The Lookout! Records Ten Year Anniversary Weekend
Thursday January 8 - Sunday January 11 1998
Oakland/Berkeley/San Francisco, California, USA

by Grant Lawrence

In January 1998, Lookout! Records celebrated its tenth anniversary as a record label with a weekend full of music, parties and good times. Fourteen bands played their hearts out, and friends and fans from around the world made the pilgrimage to the San Franciscan Bay Area to be a part of it. It was an extremely memorable weekend that no one will soon forget. Below is an account of my memories, and I hope you dig it. I didn't catch every little thing that happened, but I tried. Enjoy, and we'll see you next time.
- Grant, The Smugglers

Night One
Thursday January 8
Friends Of Lookout Party
Cinderblock/Punks With Presses warehouse
Oakland CA

We left Vancouver (our hometown) the night before, driving a rental mini-van bound for the San Francisco Bay. After I began to hallucinate while driving down the I-5, we skidded to a stop, rented a motel room somewhere mid-Oregon, watched the Klu-Klux-Klan tear up another set of the Jerry Springer show, snoozed a couple hours, then were back in the van, punching it towards Oakland so we could get there in time for the big Friends Of Lookout! kick-off party.

We arrived in plenty of time, found the Cinderblock/Punks With Presses warehouse (where all the Lookout! shirts and posters are made) and waltzed in, suit-clad and ready to fucking party. Most of the JOHN,CHRIS (PD) JOEL,GRANT.GIF (19278 bytes)Lookout! gang was already there, and more continued to filter in throughout the night. Eventually the party swelled to about 300 people, with members of the Mr T Experience, Groovie Ghoulies, Hi-Fives, Criminals, Pansy Division, Pee Chees, Tilt, Rancid, NOFX, Black Fork, and the Phantom Surfers (and of course us Smugglers) all in attendance. DJ Rop took care of the tunes and got the vibe so funky I felt like getting some skanky on my hang-down by my third beer. Yeah, there was free booze (beer and wine) as well as plenty of yum-tum snacks (provided by the Red Cafe, that place across the street from the Lookout! store). Having the reputation that we do, the Smugglers felt the need to party a li'l harder than most folks and spent quite a bit of time hovering near the bar in fear that the booze might run dry, paranoid that Lookout! may have cheaped-out on the good-time gas. It turned out to be a bit of the opposite, for as the party wore on, it became apparent that there was a TON of Costco boxes of white wine left over.

By this point, I was well on my way to wanton drunkeness, and found myself in the company of Lookout! chief Chris Appelgren, behind the bar, acting as substitute bartenders, letting Lookout!'s Chris Imlay, Xandy and Alexis all take a break or go home, I'm not sure which. My orders were "Push the wine," so when people came up for hootch and asked for a beer, I'd simply pour them a pint of frothing, warm white wine. A few people noticed and complained, but I either ignored them, belched in their face, or poured them another wine. By the end of the night there were partiers lying face down on the floor, the massive amounts of vino having taken an ugly toll. Smuggler Nick had about nine pints, as well as several sips from Pat Hynes' omnipresent flask, and was busy cruising for available Lookout! babes, but the two he shamelessly hit on (blowing in ears, licking cheeks, wandering fingers, making the loaded suggestion of "Let'ssss parrrtee!") were Molly Neuman and Cathy Bauer: one married, the latter engaged. They took it in stride.

New Smuggler John found himself in luv and comin' on strong to the wine, until he puked all over a parked car just outside the front door while falling face down in a puddle of his own vomit, his head spinning violently. Nick passed out face-first on a couch inside, and SKA-T and I had to carry him out to the rental with the help of a few party guests.

It was a great party and a wild kick-off! Sorry about the mess!

