Thursday, February 25, 2010

Anthony Pappalardo on Amenity "You Can't Stop The Show"

I first met Mike Down 19 years ago when my band Mouthpiece was playing the Che Cafe in San Diego, California. We loosely kept in touch over the next five years or so and then our communication faded. What I remembered most about Mike was his passion for hardcore and music in general. Mike could talk for hours and hours about the bands he played in, the shows he went to, the bands he loved, the records that inspired him, his label, the Chula Vista kids, etc., it all meant the world to him and he expressed it in a way that so few ever could. Mike was also all about making things happen. Whether it was putting out records, touring or printing up t shirts, posters and stickers, Mike was definitely a doer and I respected him quite a bit for that.

Within the past couple years, around the release of the Radio Silence book and the start of Double Cross, I re-connected with Mike. We went back and forth through emails for awhile and eventually last week we started talking on the phone. Just as I had remembered him from 19 years ago, he still had that same passion, enthusiasm and sincerity for hardcore. He pitched the idea to me about debuting this new Amenity song on DCXX and before I even heard the first note, I was sold.

Just a little background on the track, what you're hearing is Amenity's Mike Down on vocals, Tim Gonzales on guitar and guest vocals by Quicksand's Sergio Vega as well as San Diego native, Hajj Daud who does the spoken word piece. There's no drums, no bass, just four guys speaking and playing from the heart.

As for what Mike's up to now, he's managing and developing a band of kids, 14-17 years old from NYC called BYS. BYS have been hosting an all-ages matinee series called "Better Together" at The Studio at Webster Hall and have an EP to be released late spring 2010. Check them out at As for Sergio, he's now playing with the Deftones and they have a new record called "Diamond Eyes" due out May 18th, 2010.

Gravity and Down Side (Mike's label) will be releasing all the new Amenity tracks, as well as the entire back catalog and some unreleased stuff, that has long been out of print. For Lyrics and Info check out Amenity at

Ok, enough of what I have to say, now dig into what Radio Silence's Anthony Pappalardo has to say about Mike and Amenity. -Tim DCXX

Mike with Amenity on local San Diego radio station 94.9, July 2009, Photo: Dan Rawe

Mike with Amenity at Gilman St, Berkeley, CA, 1988

Let me outline my nightmare scenario: you're hanging out with someone who picks your brain for a minute and realizes that you have a connection to hardcore. Seconds later you're going back and forth about shows, favorite records, t-shirts once owned and lent to ex-girlfriends and fight stories that never actually happened. Suddenly you're in a familiar place, both you and new guy ordered the same zines, mail ordered the same 7"s and have a grip of mutual friends. You have that wide-eyed glow of a sixteen year old until dude utters this one: "Man…those were the days, before the internet, it's so fucking easy for these kids today to just go to a chat room and learn about moshing."

The only thing lacking on the interwideweb is context. I love having access to every mp3 of every record and demo I can think to search for. The comedy is seeing Abused mp3s two entries below links to a Poison The Well CD and a Cock Sparrer live set with some cut and paste blurbs about said bands.

What differentiates these bands from any other overly compressed file Is a blog with punk/hardcore links any different than a site with unreleased Dangerous Toys and Bullet Boys tracks?

I'll stick my neck out and say that no one's life was changed by Jackal or Bang Tango. They might have catchy pop metal tunes or make doing yard work go by a little easier but at the end of the day it's pop music made by dudes who wanted to get pussy and blow magic marker rails. It was easy for Mr. Cobain's flannel to wipe these gentlemen out because they weren't ever relevant and they're gone now or relegated to Casino tours.

Amenity, Berkeley CA, 1989, Photo: Robb Osborne

With everything ripped and uploaded we now have a living archive of blood, sweat, emotion and feeling available to us all. EBay prices and message board fetishes overshadow reality. In the pre-blogsphere, context was everything. Everyone from that world has a connection to a local band that they saw every weekend, the band that never recorded but were amazing live, the band that recorded their one demo with a chain smoking hard rocker who didn't understand why the guitar player wasn't soloing. It's nice to get a little back grounds things and makes you appreciate their existence so much more.

