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Boneheads in Berkeley

Skinheads bust up punk show
at Berkeley Square

By Nicky Baxter

Onstage, the Goodfellas are cranking out the kind of artless leap-about clatter you'd expect from an opening act--just an all-American punk quintet having a little middle-finger fun. Eyeing the proceedings from Berkeley Square's elevated dining area, a beefy, leather-jacketed regular is conversing with a buddy.

"It's gonna be a great show, dude." Beefy nods vigorously in agreement, then adds, "Yeah, but when the boneheads get here, it's gonna get ugly."

He was right. And, of course, when the going gets ugly, the plug gets pulled. Which is what happened at Berkeley Square last Saturday, Dec. 7.

Funny how a few race-obsessed skinheads can ruin an evening of good, clean, violent fun. The bill coulda been a contender as one of Berkeley's finest smash-mouth punk marathons, featuring four bands guaranteed to bring the noise: Goodfellas, Oppressed Logic, Anti-heroes and headliners DI. Instead, what patrons got was the first act and maybe half of a second.

Disgraceful

I arrived just as the Goodfellas opened fire. Something akin to a tea party had convened on the right side of the stage. About six or seven kids clad in the usual punk regalia perched beneath one of the Goodfellas' guitarists, chatting and giggling as if the stage's perimeter were a Telegraph Avenue cafe.

The Berkeley-based Goodfellas aren't bad; but they aren't all that good, either. The self-lacerating din of "I'm a Disgrace" is virtually indistinguishable from any of the other speedball shout-alongs the band bashes out. Still, they are a local band trying to make good, and the noise addicts eventually succumbed, sproinging up and down like Jiffy Pop.

Outside, a block-length queue of punkers inched its way past the ticket taker and security staff. As a matter of course, the show attracted a number of knuckleheads, some of whom happened to be skinheads.

But a distinction must be made between violence-prone bald boys (openly) advocating White Supremacy and S.H.A.R.P. skins (Skin Heads Against Racial Prejudice). To outsiders, it may be difficult to suss the difference (although blackfolk and other coloreds may get a clue pretty quickly); however, if you catch a skin "Zieg Heil-ing," there's a pretty good chance he or she dreams in white.

There are conflicting accounts of what triggered the commotion. Apparently, prior to a confrontation with the white anti-racists inside the club, a gang of White Nationalist punks from Sacramento had provoked the ire of several black youth. A scuffle ensued but was quickly squashed by club security.

(Curiously, one black security person later defended the White Nationalists, maintaining that they were "victimized by a bunch of young black gentlemen.")

Inexplicably, the decision was made to allow the "victims" into the club, at which point, said victims began taunting other patrons, throwing White Power signs and, according to security head David "Zeus" Reed, "using the N-word and verbally abusing anyone who disagreed with their clique."

Meanwhile, a string of police cars lined up outside the punk outpost in response to a call made by the club in connection to the racial fracas that had occurred earlier. Out of the blue, the Berkeley Fire Department arrived for an inspection.

Berkeley Square owner Omar Nashir explained later that when the fire department discovered that the club's "maximum capacity" sign was not properly posted, the party had to come to an end.

IDing DI

Backstage, interviewing DI's vocalist, Casey Royer, I missed all the action. During the course of his 14-year-career as the band's frontman, Royer has witnessed his share of racist skinhead violence.

The former Adolescent felt compelled to assure me that DIs have never been down with the White Power thing. He abhors that contingent of punkdom, "if [it], you know, tries to impose [its] beliefs on someone else. ... [But] everyone should be able to have their own opinions."

You may not find DI listed in Rolling Stone's supposedly all-inclusive encyclopedias, but these sons of the Sex Pistols are a quintessential punk troupe. "What separates us from other [punk] bands is our integrity and longevity," Royer said.

This was the band I'd driven nearly 60 miles to see. At 37, Casey Royer came off like the perennial class clown. He had a quip a minute--some coherent, some not so. "Punk is supposed to be fun," Royer told me. "It's not about hate or violence. It's about having a good time."

Someone ought to tell that to those boneheads from Sacramento.

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