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I float in the gathering place of coke-ends. My toes are numb, my shirt is soaked in the sweat of another human, the music pulses in my gut, and I’m being shoved into the edge of the small stage by someone twice my size. It’s absolutely euphoric.
As I walk up to the building in the fading sunlight, I see small gatherings of brightly colored, dirty punks, smoking ambiguous substances. They either look content, exhausted, or like their trying too hard. It’s a small building, ramshackle and genuine. I walk through the small doorway, pay my fee, and I’m cast into the pungent cloud of small town noise and adolescent unity.
924 Gilman is an establishment for people who love mood lighting, liberal punk music blasting over a homey sound system, and bumping elbows with the youth of the Bay Area. It’s where all the hippie kids meet to partake in a very loving, yet no less violent mosh pit. Usually condensed in the small pocket of activity right in front of the stage.
Graffiti, phone numbers, murals, social stances, and a sign that clearly states, ‘NO STAGEDIVING’ line the walls. The inside of the building gives the appearance of a colorful bathroom stall, with a lot more history. The music is like you would expect. A grab bag of Ska, Riot Grrrl, Metal, all covered by the umbrella term, ’punk’. It’s usually local. It’s occasionally screechy. And it’s primarily dominated by teenagers.
The Gilman rule states, “If you are signed onto a record label, you can NOT play here.” This rule prompts small bands of teens to give rock and roll a shot. The results are mixed. Sometimes, a group of inspired kids who have prior experience with an instrument, will give an awesome set. Sometimes, an angsty teenager with a thumb ring and a real problem with authority, will screech into that mic, and send me cowering to the bathroom.
If you’re considering checking it out, consider this: At 924 Gilman, the music is unpredictable, it stinks, and it has a soul and a history rooted in humanity, community and punk.