Night Two
The Bomb Bassetts, The Donnas, Black Fork, Auntie Christ, The Hi-Fives
Gilman Street
Berkeley CA

SKA-T ELVIS SHRINE.GIF (45609 bytes)We spent the night at Cathy Bauer (Lookout!'s office manager) and Mike LaVella's house (Gearhead Magazine editor and Bauer's fiance) where we stayed up way-late watching all of Mike's amazing videos of the Brady Bunch live at the Hollywood Bowl circa '74, and several episodes of Mike's latest obsession, Skippy The Australian Bush Kangaroo (a 1970s live action half hour show that mirrors Lassie or Flipper, but in Australia, and far more cruel to their animal-star, a little girl kangaroo named Skippy, who they throw, kick, push, dress up, drag, dump stuff on, and generally humilate in the name of "adventure" in every episode. It's very funny). Therefore, we were a little late getting to the meet'n'greet open house at the Lookout! offices and the Lookout! store. Turned out it didn't really matter... nothing was too organized; very casual, and people were just coming and going from the store. Needless to say, little meeting and greeting was actually performed.

That night, it was down to the legendary Gilman Street "Theatre" (as I like to call it) for the first of the three shows. All the shows could have easily sold out by just catering to the fans in the Bay Area, but with the special occasion and all the bands in town at once, it drew fans from literally around the world. Cool kids from Italy, Brazil, Japan, England, Germany, and all corners of the States and Canada were in attendance. Subsequently, all shows did indeed sell out early, and Gilman had a huge line around the block hours prior to and throughout the evening's show. Unfortunately, this also meant several fans missed the Bomb Bassetts and the Donnas, even though the venue was constantly packed. The star-studded line-up of the Bomb Bassetts officially kicked things off, where Dallas Denery (Sweet Baby), brother John Denery (Hi-Fives), Joel, Jym and Dr. Frank (the Mr T Experience Frank playing on international time, having arrived from England just two hours prior to showtime), and legendary Lookout! producer Kevin Army seriously exploded, playing hits from their Lookout! LP as well as, to the delight of everyone in attendance, some Sweet Baby classics. I got the shivers during "She's From Salinas." Amazing.

The Donnas took the stage next, all eyes and ears firmly awaiting one of the most hyped bands out of the Lookout! stable in a long time. That's a little too bad, because they are great, but they are young girls and have a ton of room to mature (though those shirts are pretty tight JUST KIDDING!), but with the hype that precedes their shows and their new album, critics are starting to abound. People have to remember, it's just rock'n'roll. That's what the Donnas do, and that's what they cranked out at their Gilman debut, with nary a break between songs or a breath taken. The crowd, though a little judgemental, dug it, and the amount of Donnas albums and singles that flew out of the Lookout! store all weekend has gotta say something for this four-pack of female fury.

I haven't mentioned it yet, but I was drafted by Lookout! to be the MC/host to introduce the bands, maybe because at times the Smugglers show resembles a game show more than a rock show, I don't know. Anyhow, no problems introducing the first two bands, and no fish guts splattered anywhere near me. Next up was Black Fork, a band I don't really know, but I guess are pretty punk, who were playing their last ever show like, breaking up. I timidly asked if it was okay to introduce them (Hey, I'm as intimidated by crusties as the next person.) to which they, uh, stated in no uncertain terms that they needed no introduction. No problem! I was starting to stress out anyways, because I had locked our keys in our rental van and Gilman, outside and in, was like a fire drill in a sweatshop. I didn't see a note of Black Fork, but I heard they rocked, lit off a string of scary firecrackers, and sprayed people with ketchup and mustard. Not on my weiner, thank you! Blackfork R.I.P.

Up next was the perennial punk Exene Cervenka and her relatively new band Auntie Christ. I wanted to introduce them using the line, "Who hides the cookies on the top shelf? Auntie Christ! Let's rock!" but I ran it past a few people beforehand and was told "I don't get it" too many times so I dropped it. Auntie Christ did indeed rock Gilman, screeching out rafter-rattling renditions of rockers from their recent Lookout! record. Rumours abounded as to why Rancid's Matt Freeman crounched by the side of the stage, not performing, since he played bass on Auntie Christ's Lookout! album, and word had it Gilman "wouldn't allow a rock star to perform." Turns out it was just malicious gossip, and Freeman was there for friendly support.