My early days of shopping for punk and hardcore records in the suburbs of Boston were simple. First I sought out the heavy hitters. I'd run to the B section for Black Flag, the M section for Minor Threat, skip to the Local section hoping a copy of Get It Away slipped by the clerk and could be scooped for a few bucks, and then I'd study the records that I wasn't familiar with. Hardcore records offered plenty of context clues. You could look at the singer's shirt, skim the thanks list and size up the fonts used on the record and quickly decide if said band was worth a few bucks. Sometimes you end up with a perfectly pedestrian predictable record like the Inner Strength 7" and other times there's something interesting enough about the look and vibe of the record for you to take a chance.

Later on in my mailorder and bin scouring days, Amenity immediately struck me with the unique look of their records. They didn't come off as a straight edge band, a punk band, a by-the-numbers hardcore band or as anything other than Amenity. Their name sounded unique, they were from Chula Vista, CA which sounded exotic and ubiquitous to me. Their records weren't packed with macho live shots or crew photos that I could immediately draw a conclusion from. They used contrasty, almost primitive Mayan sun-worshipping images which seemed to be a nod to their Californian lifestyle. Their records were printed on textured paper sometimes featuring wood cut print artwork that referenced Mexican Revolutionary protest posters. Once you cozied up and let the needle lock into the grooves of their records you knew that they were ushering a sound that was rooted in the tradition of hardcore but would eventually evolve into something unique that reflected each member's personality.

Tim Gonzales with Amenity at the 94.9 radio show, July 2009, Photo: Dan Rawe

Tim with Amenity 1989

I first met Tim Gonzales, Amenity's guitar player, in San Diego in the late 1990s. My band was playing a show and I made a point of wearing a kelly green off-set screened Amenity shirt given to me by my former band mate Ryan Murphy. His old band Undertow had played with Amenity several times. He didn't understand how blown away I was that he had such an incredible Amenity shirt. I had never even seen the design before he showed it to me in 1994 in a basement apartment in Allston, Mass. I figured that since we were playing in San Diego near Amenity's home, someone would appreciate me wearing that shirt and soon enough I was rapping out with Tim about SS Decontrol, DYS and other bands from where I was from.

When Nathan and I began to compile content for Radio Silence, I reached out to Mike Down via his MySpace page. After Amenity's dissolution in the early 1990s Mike played in a few rock bands and toured with Rage Against The Machine, but the majority of his time had been spent in the hip hop scene, even recording a track with Sean Paul. Any reservations I may have had about Mike's current relationship to his past in hardcore dissipated upon seeing the bold Down Side logo featured on his MySpace page which was once so prominent on Amenity and Forced Down releases.

A few days later I was standing in front of the Diesel store on the Upper East Side a block from my work and my phone rang. I was thrust into a whirlwind conversation with Mike Down about Amenity, Forced Down, Gravity Records, Chula Vista, Unbroken and everything he was now doing. There was an undeniable passion in his voice and the thing that struck me immediately was that this passion permeated every topic of the conversation. Every anecdote or detail was delivered with a genuine immediacy and energy that let me know that he understood the project and what he could contribute personally.

Sergio with Amenity at the 94.9 San Diego radio show, Photo: Dan Rawe

Sergio with Amenity, 1989

I learned that Mike made both San Diego and New York City his home and we soon met up at Von Bar on Elizabeth and Bowery, pissing distance from the former site of CBGB. We spent hours over the next few weeks meeting up here and there and discussing the brilliant minutia of hardcore. Every time I met up with Mike he'd introduce me to a minimum of fifteen new people; people he'd bump into on the street, people we'd see at clubs, people we'd meet up with or just old friends tending bar.

The thing that struck me about this was that none of these people were handshake friends who would cough and forget your name. Mike's people were genuine, they shared his passion and drive. It felt as if once you had crossed into Mike's world that a switch was flipped and you were really living. It took me by surprise when he casually told me that Amenity was planning on getting back together to play shows and most importantly, record new music.

The biggest thing I had taken from Mike in our time discussing San Diego and Amenity specifically was that Amenity really acted as a bridge in their scene. While they were completely active and driven in the 1980s, what they contributed to the 1990s really defined them. One thing that Mike Down embodies is the idea that D.I.Y. isn't an excuse to skate by. Amenity records didn't have the charming rushed look of early hardcore records. The design was sophisticated. Touching on the Revolution Summer Dischord aesthetic, the records were silkscreened and stamped by hand on textured paper. The early 1990s sent hardcore into two trajectories: the slicker more professional route, and the very personal hand screened path. When you look at two copies of the This Is Our Struggle 7" side by side you immediately notice that the stamps are placed differently on the inserts, that there's a personal touch to each record. It was nice to know that some kid just like myself tucked in a burb thousands of miles away had touched and created the record I was now playing.

