Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Joe Nelson on the O.C. Sloth Crew

Our resident west coast connection, Joe Nelson, will continually appear here at Double Cross delivering more great stories and memories from the hardcore reality. Since most of his material will be Orange County related, what better way to get acquanited with his colorful cast of characters than by getting a thorough history on The Crew: The O.C. Sloth Crew. -DCXX

The Orange County Sloth Crew was a group of straight edge kids in Huntington Beach, California. It was originally made up of about 11 dudes, Eric "Silk" Silkenson, Scott Sundahl, Bob Hardigree, Casey Satterthwaite, Jason Acuna, Paul Theriault, Craig "Beeker" Doyle, Greg Brown, Jim Brown, Scott Lytle, and myself. Over the years, guys like Mike Murphy, Regis Guerin, Sterling Wilson, Dave "The Dragon" Theriault, Mike Madrid, Brett Page, Jason McKee, Jim Filipan, Shawn Jensen, Chad Weaver, The Nyhus Twins, and even Randy Johnson were sort of in it. We also hung out with the Irvine guys a ton. Those guys were Mark Hayworth, Rob Hayworth, Zach De La Rocha, Pat Delaney, Eric "Ernst" Petersen, Brian Chu, and Mark Lee. In asense, even they became part of the crew.

Nobody is quite sure where the name originated from. The best guess would be that somebody in tenth grade life science learned that the tree sloth was the laziest animal in the world, so as a joke we named our little club in honor of it. At the time it seemed every hardcore scene had a faction or crew. Everyone also had really hard sounding names such as "Suicidals", or "Los Angeles Death Squad. The Hardcore affiliated gangs in our own backyard of Huntington Beach were called things such as "Fuck Shit Up"(F.S.U.), or "The H.B. Skins." Calling ourselves "The O.C. Sloth Crew" was sort of an inside joke, poking fun at the "harder" gangs.

We were Straight Edge, although we hung with surfers and skaters who definitely were not. Like any Straight Edge kid from any era, we also felt we were better then the rest of the normal kids in town. We had that swagger that unless you've lived as a 17 year old Straight Edge, kid you don't really understand.

We all rolled together to high school parties, football games, shows, etc. We even all worked at the same place for about four months, which was an amazing time, and a story of its own. If anybody ever had a job they could hold down for longer then two weeks it became a free for all for all of the gang. Zach and some others worked at Campus Gas in Irvine for a while so gas was always free. A couple dudes worked at Pizza parlors so that was free. Brian Nyhus worked the graveyard shift at the local grocery store, so that was free. I worked as a stock boy at the big mall in the area which is called South Coast Plaza. I had the keys to about 20 different store stock rooms. This was before any security systems existed really. Anyway, dudes would come by if they needed to get a present for their girlfriend, or whatever. Basically when you have 20+ dudes, as well as affiliates spread out over the area in random jobs, you find out that pretty much anything you want is free.

Sundahl, Acuna, Courtney Dubar, and this other dude Jim Bournquist worked at the local arcade / miniature golf course / batting cage / Go-Kart track, called The Family Fun Center. That became our clubhouse. We were there 24/7 playing 720 or Track and Field for free, and eating and drinking the crappy snack shack food for free. We'd also steal tokens and then sell them to real customers for, say, 6 for $1. After it closed for the night we'd then take the Go-Karts and race around the city streets all night. That, or we'd hit golf balls onto the freeway for a while.

A lot of us were skaters as well. Randy Johnson was so good he could have been easily been a pro. He skated daily with Jason Lee, who in turn became our ally. That meant all of us skated on free fully stacked "Grinch" decks for quite a while. Jason Jesse was also a really good friend of our team so there was a constant flow of Santa Cruz gear through him as well. Actually there were quite a few times where Jason Jesse, who was older by a year or two drove us to shows. Talk about a tough mother fucker. You were never in fear of anybody if you had that psycho path on your side.

