Fender’s Ballroom was an all ages punk/hardcore/metal club in Long Beach. When I was in junior high I listened to punk and hardcore, because rap was too violent.
The retelling of my teenage years are filled with the memories of the most unreliable of all narrators, me. How I decided that rap was too violent and hardcore was artistic probably had something to do with an identity crisis that I was in the middle of and I am still working through currently as a middle aged Black woman marooned in New York.
At some point during the early summer of 1988 I found out that the band Suicidal Tendencies was playing at Fenders and I decided I was going to go, though I didn’t want to go by myself.
In junior high I went to a Black Catholic School in a Black neighborhood and while generally my music taste wasn’t the norm, it wasn’t because I didn’t like rap or r&b. There were girls at my school that liked New Wave and pop, but hardcore, that was an whole other white animal that most middle class suburban Black girls didn’t want to deal with, at least the middle class suburban Black girls that I was aquainted with.
Through lies, exaggerations, and the promise of meeting boys I convinced a friend whose parents had recently divorced and father had moved to Long Beach that we should have a slumber party in Long Beach.
“Let us have a slumber party at your dad’s house. He probably misses you owing to your parents’ recent divorce.”
I had never been to a Suicidal Tendencies concert. I had been to backyard parties with bands in other South Bay neighborhoods like Lawndale and Hawthorne with bands that were not known yet or would never be known outside of 1995, but Suicidal Tendencies had a song called Institutionalized and it played on MTV.
“All I wanted was a Pespsi, just one Pepsi, and you wouldn’t give it to me.”
Now you can just go on the Internet and pull up any video you want whenever you want, but in the 80s you had to wait until Friday Night Videos, which came on Friday nights, late, so MTV was pretty groundbreaking, because it had videos all the time. It played mostly New Wave and some Rock, but hardcore and punk, that was rarely played, but being as Suicidal Tendencies was a hardcore band in Los Angeles it gave it a bit of marketablity and MTV which was based in New York and liked being able to turn even the most esoteric into cash, if it was possible.
MTV didn’t play Black people, because we weren’t marketable, though at the time I didn’t think much about it.
“We need to sneak out.”
“Why can’t my dad just drop us off?”
“Because then we’ll have to come home at a boring time, I didn’t know you were boring.”
“I’m not boring.”
“Good, so we’ll sneak out of the house when your dad goes to sleep at 11 p.m.”
That night at Fenders I learned about the Suicies. The Suicies were diehard Suicidal Tendencies fans. They had razors taped to their hands with electric tape and were slashing people in the face as they danced. I found it pretty exciting. There were boys there. I made out with a blonde boy from Hawthorne in the corner and my friends glared at me and kept saying they wanted to go home. I told them to stop being boring, because this was going to be a night we would all remember and to get out there and mingle.
Later on in the evening a Suicie stabbed someone in the bathroom AND let that someone bleed to death by blocking the door.
My friends were a bit upset with me.
“This is worse than a rap concert,” one said.
Oddly none of this ended up in the news. I have no idea why it didn’t end up in the news. In LA the only things that ended up in the news were items that involved Black people and Black neighborhoods, the rest didn’t really fit within the California dream.
Teka Lo , Public Intellectuals