JOHN D. AND NICK AT GILMAN.GIF (21132 bytes)Soon it was time for one of my all-time favourites of the Lookout! scene, the masters of speed-pop and raucous rock'n'roll: the fabulous Hi-Fives. To introduce them, I told my favourite Hi-Fives story that I tell almost everybody, but just in case you haven't heard it, I gotta re-tell it! Okay, it's fairly common knowledge that even though Hi-Fives guitarist and singer John Denery looks (and is) pretty damn young (sorry ladies, he's taken!), by day he's actually a high school teacher in San Jose, instructing the subjects of math, science and gym, believe it or not. John doesn't really go out of his way to tell his students he's in a band a few know, but the majority have no idea. So this one weekend, two kids from his high school decide they're going to have their first big punk night out. Everybody who's reading this has had one. Mine was sneaking into a downtown Vancouver club in 1987 to see a band called the Gruesomes. Anyhow, these two kids decide that they'd make the holy pilgrimage up the I-80 to the legendary Gilman Street, the punkest place EVER. It didn't matter who was playing, they'd just go just to be there. So they drove up, found it, lined up outside the old anonymous looking warehouse, paid the $5 and entered Gilman, four concrete walls covered in years of graffiti, a stage in the corner, a band rocking out, and 300 hundred kids bouncing off the walls. Try to imagine the shock these two kids went through when they got closer and realized that the sweaty guy screaming into the microphone, crowd under his thumb, was none other their MATH TEACHER. These two kids went from suburban boredom to the nether-reaches of the underground to get away from all that's square only to realize that their TEACHER is the coolest guy in the room and a shining star in the Bay Area punk scene! "Mr. Denery, WHAT are you DOING here?!?!" I love that story....

Okay, so the Hi-Fives show! Well, what do you think? They put on an excellent performance, showcasing sweaty songs from their two great albums, as well as a couple new gassers. Even though it'd been a long night of punk, the crowd became re-energized and everybody shook and shimmied, smiles all around for the suit-clad foursome. John did his patented Penguin dance, Chris strummed madly, and Gary and Steve bounced along at a furious pace.

One of the great and often overlooked aspects about the Hi-Fives is how much they've been such an integeral cog in Lookout!'s lifespan as a label. First, Chris and John starred in the truly inspiring Brent's TV, then they moved on to form the Ne'er Do Wells, and then finally the Hi-Fives. In between, one can also mention the Dukes Of Burl, Judy & the Loadies and the Bomb Bassetts. In the meantime, Chris is also a graphic designer for Lookout! and partly responsible for the general "look" the label has taken on over the years. These modest guys deserve a lot of respect for their amazing creative output, and on this night, playing to what was reportly the largest crowd at Gilman EVER, the Hi-Fives got it.

Night Three
The Criminals, The Smugglers, The Go-Nuts, The Phantom Surfers, The Mr. T Experience
Slim's
San Francisco CA

This show took on the hype as the "big" show of the weekend, but all the shows were completely packed, this one stood out only because it was the biggest venue, I suppose. It was also in downtown San Francisco, near Fisherman's Wharf and all that. Anyhow, this was another great event where the place was packed before the first band, the Criminals, even hit the stage. Hit it they did, as they literally detonated into action, taking advantage of the early slot by getting the eager crowd instantly into it with ferocious punk rock abandon. Lead singer Jesse (who folks may have recognized from workin' the till at the Lookout! Records shop) lept into the frothing crowd a couple of times, and the sweat, tattoos and torn clothing of the Criminals was flying all over the stage. Mike LaVella was right. These guys do put the punk back into rock. Us Smugglers were next, and for the first time in many, many shows over many years, I was pretty damn nervous! You know, friends and folks from all over the world and all that. We didn't want to disappoint, so we peppered the set with the "live faves" and made sure we had plenty of organized Lookout! celebrities to come up and join us throughout the show. It climaxed at the end, where Chris Hi-Fives, Kepi Ghoulie, Joel MTX, Chris Appelgren and Chris Pansy Division each came up and sang a verse each of our last song, and then we all sang "Rock With The Smugglers Tonight" together. It was a truly a ball and something I won't forget for a long time.