These were prime time high school days. We were total pirates. I mean just complete hooligans. Our M.O. was to roll into your party, steal your VCR, make 976 calls on your parent's phone, spray paint O.C. Sloth Crew on the bath room mirror, piss in your dad's underwear drawer, then blow up your keg with low grade dynamite which we'd get from Mexico, and end it all with some fight with the football team in the street. The normal kids hated us. We were eventually banned from every party in H.B. If we showed up, the kids whose house it was would immediately call the cops, who by then also knew of us. Eventually we just moved the operation to Irvine on Friday night and ran wild down there.

We'd also "fire extinguish" people. Or, go steal bowling balls from Fountain Bowl, and then roll them down a hill into oncoming traffic. During Halloween we'd smash every pumpkin in site. We'd baseball bat mailboxes all the time. We'd shoot fireworks into all the local bars. We'd throw eggs at people. We'd shoplift from the local malls and surf shops constantly. We had a car, which was a Duster, called "Los Guys." The car was not registered to anybody so we would take it out at night and crash into everything in sight. Hell, we even lit the local park on fire with gasoline once. We were also constantly in brawls with everyone from local jocks, to some trucker. The list goes on and on and on and on, too. I mean, we were ASSHOLES!

By the late 80s Punk/Hardcore shows in Southern California were also becoming a lot less scary to attend. A lot of the real gang members from 2 - 3 years ago were now either dead, or in prison. Without the real gangs, the straight edge kids started to flex their muscle at shows. When that happened we were at the head of the table. We had already been through all the violence of the mid 80s, so we felt a sense of entitlement to now have control the clubs. The only opposition was maybe the White Power Skins. After about 2 or 3 fights, where all the straight edge kids beat the fuck out of those clowns, they never came to shows again. Those clubs were now ours for better or for worse. Then when all the shows started moving to the Reseda County Club, we became sort of the defatco bouncers. We got to pretty much run the whole stage every show. Kevin Lyman, later of Warped Tour fame, was the acting the stage manager for Goldenvoice. He loved us, and gave us free reign of that club. We started wearing hockey jerseys to shows so we could identify each other quickly if their was a fight. In a lot of ways we started acting like a real gang I suppose.

The three identifiers for the O.C. Sloth Crew which probably happened as far as the national scene goes were:

1) We got into a huge brawl with our pseudo rivals the H.B. Skins at a church fair of all things. Anyway, since those guys were considered a White Power gang it became a local news story which then got picked up by the Associated Press. I think the name O.C. Sloth Crew got mentioned in the story as a skateboard gang, who battled the evil Nazi Skinheads at the church fair. The White Power Skinheads were a huge media sensation at the time, so people paid attention to that kind of bullshit.

2) We became really good friends with Youth of Today, Bold, Gorilla Biscuits and the whole New York City crew. Those dudes would spend about 3 weeks in California on their summer tours. We all stayed at the Hardigree's house, which was in Huntington Harbor and came with a rad boat where everyone pretty much slept. His parents were super cool, and loved having everyone there I think. The point is, those dudes would then go around the county telling all the other kids tales of their exploits with us while in Cali. We even made these shirts that said "Orange County Sloth Crew" and featured Mr. T in a hammock. All those New York dudes wore them on tour. That brought attention to us as well I suppose.

3) I would go on tour with Insted, and meet everyone around the country. Kids were interested in The Sloth Crew tales that had been going around. I would spend a lot of time supporting or debunking these wild myths that were being passed around. I mean some of the stories I would hear were just crazy. Tales of us wearing gas masks to shows, and then beating up anybody who smoked, or how we beat some Nazi skin to death with a hockey stick. The cool part was I met a lot of great kids through that experience, and they became friends with not only me, but The Sloth Crew too.

As guys went off to college, got married, moved out of state, etc. the gang fizzled of course. Everyone still remains pretty tight though. There's an email ring we've had now for about 4 - 5 years that's only purpose is to constantly make fun of each other. A lot of the guys still play on the same club hockey team called the "Jokers." There's still the Friday night poker game for some. There's also an annual Vegas trip. Every now and then even a random show will pop up which we all attend together. I imagine at this point it will pretty much stay that way forever.

