Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brian Walsby on The Cathay De Grande

The Cathay De Grande was this seedy basement club a block or so away from Hollywood Blvd. in (you guessed it) Hollywood. It was on a street called Selma Ave. And even more interesting was that Mystic Records was a block away! I think I spent the bulk of 1984 going to this club to see a variety of cool bands. I was sort of making up for lost time; at this point I was already a published cartoon scribbler and started to get mail, but I still hadn’t gone to a real show until December of 1983 (which was 45 Grave, Redd Kross (with Dez Cadena) and D. Boon). I didn’t drive. So I waited till some of the friends I had made as pen pals would actually go out of their way to come get me for some shows...even if I did live in Ventura County, seemingly a million miles from anything cool or exciting.

By this time, I had also met the guys in Scared Straight. Scott Radinsky drove and had a blue pick up truck. We’d make the trek into Hollywood a lot to see shows, and for whatever the reason most of them were at the Cathey De Grande. It was exciting. Finally I was able to see all of this cool shit. And there was a dangerous vibe to it as well. I thought anything could happen at any time, and there was rarely any occasion that made us feel that it wasn’t worth the trek.

Looking back, I am struck by what a na├»ve and undeniable dork I was, definitely not one of the tough and scary kinds of punk rockers. I was a slightly pudgy longhaired Jewish kid with glasses. I was just totally into the music and lived to find out more about what I had been buying and reading in this subculture. And it was all good at that point. Even when it wasn’t it still was. It was exciting just being in that room far far away from my parent’s house. And of course I met a lot of other like minded kids that were also really into the same things.

A shredding Die Kreuzen

Die Kreuzen played there on their first album tour. To say they were good and ahead of their time would be a great understatement. They were perhaps the ultimate band at the time but still seemed so weird and different then almost everybody else at the time. I have a picture somewhere of me and Ryan Hoffman (of Justice League) sitting on a monitor on the nonexistent stage watching bassist Keith Brammer play, and we are both sitting there looking at him with our eyes and mouths wide open like we are watching the second coming of Jesus...or at least Marc Bolan. I mean, he really had good hair.

Seven Seconds and Uniform Choice played a great show there as well. Some of the times I had seen 7 Seconds play they were not too hot. Not this night. It was like a nonstop sing along, one would be hit after another, the bulk of “The Crew” and “Committed For Life” unfurled. There was another show where I saw this one band called Condemned To Death. They were from San Francisco and they were an amazing band. A lot of people don’t really remember these guys but they were great.

Kevin Seconds (with the Brian Walsby drawn shirt) and Steve Youth with 7 Seconds at the Sun Valley Sportman's Hall 1984, Photo: Joe Henderson

Another show that I remember there was during the summer of 1984. Some of you might remember that the Olympics were being held in Los Angeles back then, so the city appeared to have looked a little cleaned up. The previous night was a big Goldenvoice show at the infamous Olympic Auditorium where Dead Kennedys, Raw Power, Reagan Youth and BGK played. We had heard that a quickie show was being held the next night at the Cathey and that some of the same bands would be playing. The bill ended up being Cause For Alarm, AOD and BGK. It was a great show but I remember BGK totally stole the show. At the time they were one of the most precise hardcore bands I had ever seen. It was hot as shit down there that night. Good times.

The club also had this once a week thing called DUNKER NIGHT. For the price of one dollar, you could get in and watch up to eleven bands in one night! And a lot of them were real good. There was one band that seemed to play that night all the time called Incest Cattle. They were this amazing trio that had all of these weird songs that ran the gamut from post punk screeching noise to furious hardcore to overt metal songs and everything in between. The weird looking short bassist with the Human League haircut turned out to be Doug Carrion who joined the Descendents when they reformed a year or so later. I remember seeing a band called MADMEN that featured people that looked (gasp!) old. What were these people doing here? Remember how it was when you were eighteen and when you met someone who was not even thirty, and you couldn’t believe it? Well, these guys were older than that, I bet. The singer was this furious front person who really had presence. They also seemed to have more command of their instruments; unlike some of the other fellow youngsters I have seen playing music. Dunker Night was always really cool for me. I wonder if anyone else remembers that?

I met all kinds of people there. I remember hanging out with Tim Kerr and Randy “Biscuit” Turner of the Big Boys in the stairwell one night. I was struck by how nice and friendly they were, which is what everyone said. It left a big impression on me. Almost every single living punk rock “celeb” that I knew of seemed to drop by there at least once. Sometimes I would bother these people but most of the time I would just admire them from afar, too nervous to actually engage in conversation. I met the legendary El Duce of the Mentors, who was everything you would think he would be if you know who that person was; a total laugh riot. Of course he was shitfaced. Hanging out with Al and Hud from the legendary FLIPSIDE magazine was also a big deal. And it was really cool to find out that almost all of the people that I had admired, known about and looked up to were all personable and nice. I wasn’t sure why I expected anything else but there you go.

The infamous
Olympic Auditorium

Speaking of shitfaced, the funniest thing about all of the times I went to the Cathay De Grande was how I was this dumb little kid who didn’t do anything but religiously watch these bands and the fact that I usually was surrounded by all of these fucked up and drunk people. I never drank or smoked pot or anything like that...not at that time anyways, so it meant nothing to me but I had no problems with it. Actually, it was kind of exciting to be around, to be honest. It made things scarier, if that makes sense. And for every time I saw a show there like 7 Seconds where there were more young people that didn’t necessarily want to get fucked up, there were plenty of drug addicts, speed freaks and alcoholics at various other slightly more “adult” shows that catered to those damn punk rockers.

I can’t seem to recall when and why the club closed down but I think it happened right before I moved to the East Coast. So I am guessing that it was the end of 1985 or so. I haven’t been to a club that had that kind of vibe since. It was disgusting and seedy and falling apart but for awhile it was like a second home to me. There have probably been at least a thousand photos that people took of bands playing at the Cathay De Grande...and some of those photos have made it into fanzines and the back covers and inserts of rare records that some of you reading this right now probably own.

Brian Walsby and Al Quint of Suburban Voice Fanzine, 1985, Photo courtesy of: Al Quint


D. Sine said...

Good read. Great stories.

Jasonxxx said...


Anonymous said...

cool stories. Nice pic of Brian and Mr. Quint!


ROA said...

I met Brian Walsby there as well as saw/played shows there and Brian is right; it was truly a once in a lifetime place.

I played with Die Kruezen that night with an impromptu band with Ryan Hoffman on Guitar, Fat Mike on Bass, me on vocals and I thought Brian on drums. We played all covers including “Stepping Stone” changing the lyrics to “(I am not a) D.C. Clone.

Brian was totally cool and until now I never knew he once looked like Julian Casablanca of the Strokes.

Kudos to the Cross.

Jim Pitts said...

Great to get these cool memories from Brian!
I was going to boarding school in the early 80's for 2 years by Santa Barbara, Jason Sears (RKL) lived in the room next door to me.
On the weekends we'd set up trips of van loads of students to go to the Casa De La Raza and other shows in SB, and the Cathey and Olympic shows in LA.
Goldenvoice was reviled then...I sure miss them now! As far as Condemned to Death goes they were a killer Sacramento band that gave us Scotty Wilkins, also singer for Verbal Abuse and Electric Frankenstein.

Mike said...

Condemned To Death were very much from the SF Vats scene.

grumples said...

these stories are spot on. i like the bit about C2D, they did turn it out for sure. thanks for sharing. i was 14, somehow allowed in (brennan had a big heart) and told to "stay in the corner & don't even think about drinking.. or else!"

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