Barry with Amenity at the
Radio Silence Release party San Diego, CA, Photo: Dan Rawe

Barry with Amenity 1988

From our first conversation, I knew that Amenity's reformation wasn't a nostalgia trip and was solely motivated by a desire to create and pay tribute to San Diego and Chula Vista. Mike's conversations never touched on Amenity's past but rather the new songs they were writing, the shows they'd soon be playing, and most importantly, the new faces that would soon see them play. Mike never mentioned "the old gang" that was going to come out for their shows, that was a given. It was all about the younger generation that had reached out to him and were inspired by Amenity.

A few months later I found myself escaping the cold snap of a New York winter and laying on the grass of a beautiful public park in San Diego overlooking the bay. In a few hours Amenity would transform a raw warehouse space, complete with saw blades and drilling equipment, into an all ages venue because they had to. They weren't going to play unless it was for everyone so they took it upon themselves to find a way to do it.

From the first note I was struck by the intensity and enthusiasm of the crowd. There was no critique of the appearances or back stories of the four men on stage; only kids ages 13 to 43 screaming every word of their struggle until they were hoarse. One of the highlights of the show was watching Amenity perform their newest track Shine, not only because it was a great song and featured Matt Anderson's signature scream, but also because the younger kids there knew this song and sang it without the urgency of any other track.

Amenity's latest chapter is more deliberate, more conscious and aware that they're moving forward into the past. You Can't Stop The Show is a journey of a band beginning at its rawest components, just a guitar and vocals somewhere in a bedroom thinking about their mission and how they'll execute their plan. This path is now illustrated over 20 years after the band's inception and it's Mike and Tim laying it down again with some help from Sergio Vega and Haji Daud who contributed a poem that captures the spirit and heart of Amenity.

You Can't Stop The Show. - Anthony Pappalardo

Can't Stop The Show by TimDCXX

Amenity at the 94.9 radio show, San Diego, CA, July 2009, Photo: Dan Rawe


D. Sine said...

As good as Amenity's records are, nothing beat seeing them live. The power of the music, the energy and enthusiasm of the band and crowd were infectious. The members of Amenity were so very cool laid back and you could always have a really good conversation with them. So much fun. Nice tribute to this great band.

Anonymous said...

i dig this song a lot. cool post.

Unknown said...

Amenity was directly linked to my teens in Chula Vista, CA. They played the first show I ever attended. Before that, I only attended concerts where there was no connection between the band and people; there was just this huge barrier. Amenity was the first band I got to know as people, and this was my first foray into hardcore. From their example, I learned how important ethics were not only in music, but in life as well. Amenity IS Chula Vista, a band, a place, and people I feel connected to by some sort of invisible umbilical c[h]ord. Their lyrics and music are engraved in my heart and soul and could recite them like a mantra at any given time. Amenity is as relevant to hardcore today as they were twenty something odd years ago, and one thing that I will take to my grave are these eleven words: "All the waste I see. All the waste I'll never be."

Thank you Robin Niehaus, Mike D, Tim Gonzales, Sergio Hernandez, and Barry Kellman.

Anonymous said...

wow...that was cool. if you do a band at any point that an result in that type of personal response from someone you've impacted, you've accomplished something. great band, great song. hope this is the beginning.

Jim Pitts said...

Amenity always killed it live! The first time they came to the Bay Area they were having a close out sale at FogTown Skates in the Haight Ashbury in SF. We all went and almost bought them out of Vans that day. They all rocked out in new shoes that night!
One of my fave bands from the late 80's!

ERIC SXE said...

Who has the link for the 94.9 San Diego radio show? MP3s? I know a bunch of people must have recorded it.

Anonymous said...

Hometown heros...

CHULA VISTA por vida...

Ben Edge said...

That song was inspiring. Can we hear the uncensored version?

Also, DCXX is in dire need of some Forced Down content.

Anonymous said...

AWESOME!!! finally a jam that I can relate to in my old age!

Anonymous said...

Are there two Sergios? One who is member of the group and Sergio from Quicksand who was a featured guest?

Anonymous said...

I wonder the same thing as the last guy; is Sergio Vega and Sergio Hernandez the same person?

Anonymous said...

To answer the last two comments, NO...the Sergio's are TOTALLY different. Sergio Vega is from NY and was in legendary band "Quicksand", and recently joined the "DEFTONES". He also was in the band "Absolution" who did a reunion show 1 1/2 years ago. Sergio Amenity does not appear on this track. Check out new stuff (which is amazing) at

hottdogg9000 said...