I really hate to think that we were the beginning of the gross Straight Edge gangs which came around in the late 90s. I mean, kids stabbing dudes to death with Samurai swords in the name of Straight Edge is just completely disgusting. Talk about total derailment of a pretty cool train. Those kids in Utah fucking suck, and missed the whole point of what Straight Edge is all about. Unfortunately, we sort of missed it as well. I also believe in some ways we were the first chapter, of the evilness that came later on in the scene, which is disheartening for me personally. It is what it is though.

I'd be lying if I said those days weren't some of the absolute best times in my life. The bonds made with those guys are still some of the strongest I have to date. It's hard to explain, but it runs deeper than just a friendship. I imagine any gang of straight edge kids who grew up together, as we did, knows what I'm taking about. I'm sure they must still feel exactly the same way about their guys, as I do about mine...the old Orange County Sloth Crew.


Ricardo said...

This shit is fantastic.

Prime Directive said...

Great story Joe. I remember seeing a guy at Quicksand/Civ at the Hollywood Grand wearing a Sloth Crew shirt - we got real excited as we'd only "heard" about, but never experienced, the legend.

Was that Sloth/Nazi fight at the SSJ fair? When you say HB and church fair that's the first thing that comes to mind...

Joe Nelson said...

Yeah it was at SSJ. The funny part about that fight is it lasted maybe 1 minute, before the cops showed and both sides scattered. The news reported it as a riot between 200 Nazi Skins, and skateboarders. In reality it was more like 30, and nothing even close to being a riot.

Lenny Zimkus said...

great story, looking forward to hearing more. i was cracking up through the whole article.
forget about bootleggin skiz shirts i want a Mr T hammock shirt.

Ben Edge said...

Any Nate Craig stories? He was a TA of mine in college.

Anonymous said...

Oh man those stories are so amazingly rad....Im a 17 year-old Straight Edge Skate Punk and i live right here in HB....i go to edison high im sure you guys know about edison...haha i think its rad that you guys did all that stuff right in the heart of where i live....me and all my friends dont really have a crew(unfortunately)but we fuck around with all the jocks and skins at our high school and we are always thinking up ways to fuck with all the people in HB.....thats pretty good stuff guys..those stories are Classic!

Callie Miller said...

You guys are super fun. Hey, listen, I'm trying to get ahold of Casey Satterthwaite, to get ahold of his sister, Kelly. This is Callie, Kelly's college roommate, and I want to give props to Casey's family, who are amazing and helped me so much. Would someone please forward this onto Casey, so that he can forward this onto Kelly? Thanks for letting me use this space... I used to date a straight edge guy from NYC back in '89, so I totally get it.

samueldee said...

Hey, I'm from SLC, and while I never knew a Sloth Crew member here, my brothers knew some who moved here. It was cool to get the story from the LA side. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You really should think about being a fiction writer seeing as you have such a great imagination!!!

Why not tell the story about the time Sloth crew was afraid of some real gangsters the country club? LOL that was a classic story!

Isaac Buie said...

I too am from SLC and grew up in the nineties. It's a shame that the SXE scene here was so hardline. I identified with the movement back then but it became so violent that it lost it's coolness. I'm friends with Scott Sundahl's brothers Joe and Mike. There was always this mystique around Eric Sundahl (a bit older than me) and the "Mickey Crew" out of Skyline High. There were legendary stories of those dudes. This article was a brilliant read and shed a lot of light on the connection between early California Straight Edge and 90's Utah Straight Edge.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing a some of those dudes at a insted/youth of today/ 7 seconds show on broadway in SF during the late 80's. I remember the shirts, thought they were funny. The late 80's in SF hardcore scene was up and down, went to all the straight edge shows to avoid guitar solos.