Monday, July 25, 2011

Geoff Nicholson - Buffalo photographer

Civ and Wally with Gorilla Biscuits at The Pipe Dragon, Buffalo NY, Spring 1988, Photo: Geoff Nicholson

One of the things I like the most about doing DCXX is finding people who did some lesser-known albeit very cool stuff during their time in hardcore. A perfect example of this is a guy like Geoff Nicholson, a now California-based photographer who took some great photos of the Buffalo hardcore scene in the late 80s and was a part of the fanzine Pushed Too Far. Some of his great HC shots have circulated over the last couple years, and it made me wonder who was on the other side of the camera. Although some readers may wonder why we would interview a guy who only took some photos for a few years, the reality is that Tim and I love getting more info on practically anybody that was involved with the bands we love - even if was simply by taking photos.

Beyond that, we thought Geoff was able to provide some great info on the Buffalo scene from that time period. Thanks Geoff.
-Gordo DCXX

Zulu with BOLD at The Pipe Dragon, Buffalo NY, Spring 1988, Photo: Geoff Nicholson

When and where did you first get into punk/HC? What else were you into (or perhaps, not into) at the time?

Prior to punk my music tastes were pretty limited, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Kinks, many older records my dad had. I first heard "punk" through a friend's older sister when I was very young, 11-12. She used to babysit me and played me the Clash, "London Calling." I was fortunate enough to see the Clash play at the University of Buffalo in 1984, not the best line up, but it was a new experience for me.

Before that, the only live concerts I saw were with my parents, the Kinks and also the Police the year before. Soon after I heard the Clash I got the Sex Pistols "Never Mind the Bollocks." I thought that was a heavy record. I wasn't into many popular bands at that point in junior high, 1980s pop wasn't for me. It wasn't until I started high school in 1985 that I was turned onto hardcore. A friend's older brother played us Black Flag's "Damaged," and various other Los Angeles hardcore bands, Fear, Circle Jerks, and Suicidal Tendencies. From that point on I forgot all about British "punk". I could relate more with the American hardcore bands, plus the sound was much louder, heavier, and faster, plus the bands were more about the music, not all about the funky hair and clothes.

Slap Shot at Metal Shop, North Tonawanda NY, Photo: Geoff Nicholson

How did photography tie in with your interest in live music? Did you shoot bands from the beginning?

Sadly, I wish I had started photographing at shows earlier than I did. I didn't really start actively taking a camera to shows until some point in 1987. My first hardcore show was Black Flag on their final tour in 1986 at Sun Ship studios on Main Street in Buffalo, my second show a few months later was the Circle Jerks at Buff State, and DRI/Dr. Know/Die Kreuzen at a Knights of Columbus hall in Cheektowaga, all were shows I really wish I had taken pictures at. At the time just being at the those shows blew me away.

An X'ed up Roger with Agnostic Front at Metal Shop, North Tonawanda NY, Photo: Geoff Nicholson

A friend and I started making a fanzine called "Pushed Too Far" for a short period of time in 1987-88, this was when I started taking pictures at many shows, SNFU, Agnostic Front, Dag Nasty, Slap Shot, DRI, among others. For the fanzine, my friend Mike did the interviews and I did all the photography. For whatever reason though, I wasn't shooting at all the shows; I guess I was just shooting bands that I really liked. The fanzine was the only place where my hardcore band photos saw the light of day until very recently when I started posting some online. While digging through old negatives I found shots I'd never even seen before. When doing the fanzine I'd just look at the negatives with a lamp and pick a couple to print. I never made proof sheets then, so I never had any idea what other shots I had until years later.

To this day I'm still amazed my film came out ok. I had no real training in photography, just a very basic explanation on how the camera and flash worked from my dad, who did photography and darkroom work as a hobby.

Steve Reddy with Wolf Pack at Metal Shop, North Tonawanda NY, Photo: Geoff Nicholson

What was the Buffalo scene like in the mid/late 80s? Where did you see shows, and what bands stood out both locally and as touring acts?

Many of the original hardcore bands were fading somewhat at the point when my friends and I came into it, it was the start of that second wave of hardcore bands starting. Don't get me wrong, the bands were still amazing and the shows were always a great time. We were considered the kiddies at the early shows, we were 14 at the time. The Buffalo scene was fairly small, so you knew almost everyone. From 1986-1988 shows were going on constantly. Hardcore was everything to us, finding new records and going to shows was all we wanted to do. The scene was tight then, the same people at every show, no one really got seriously hurt in the pit because you looked out for each other. Shows were where everyone would meet, we lived all over the city but the shows brought us together.

It was when metal dudes started coming to shows and thinking that it was ok to try to actually hurt people. It was in that time frame, 1988 or so when the term slam dancing turned into "Moshing." No more circle pit, and shows got rougher. I feel at this point was when you got more morons and meatheads turning up at shows causing problems. Sometimes you'd get skinheads coming down from Toronto for shows on occasion, these guys being the ultimate violent morons in my book. I feel the scene did split somewhat because Buffalo was heavily influenced by East Coast/NYC hardcore bands, as well as the straight edge movement preaching their holier than thou silliness.

