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Jun 23, 1984 USA San Diego, CA Adams Avenue Theatre

Headliner : The Cramps

Other act : The Tell-Tale Hearts

Setlist unknown




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I have no idea how many shows I’ve seen and played in my now 30 plus years of involvement in the Indie, Punk, Metal, Noise, Art, Experimental…Rock…let’s just say MUSIC world.  I’m sure I’ve seen thousands and of those thousands many were excellent bills made up of great players and performers giving it their all. I am happy to have had the privilege of sharing these experiences with a huge cast of human beings of every shape, size, look, and disposition imaginable. Having said that, I can tell you it really means something when a memory of one of these shows keeps bobbing up to the surface of my sea of recollections. This show is one of those shows.It doesn’t hurt this memory’s buoyancy one bit that I happened to have a teenage heart beating in my chest at the time I encountered this night of music. My own wide-eyed, hormonally turbulent state was only one factor that made this one stick out though. Just as important was the dumb luck of being in the right place at the right time. I mean just look at the line-up! It’s enough to make any self-respecting music freak start tinkering in the garage on a time machine.  Keep in mind this diverse line-up wasn’t happening on the Monster Energy Drink Stage at some alternative rock festival. This was a Punk Show on a Friday night inside the dingy Adams Ave.Theater in the old Normal Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Back before the place was the fabric store it is today it was the main Punk venue in town and held maybe three or four hundred people. On the night of this show the place was at capacity. The opening band The Tell-Tale Hearts were one of the best, and probably the most popular band in San Diego’s big, very vital Garage/Psych/Mod scene. That scene operated like a parallel underground universe to the Punk/Hardcore scene I was enmeshed in. These two worlds very rarely crossed over, come to think of it, I can’t recall one other show where they did.The middle act this night The Red Hot Chili Peppers had only been together for about a year before this show but they came down from L.A. with a reputation that already preceded them. They’re such mega-pop cultural fixtures today it’s probably hard for anyone younger than I am to imagine them as a brand new band on the scene but that’s exactly what they were and I gotta tell ya, not to get too poetic, they kicked serious ass. The idea of blending Punk Rock energy with a surrealistic, fun, funky bottom end was not a new one. The Big Boys from Austin, TX. had been doing just that for years and Gang of Four had preceded them by a few years more doing thier own funky, punky thing albeit with a colder, arty, political tinge to it. I loved both those bands, especially The Big Boys, who were one of the best live bands going at the time. The Chili Peppers took that flag and raised it that much higher and waved it that much harder. Seeing Flea cut loose for the first time was madness. There were a few virtuoso punk musicians, Bad Brains come to mind, but it was and still is rare to see someone come so complete with crazy athleticism, enthusiasm, and world class skills. Flea was the complete package and the rest of the band was good enough to share the stage with him which is saying something. I remember talking to Flea before the show, he had a tattoo (ONE tattoo) on his shoulder that was a perfect portrait of Jimi Hendrix and I asked him who did it, he looked at me with a shitty expression and said “Bob Roberts” then he walked away. “…typical L.A. rockstar douche-bag bullsh-t…”  I thought to myself. I didn’t know how right I was about the rockstar part. As for the douche-bag part, his performance that night pretty much made up for the crappy ‘tude he’d flung my way. The Cramps were the headliners. I’d seen them before and I saw them several times after this show and every time I did they were nothing less than brilliant. Their performance this night however is the one that moved me most profoundly and it is the one that defines them in my mind as one of the best live groups I’ve ever witnessed. Thanks to jason traeger ().