Our seemingly triumphant set could have been easily forgotten once the Go-Nuts got underway. If anyone is in the dark to this band's scene, or possibly a vegan, the Go-Nuts are famed for being snack-rock super heroes, performing in leotards, capes, masks and helmets, all the while feeding the crowd sugary snacks by means of homemade catapults, cannons and sling shots, powered by a team of dancing gorillas. No joke. It's quite a show and everybody was really excited, but little did they know just how doused in "snack" anything within 500 feet of the Go-Nuts would become.

Before the show, while posing for a photo with one of the nutty characters, Captain Cornhole, I think, told me that the audience and club have "no idea" the enslaught of sugar-blitz the Go-Nuts had in store. The set started out normal enough, with such zingers as "Skinny Bones Jones," "Robert Earl Hughes" and "Let's Take Cheese To China (Let's Take Cheese To The Japanese)." Right around the show's halfway mark, out came seven huge dancing gorillas, all armed with cream pies, which were quickly hurled into the faces of shocked kids in the front row. Next came the massive cannons and snack-blowers, set up on either side of the stage. A couple gorillas were trained to pour huge garbage bags full of popcorn, crackers, cookies, jubes jubes and licorice into the top of each cannon, and another gorilla would spray down the shrieking crowd, who desperately tried to shield themselves with leather jackets and backpacks, so as to not be pelted violently with snacks. Suddenly, the gorillas starting hauling out huge white sacks of powdered sugar that, when poured into the snack blowers, caused massive clouds of sugar to fill the air, moving slowly through the crowd and throughout the room like a cloud of locusts, much to the shock of the audience. Soon EVERYONE and EVERYTHING was COVERED in a layer of sticky sugar. The air was a dense, white, crystal fog. Breathing was very difficult. As if that wasn't enough, the Go-Nuts suddenly announced "FOOD FIGHT!!!" and burst into song, as the gorillas broke open boxes upon boxes of Little Debbie snackcakes, whipping the squishy treats into the crowd, and had them quickly thrown back. Out of nowhere, eggs, bananas, beer, clothing, paper, cups, and more and more and more food filled the air, exploding on impact on audience members, band members and gorillas alike. It was a completely bizarre and awesome spectacle of sheer sugar-induced chaos.

The saccarin wasteland of junk food that the Go-Nuts left behind once the band and their entourage left the stage was enormous. The large stage had disappeared under a pile of soiled food, wrappers and powder. The staff of Slim's freaked out, as everything from their sound equipment to their bar suddenly was suddenly white and sticky. When the fire marshall showed up due to complaints of "huge clouds of 'smoke' billowing out of Slim's," it didn't help matters that, when climbing the stairs, he slipped on a mushy King Don and fell flat on his ass. Lookout! is still trying to work things out with the club and the city!

A large crew did manage to eventually clean things up enough for the Phantom Surfers to take the stage to run through their many years' worth of masked fancy surf. I hadn't seen the guys from the Go-Nuts or the Phantom Surfers in years. We always used to play with them in San Francisco and Vancouver and points in between, but our scenes and bands kind of drifted apart. That we all ended up coming together again, years later, playing a show for Lookout!, seemed somewhat strange. We took different roads, but ended up at the same place. Somebody slap me.

For the finale, Lookout! wisely slated another band for the ages, the true troubadors of longevity, rockin' on a dozen years and counting, The Mr. T Experience. Of course, these days, it's only wise ol' Dr. Frank who's been there for the long haul of ups and downs, albums and singles, tours and break ups. It's the fact that Frank kept it together a few years back, and found energizing and ever-popular young members Joel and Jym that the band has achieved such huge accolades and fan support for its last two albums. 9.gif (18370 bytes)

On this night, we were served fresh renditions of songs from all of MTX's records, in a seventy-five minute, two-encore command performance that sent everyone straight to the merchandise stand before the bus stop. As Smuggler Nick (fan of MTX since their first LP he bought at Kelly's in West Vancouver, BC, Canada in 1986 at the age of thirteen) said, "That's the best I've ever seen them."

