Friday, May 4, 2012

Too Trashed to Live, Too Dumb to Die

Oi, fucker! Boasting (heh) future members of Worm Ouroboros and Strung Up, Gravediggers of the Bourgeoisie are the kind of band that is less remembered for playing music than they are for the amount of shit they stirred up during their brief existence. It is probable that most people from the mid ‘90s East Bay punk scene would prefer to see this relic remain buried under a large rock, but too bad for them. Come to think of it, it is also likely that these same people questioned whether the Gravediggers ever existed at all outside of graffiti tags and rowdy drunken behavior at shows. Despite what they may or may not believe, the Gravediggers of the Bourgeoisie were an actual band that managed to play a few shows and even recorded some stuff, although none of it was ever released. For what it is worth, this is the first time any of their recordings have been made widely available outside of the band’s circle of friends.

If you weren’t hanging out on Telegraph Avenue during 1994-1996, chances are you will have a hard time understanding or appreciating where the Gravediggers were coming from. Despite only having one actual skinhead in their ranks, Gravediggers of the Bourgeoisie proclaimed themselves “the only Oi band in Berkeley.” Not all of their members lived in Berkeley either, but I digress. In order to at least sound like a real Oi band, it is usually necessary to have a gang of backing vocalists providing a loud, raucous chorus to inspire the united punks and skins to drunkenly sing along. The Gravediggers clearly thought this was a most important element, as they had something like four vocalists who did exactly that. I can’t be the only one who remembers the dubious pleasure of hearing Anthony, Smiley, and Aaron’s constant renditions of “Someone’s Gonna Die” by Blitz done repeatedly throughout the day. If Rancid’s cover was not enough to make me hate that song for the rest of my life, those three jackasses certainly managed to accomplish that. As annoying as that got, it was definitely harmless compared to an incident that went down around that same time. 

As we have said in the past, the East Bay punk scene could be something of a hostile environment during this time. Divisions were being thrown down over a lot of small-fry bullshit—the dumbest of which was the tribal war pitting “PC” versus “anti-PC.” I couldn’t even type that sentence without rolling my eyes. You get three guesses as to which side of the fence the Gravediggers resided on…and members of the band certainly appeared eager to establish their role in this silly dispute. The peak of their participation took place in May of 1995 when Smiley, one of the Gravediggers’ multiple vocalists, showed up to a Spitboy show at Gilman Street wearing a Mentors shirt with the slogan “NO MEANS YES—LEGALIZE RAPE” written on the back. The shit instantly hit the fan. Some time later, you could find Smiley lurking around Telegraph Avenue wearing a new T-shirt and a new slogan: a Spitboy shirt with “WOMEN SHOULD BE RESPECTED” emblazoned across the back. Most people didn’t really get Smiley’s tasteless attempt at humor, nor did they ever realize that his day job consisted of answering phones at a rape crisis center. The joke was on them, as was often the case when dealing with these malcontents.

Gravediggers of the Bourgeoisie recorded four demos during the year or so they were together. You get to hear the final recording, which shows the band at their trashy best. If you were there, this will take you back to hanging out on the Sproul Plaza steps when the local punks used to do that sort of thing. Table-scoring at Fat Slice Pizza and drinking 40s on the porch of UC Berkeley’s Le Chateau co-op. The Insurgents and their cronies needing three cents to break a nickel. Frank Depression and his books of demented poetry. Skinhead riots at Berkeley Square. The Insubordinator zine. If you weren’t there, this will probably all be lost on you unless you have an insatiable need to hear every obscure Bay Area punk band that ever existed. Get drunk, kick some ass, and do some sketchy shit here.

12 comments:

Sean said...

That was great. Dude, did Smiley REALLY work at a rape crisis center? That rules. That's a beautiful thing.

The Evil Eye said...

Yeah, he did. I believe he actually wore the shirt to work too.

Sean said...

Only in Berkeley.

Sean said...

I miss Frank.

Jake Skate said...

Gravediggers-yeah that was a real fun band. With their 4 backup singers i think.

Benjamin said...

That Spitboy show, Geez, Adrienne was fucking pissed. What a classic moment for those involved.
Didn't she pull the same shit with Mike Avilez over "Little Girls"?
all that drama really takes me back...

Benjamin said...

ah, Gilman drama circa the mid 90's; Smiley's shirt and Mike's cover of "Little Girls"...
At war with Adrienne Spitboy.
Good times for all involved.

Jessica said...

Being 17 was awesome

Will said...

I agree with Jessica.

Will said...

banned from motel 6

Jessica said...

Ha technically that was the Ranters. Jamie was in that band. Anthony's other band with a million singers.

Will said...

ahh your right..