ANARCHY AT THE CIRCLE K
On the road with Dead Kennedys, TSOL, Flipper, Subhumans and…HEROIN
A memoir by Patrick O’Neil
Punk Hostage Press, 2022
By 10pm I’ve yet to meet anyone that says they’re in charge. I had to get the band’s beer from an underage kid that said he was the stage manager. The sound guy is whacked, like he’s smoking angel dust. The entire warehouse is this eerie dark cavernous space. The backstage area dimly lit. Young kids are wandering everywhere. It’s anarchy and fucking out of control.
It’s 11pm, and the other bands have played. It’s time for the Kennedys. I’m backstage getting the band together. “It’s fuckin crazy out there Slick,” says Microwave before he heads off to the soundboard. “It’s just you against the world.”
“Thanks.” I’m walking in front of the band, leading them to the stage. I’ve got my shirt off and I’m covered in sweat. I walk out and the crowd starts screaming and applauding, thinking I’m Biafra—just another pale white guy without a shirt. I look back and Biafra has stopped, the band is behind him, and he won’t come out. He’s pissed off and waiting for the applause to die down so he can make his own entrance.
The crowd is jacked up, drunk, sweaty, pressing against the stage, screaming, and wanting more. In the middle of the room groups of skinheads are waiting, poised for the chaos before the storm. I feel a gob on my back, as some asshole spits on me. I look around, but all I get are glaring eyes, and expressions of anger— adolescent angst and testosterone.
When the band finally comes out, the place erupts. The minute they start playing cans and bottles and shoes start flying through the air. The pit immediately forms, and a shit load of punks start jumping on and off the stage. Whatever front of house security there was is long gone. I’m knee deep in stage divers trying to keep them off the gear, away from the amps, and D.H.’s drum kit. The constant onslaught of bodies is brutal.
Biafra is mid-stage clutching the mic stand. He’s wearing his Velcro leg cast and is not as agile as usual. This makes him more of a target and I’m running interference. Luxury Bob is on the other side of the stage tossing people off and keeping it clear. Ron is there with him, but I don’t know him or if he can take care of himself. I tell him to be safe and stay back out of the way. The last thing I need is one of us getting hurt.
A group of skinheads assault the stage en masse, trying to knock over the gear, and fuck with Biafra. The second time they pass through I grab one in a chokehold and send him flying backwards into the audience. Which is me throwing down the gauntlet, now it’s on, and they’ve got a new focal point to fuck with.
Another one dives into the drum kit, I pick him up by his back collar and belt, shuffle him headfirst off the stage, and then right the cymbal stands and start picking up the floor toms. With Ron’s help, I get D.H.’s kit somewhat back together. The band keeps playing.
I turn around as two skins charge across the stage. I duck out of the way of the first dude and get clocked in the head by the second. I fall down to one knee. The other skinhead grabs Biafra’s empty mic stand and swings. Hitting me hard in ribs. I hear them crack on impact. Only it’s so fucking loud on stage that’s impossible. The wind knocked out of me, I’m gasping for air, trying to catch my breath. D.H. is gesturing to his cymbals. Half of them are knocked over, the crash is leaning on his knee, and he can’t get it off. I grab the cymbals, and then straighten his kick. Ron starts frantically gesturing. The skinhead that cracked my ribs is running full bore, with his head down, straight at me across the stage. I pick up the mic stand, and he starts to back pedal, trying to stop his forward momentum. I swing the stand and the round steel base connects with his head. He flips backwards, twirling up over the crowd, and down onto the pit. The mosh pit opens and there’s a cleared circle around him lying on the floor.
Biafra, totally unaware, doesn’t stop singing and the band continues to play. I collapse the three-piece mic stand into one shaft and spin the base off so I have a solid steel club. I cross the stage and dive into the crowd. Skinheads are everywhere, on the peripheral of the circle, behind me, pissed off, glaring, and angry.
The dude on the floor is going into convulsions. He’s shaking, doing spazzy fish movements, with his eyes rolled up in his head. Two of his skinhead buddies pull him up off the floor.
I meet eyes with the other skins. I’m holding the mic stand like a baseball bat. My face is dirty from hitting the stage floor. Ron emerges through the crowd behind me. I’m grateful for the unexpected backup. There’s a gang of these fuckers and I don’t want
to fight all of them. If I don’t do something now this is going to go on all night. Sooner or later I’m going to get nailed. There’s only one of me, and a shit ton of them.
It’s you against the world.
None of the other skinheads want to fight. I help Ron on stage and head over to my usual place by Klaus. I reach down to grab a beer I’ve stashed behind the amp. A shooting pain rips through my side. I can barely breathe.
Biafra is frantically gesturing for his mic stand. It’s still in pieces, the steel shaft at my feet, and I’ve no idea where the base is. Biafra is getting pissed. He wants to do his pantomime theatrics and needs the stand. I search the side of the stage until I find one of those tripod stands. The kind heavy-metal dudes love. When I hand it over, his bewildered expression says I’m fucking nuts handing him this stupid stand. But he realizes if this is the stand I’m giving him, then that’s all I have.
Biafra’s covered in sweat, putting all his weight on his good leg. He’s wearing green surgical gloves and this cool Sandinista t- shirt I’ve been bugging him to give me. Rivers of sweat pour out the gloves, and the t-shirt is ripped and soaked. Biafra is talking shit to the crowd. They’re fucking eating it up.
I walk back behind the amps and kneel down. While Biafra’s talking there won’t be any stage divers and I can rest. D.H.’s floor tom is tilting to the left. I start to get up, but Luxury Bob is there, and he re-adjusts the leg. Ron is by Klaus’ amp, right where I usually stand. I chill out for a second and try to breath. Ron stops a kid from knocking over Klaus’ amp and effortlessly tosses him off the stage. I sit down and relax.