 

Night Four
Lookout! auditions, Karaoke, BBQ (afternoon), Uranium Nine Volt, The Groovie Ghoulies, Pansy Division, Tilt
Bottom Of The Hill
San Francisco CA

Everybody was due down at the Bottom Of The Hill by 3:30PM for the Lookout! auditions, but the sugar/booze hangover from Slim's was tough to overcome. The Smugglers ended up staying at the Pansy Division house for a pajama party/screening of THEE hot bootleg video of Pamela "Baywatch" Anderson and Tommy "Motley Crue" Lee. Yes. Unedited and uncut... well, Tommy Lee was cut! Ba-boom! It's a truly wild piece of... film. My favourite scene is when Tommy honks his yacht's horn with the head of his hard cock, much to the giggling delight of camera-gal Pammy. Pansy Division's drummer Luis had a great quote to describe the sex: "it looks like he's stuffing a turkey! This is GROSS!!!"

Once the tape hit rewind and we had settled down with a couple of Luis' menthol smokes, we made the scene down at the Bottom Of The Hill for the Lookout! auditions. Granted, this seemed like a strange event, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Basically, Lookout! "auditioned" twenty young bands, everything from pop-punk to heavy metal, folk and roots music, played by groups from all over California. Each band had five minutes maximum to play their best song. None of the bands were guaranteed to be signed outright, but there were a couple of contenders in the mix. The Lucky Three stood out, and for my money, the outrageous 80s hard-rock hair band Bite was a fucking hoot. They rocked. It was really strange strolling around the Bottom Of The Hill that afternoon. In every corner sat nervous young guitar players warming up, strumming their guitars and humming the words to their chosen song. All the bands received a package of thanks mailed to them from Lookout! and I hope everyone had a good time. As an added bonus to the audience and the bands, the club brought out an all-you-could-eat BBQ buffet.

Up next on the afternoon stage was Karaoke. Little did anyone know how hysterical this event would turn out to be. Several folks have mentioned it as their favourite part of the weekend, and I must agree, it was definitely the sleeper hit. One of the reasons it was so successful was due to the hilarious hosting capabilities of Smugglers guitarist David Carswell. I guess I do most of the yapping when the Smugglers are playing and forgot just how outrageously funny Dave can be on stage.

Another great aspect of this Karaoke was how it brought fans, band members and Lookout! staff together for mutual fun. Okay, I'll say it (Don't puke.): bonding. Everybody had a chance to sing, and Dave arranged it nicely, with the help of his Spice-like assistant Vanessa, Sandro and Andrea.gif (13665 bytes)so that a Lookout! artist would sing, then a fan, then a member of a younger band, etc. And this wasn't "punk-aoke" either. Just oldies and classics in Pappa Dave's hit-sack. Extreme highlights included Joel MTX and Danny Smuggler pulling off an amazing version of Young MC's "Bust A Move," Dave and Kepi Ghoulie doing a bust-a-gut rendition of the Jagger/Bowie song "Dancin' In The Streets," all the Italians from Genova trying to sing "Born To Be Wild," and Pansy D's Chris Freeman taking on "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" ("Fuck With With Your Big Cock"). The sweetest moment had to be when the punk rock couple from an auditioned band, the Secretions, got up to sing a heart-tuggin' duet of "Day Dream Believer."

After the Karaoke finally wrapped up to much applause and encore, everybody was forced outside in the rain so the club could clean up and get ready for the night's show. Almost everyone who was there for the afternoon's events planned to go to the last show, duh, so just about everybody politely lined up in the downpour to wait for tickets. There was no complaining either! I would have been freaking out and whining like a baby, but I must hand it to those fans for their patience and goodwill.

Once again, the show that night was jam-fucking-packed. Up first for this last night was Uranium Nine Volt, who, next to Black Fork, I knew the least of any other group of the weekend. I didn't realize I was supposed to MC this last night again so I missed the first couple songs of their set, but once I finally squeezed into the club, I was treated to an onslaught of chugga-chugga-chugga explosive and tight emo-core. I still don't know anything about Uranium Nine Volt... but one day I will, I hope.