Nothing short of fucking amazing! Always loved Amenity and Forced Down. Great to see a band come together again with such class and style. Love the new tracks and the video. Epic.

Anonymous said...

This track is average at best and trite at worst. I am NOT feeling it.

Kenneth said...

I just listened to an 8 minute song? Twice? Song is a trip. What we going to call this neo classical hardcore? Killa tune brothers!!

ML said...

so cheesy

Anonymous said...

Amenity was sick but, come on, that video on Mike's Myspace page was just ridiculous. What was that lyric? "I like to get high, smoke weed, and fuck" or something like that? That totally bummed me out when I saw it. Someone please tell me that was an ironic joke.

Rich said...

I got in to hardcore at the end of Amenity. I was at that last show at the beginning of the song. This song gives me a lot to think about. It's true so many kids at there show last year. Hope to see these guys again.

Anonymous said...

I don't think these guys are sxe anymore.

haji daud. said...

313. .786. 7007.

before people make assumptions and let the mind wander to places that may not be placed in fact. Tim G. is still straight edge. And guest spoken word poet haji daud is also straight edge and has been since 1993. Certian circumstances and energies prompted this song in an element of closure and positivity in order that everyone's peace of mind can be appeased. Everyone will always have different taste, but what is more important is what are intentions and hopes of the words and how it all came togther.


Anonymous said...

Tim is the godfather of Chula Vista...dude has roots.


Anonymous said...

"Certian circumstances and energies prompted this song in an element of closure and positivity in order that everyone's peace of mind can be appeased."

Um, Yogi Berra, is that you?

Your post makes about as much sense as a gasoline powered turtle neck sweater.

haji daud. said...

...ha i know

you can't overstand.

and thats fine. maybe there was something that you could relate to in your life, or...perhaps not.

all good. i gladly accept your opinion and difference.

Anonymous said...

This Is Our Struggle!

curtis (it's been a long time since I was asked if I was related to Jim) pitts said...

even though Chula Vista is a long ways away, Amenity and Forced Down were a part of our small scene in Seattle. the reasons have all been written about here. they were dear to my crew. we were far away from most of the "straight edge" and hardcore world, but we were conected to these Chula kids... one of our guys moved there, and we got a coupla Chula Vista kids...
I talked with Mike Down about a month ago and he sounded exactly like the same dude... but I would not know cos I have changed so much in the past 21 years! I will say this.... DAMN!! Tim looks 100% the same!!! he makes a good argument for S.E. for sure!

Danny said...

Amenity was on the first tape of hardcore that my friend gave me in 97 when I was a little kid. I listened to Our Struggle and Chula Vista 7's and remember thinking it was sick that they were from the same city. I'm glad I finally got to see them last year. There show was different from other shows. I felt like they were playing for me and for everyone there. They were powerful but unique. Only their sound. This song is sick. I like when bands do something new and different instead of sounding like other bands.

For that sun... we all shine

CV pride!

Unknown said...

The band i was in at the time Forced Down had opened for Amenity many times . Its great to see these guys are still playing hard and writing music.

Anonymous said...

Long live the 91910/91911

Jeremy said...

I was on a different end of the scene in San Diego when these guys were first around. My friends and I would talk shit about them because they were the most popular band in SD and straight edge...but we would be at every show and bought their records! Ha ha! Every time I had run in to any of them at shows they were always cool so I felt even stupider! It felt so cool to see them recently and be 100% into it even at my age.

"I've gotten older and it's been some time..." Great line. It seems so simple but I get lost in my mind when I think of that in my own life. Honest lyric. Dig this song boys.



check out
Take Offense
Down Again
Cold Stare
Tantive IV
Sex Fiend

Unknown said...

Mike Down still the man after all these years. bobobo

william w. williams said...

Mike Down has been such an amazing artist and producer for all of these years. Even the music that he did outside of hardcore had a lot of love and vision behind it. Nice to see someone recognize what he means to San Diego, Chula Vista and music in general. As far as his get things done approach, I'm hoping we are not done hearing from him.

Sean said...

I never understood why these guys broke up in the first place. They had hooks and with riffage like this song they could have ended up on a whole other level. Coulda been big.

Sean said...

Saw them in 90 and I'd like to see them now. The new songs are killer. Shine should be on the radio.

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