending to where what they had. In New York people were wearing jackets in the 90-degree swelter but in Long Branch lots of shorts and flip-flops. If Duff’s was New York’s Rainbow, the Brighton was New Jersey’s Al’s Bar. When A History Lesson screened everybody in the house watched and listened attentively. People talked to me and asked questions about the film. The anti-node that was the day before had ended and now things were back to their usual positive. Then played local band Senium. They were a solid band that seemed to be based on the Bleach album by Nirvana. Then Dez played. The crowd treated him like a real star, like if Johnny Winter had just walked into the room. The final band was Long Branch’s Lousy Break. They were survivors of the hardcore scene from the previous millennium. They reminded me of old Stalag 13 or DOA it was great to see History being kept alive.

…And it was great to be able to transmit it in an informative and entertaining way.

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