Hitting the stage next was a weekend highlight for everyone. Storming forth after triumphantly touring the world, constantly improving and expanding on their live shows, records and persona, it was time to ROCK with the Groovie Ghoulies. This band is very special to me and I can certainly say that, hands down, in all the countless times I've rocked with the Ghoulies, this was THEE BEST time I've ever seen them. They were on fire! Their set list was impeccable. Everybody surrounded the stage and sang along. I almost cried in "Here Comes Tomorrow," and I'm not kidding around. The show was just so great.KIRKS FIRST TATTOO.GIF (20402 bytes) An oddly foul-mouthed but highly energetic and emotional Kepi sent shout-outs to almost everyone, most-notably to the Queers and to the Ghoulies #1 fan and performer, supporter, and all-around-great-guy from Lookout!'s history, the legendary Jon Von. The Ghoulies gave tons of free tour artifacts away, plus the usual load of cool prizes and candy. Joel MTX made almost as many on-stage appearances as me over the weekend when he hopped up and provided the bass lines and superb harmonies on the great chestnut "I Wanna Have Fun." As Roach, Dan and Kepi finally stumbled exhausted from the stage, everyone realized they just saw a knock-out performance from a band that is quickly turning into a cornerstone of Lookout!, and it couldn't happen to better folks than the Ghoulies.

Once the dust cleared, another one of Lookout!'s long-time synonyms ripped into their set. Unlike many of the other bands of the weekend, Pansy Division chose not to play all of their fave-hits from their five albums on Lookout!, but to showcase all-new material and a slightly new direction in their sound and attitude. Gone in some form are the obvious songs about sucking cock and fucking ass, to be replaced by more subtle commentaries on relationships and life in general. Pop songs, in other words. I was apprehensive of this new move for this event, thinking they should revert to "Fuck Bunnies," "Groovy Underwear" and "Dick Of Death" and told 'em so, but Pansy Division wouldn't hear of it. To me, Pansy Division have always been a definition of punk: not being afraid to express yourself, to feel good about it at the end of the day, and to do whatever the hell you want no matter what anyone says. On this night they did just that, and to rave reaction. They played ALL new songs, including a true and bonifide HIT sung by Chris Freeman entitled something like "You're Gonna Need Your Friends." It's got this great minor-chord chorus that will prove irresistable to any pop fan, Beatles to Hanson. I can't wait to hear it on a record. The relatively new additions (at least to me) of kick-ass drummer Luis and lead guitarist Patrick also make Pansy Division better than they've ever been. It's also interesting to note, that, though he had been in town almost all weekend, it was not until Pansy Division's set that Lookout! founder and "visioneer" Lawrence Livermore actually showed up, when he breezed into the club, suit-clad, with a girl on either arm. Up last to finally end this long weekend of rock'n'roll was the special, one-time re-formation of Lookout! legends Tilt. Unfortunately, I don't know too much of the history of this infamous band, besides the story of them flipping their van on a highway, and that Jeffrey and Cinder make our T-shirts now. Nonetheless, there was a lot of emotion built up for this performance, and since it was the last band on the last night, Lookout! chief Chris Appelgren took the honours and introduced them. The band proceeded to perform a pretty solid if somewhat devil-may-care set, and when the lead singer forgot the words, the audience was able to sing them back to her. There were a couple moments when I thought an inter-band fight was erupting but they kept on rockin' so I guess nothing was amiss.

As Tilt wrapped up and said goodnight, it was time for a lot of good byes. Ciao ya later Italy, goodbye Boston, piss off Philadelphia, it's been great England, adieu Oregon, cha-cha and ta-ta Calgary and Toronto, y'all be good Altanta, kudos Kentucky, farewell Florida, sayonara Japan and bye bye Brazil. All the Lookout! folks and band members got together for a big group photo (I love group photos... almost as much as I like yelling "Group photo!" right before an actual group photo), and the amount of flashbulbs going off was... really weird. Lots of cameras. Lookout!'s sexy publicist Tristin thought she lost her glasses, but as it had to be a perfect ending, they were found safe and sound. Once everybody had hugged, kissed, said their final, final, final goodbyes, we looked around at the aftermath of the empty, bright, wet Bottom Of the Hill and we suddenly realized that us Smugglers were the only ones left. We drained our Archor Steams, took one last look and headed out into the rainy San Franciscan night and headed for home.

Thanks for the great party, Lookout! Records! See you in 2008!

Your Smugglers.

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