Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets) and D. Boon (Minutemen) [photo: Ann Summa]
Wait, the Meat Puppets and the Minutemen played on a boat?! Yep, it happened. The outing was part of a series of events staged by the Desolation Center, a Los Angeles collective guided by a pioneering punk promoter, whose creative concepts resulted in some of the most memorable punk rock shows of the 1980s. There’s a fantastic new documentary about this subject in the can, though it’s not ready to set sail just yet.
The Desolation Center concerts were organized by Stuart Swezey. He started out booking punk bands into the usual venues, but once the intimidating presence of the LAPD became commonplace at punk shows, Stuart began to think of non-traditional sites. This led him to come up with the idea of putting on a concert in the Mojave Desert.
‘Mojave Exodus’ [photo: Mariska Leyssius]
The first of these happenings, dubbed the “Mojave Exodus,” was held on April 24, 1983. Minutemen and post-punks Savage Republic performed, and the ticket holders—who were clueless as to the location of the gig beforehand—were bussed in. Though there were unforeseen circumstances, like sand blowing into band members’ faces as they played, it was an extraordinary affair for all concerned. Stuart had pulled off what had previously been unthinkable: a punk rock show in the desert.
Minutemen (photo: Bob Durkee]
For “Mojave Auszug,” which took place on March 4, 1984, Stuart booked the German industrial band, Einstürzende Neubauten, Savage Republic-related group, “Djemaa el Fna, and performance art outfit, Survival Research Laboratories—who blew shit up.
Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten) [photo: Fredrik Nilsen]
A few years back, we told you about the final Mojave Desert concert, “Gila Monster Jamboree.” Held on January 5, 1985, it featured Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, and lots of free LSD. Psi Com, the opening act, was fronted by a young Perry Farrell. It’s no coincidence that Farrell later conceived the traveling outdoor festival, Lollapalooza, as he was very much inspired by his desert experience. Other events like Coachella and Burning Man also owe a debt to these Desolation Center concerts.
‘Gila Monster Jamboree’ (Spy the Blue Öyster Cult logo?) [photo: Bob Durkee]
After two events in the desert, Stuart started brainstorming other ways the Desolation Center could present shows. He thought, ‘What’s the opposite of desert? Water.’
Stuart had gone to a number of backyard parties in San Pedro, a neighborhood of L.A, and the hometown of the Minutemen. The Port of Los Angeles is partially located in San Pedro, and on his evening drive home from these parties, Stuart would pass the illuminated harbor, the giant cranes positioned there lit up in the night sky. It looked incredible. This is where the next Desolation Center event would be.
Stuart invited the Minutemen to play on a boat as it went around the harbor. The band, who rarely had proper gigs in their hometown, jumped at the chance, and told Stuart they could get the Meat Puppets to do the gig, too.
Continues after the jump…