Judge at The Pipe Dragon, Buffalo NY, Spring 1988, Photo: Geoff Nicholson

The bands from NYC were great, but it was a different mentality, more of a tough guy thing. I'm not a violent guy, I gravitated to more D.C. bands, Beefeater, Minor Threat, Soulside, Scream, Dag Nasty and one of my all time favorites Government Issue. Bands which were more about being yourself, thinking for yourself, or just having fun. But only a handful of those bands played Buffalo.

It was at the end of the 1980s that it felt like all the bands were starting to sound the same, all either NYC hardcore or bands playing that sound. Sick of it All, Agnostic Front, and Underdog stick out for me as the more memorable bands from NYC, there were other good bands, but it was all too similar for me. Shows were at many different places, Am vets in Riverside, various other Am vets and Knights of Columbus halls, Painters Hall on Elmwood, Mr. Goodbar, numerous great shows at the Metal Shop in North Tonawanda, the Turtle Indian museum in Niagara Falls (Corrosion of Conformity, Gang Green, and Uniform Choice I think), UB, Buff State, the Pipe Dragon had many great shows too, later, in 1988 the River Rock Café was probably the last place I went to hardcore shows in Buffalo. Bands/shows I will always remember: the Circle Jerks at Buff State, an absolutely insane show. We got to meet both Keith Morris and Greg Hetson before the show; I'm not sure why they came up to us, maybe being much younger than most of the people at the college run show. For whatever reason I remember Keith telling us he'd been living off of rice for months, he looked totally emaciated. I didn't know who this guy (Keith) talking to us was until Greg Hetson came up, we recognized him from photos. I recall them both being extremely nice and friendly, which was cool because we knew no one else at the show. Being clueless, my friends and I were standing right up front of the stage before the Circle Jerks came on. When the band hit the stage the crowd turned into a massive tidal wave of bodies. I ended up being pushed onstage, and then on top on a stage monitor, being stepped on by stage divers and the likes, Keith Morris pulled me up and probably saved me from cracking some ribs.

Dag Nasty at Metal Shop, North Tonawanda NY, Photo: Geoff Nicholson

Another fantastic show was SNFU at the Am vets in Riverside. The show was a blast, Chi Peg, the singer, doing flips and hitting donuts into the audience with a tennis racket. Just a great, fun band. Other great shows, any other SNFU show for that matter, the many times DRI played, the Accused, Agnostic Front, Gorilla Biscuits, Murphy's Law, Straight Ahead, Corrosion of Conformity, Dag Nasty, Verbal Assault, Underdog, Suicidal Tendencies, too many to remember.

The most popular local hardcore band had to be Third Man In, later known as New Balance, then finally as Zero Tolerance. Most other local acts played a couple shows and that was it, Pathetic Fallacy, D.I.E., and SAO to name a few. Sadly the Goo Goo Dolls opened for way too many hardcore shows, they were WAY better back then, but didn't really belong opening up for say, DRI. Hell, they even opened for Motorhead in North Tonawanda in 1988. I found that to be quite a joke.

I feel fortunate seeing all the bands I did, I'll always look back and remember what a good time in music that era was, and all the good times we had. It was something that could never repeat itself.

Porcell with Youth Of Today at The Pipe Dragon, Buffalo NY, Spring 1988, Photo: Geoff Nicholson


Anonymous said...

damn! great shots!

Anonymous said...


Nickle City Stomp said...

Pushed Too Far was a rad zine and Geoff shot some great bands, nice post Double Cross!

Mike Fairley said...


Anonymous said...

Civ looks like Klaus Kinski's son.

Anonymous said...

Roger with x's????? What's this about????

farside said...

The Metal Shop is a tropical fish store now. That Agnostic Front show ended in a riot and got the metal shop shut down as a venue. At least that's the story I've always heard. I have a cool PHC video from there.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff.......

Anonymous said...

That pic of Roger is very interesting. Great pic of Porcell too.

Vidal Sasoon said...

Their Edge or Their Hair-in each picture someone lost something!

Anonymous said...

porcell looks like owen wilson!

Ben Edge said...

"Soon after I heard the Clash I got the Sex Pistols 'Never Mind the Bollocks.' I thought that was a heavy record."

And you were absolutely correct.

ShayKM said...

Great shots from that era, and good commentary as well. But a seriously lame cheap shot about Straight Edge silliness.

What was silly about those years was wasted kids, drugs at shows, teen suicide, and slavish servitude to group-think self-destruction. SE might have been represented by some real morons at times, but that can be said for any sub-culture. SE made Punk/HC far better in countless ways, not least of which is the ethos of self-control and self-respect. Something most punks from my generation seriously lacked. Just a thought...

Malik said...

Geoff gave us a bunch of pics before. Lots of his pics were posted on months back. Have a look there for more.

Also, Geoff helped me with Zero Tolerance layout for the reissue 7".

Great guy, sweet shots.

farside said...

Pretty much all of Beyond on the side of the stage in those Judge pics. Also, that's Mark ZT in the foreground in the red(?) tanktop.

Anonymous said...

Wow, SAO buddy Ean's cousin was in that band. I had an SAO sticker on my Skull Skates deck back then (Hackett Iron Cross - I'm OLD). "Don't skate Buff State," haha. Very inside joke.

Shay, I don't think he was calling the SE philosophy silly so much as the holier-than-thou aspect of it. And that holier-than-thou attitude was, in fact, really silly.

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