One of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me was to use their airline miles to buy me a plane ticket down to this show. But they did not only buy a ticket for me, they also got one for my bandmate too. Andy, from Turkish Techno, casually did just that, said “Happy belated birthday”, and it was done. We got on a plane, flew out of Oakland and landed in Ontario, CA in an hour and three minutes. Jimmy, one of our favorite people in the world who also happens to be in Horror Squad, pulled up to the curb at the airport, we got into the car, and headed to his house. Will, from Western Settings pulled up shortly after we arrived and we all started drinking. You’ve got to pre-game for anything that has to do with VLHS.
For anyone that hasn’t heard of VLHS, it was a small DIY venue in Pomona, CA that unfortunately had to close its doors a year ago. Anyone who entered that place knew that it was VLHS that touched them. The incredible sense of family that grew within the walls of that venue is unlike anything else I’ve ever known. I grew up with 924 Gilman where I volunteered as a show coordinator and eventually as a booker for about 14 years. The club frequently rotated through a cast of characters who would have short “cameos.” Like a firecracker, a Gilman worker’s typical run is usually intense and short lived; it’s an initial burst of light followed by it quickly fizzling out. It’s easy to get burnt out fast. As someone not within the inner circle working at VLHS, I have no idea if it was like that behind closed doors. But I could always see the hard work put into every event I attended. Gilman has it’s own uniqueness and charm, but VLHS was very special and we all know it.
We arrived at Character’s and were greeted with a swarm of hugs. So…many…hugs Marty, a former worker at VLHS, was running the show and he got the first hugs from everyone at night. Working door is hard. I know because I have done it many times in my hometown. But getting all the arrival hugs is one of the few perks of the stressful job.
The stage was suddenly full of VLHS alumni that I had never seen play together before. It was Best Death, a gothy, indie-pop quartet with a punk edge. I had heard buzz about them from hanging out with the members of this band. I was floored, but also was expected to be. Every single person I have met from this scene is incredibly talented and Best Death is no exception.
I’ve been talking up Horror Squad (Horrow Squad) a lot on Bad Copy since their record release earlier this year. It’s pretty redundant but I just can’t stop telling everyone how good this band is. They’re punk, they’re halloween-y, they’re goofy, they’re melodic, they’re fun. They’re so many things that are great that it’s getting hard for me to write about them so much without sounding like a broken record. Tonight, Horror Squad nailed their songs and their set was real good. While I don’t think it would be fair to call any of the regular bands the “VLHS house band,” Horror Squad might be pretty damn close to that title.
I was so stoked to see Dimber again. They were my new favorite posi-punk band when I saw them at this most recent Awesome Fest in San Diego. Dimber is so catchy and makes you really feel everything they are singing. The band is 100% heart and you can tell through the sincerity they bring to the stage. It was a real treat to get to see them again and I hope they make their way up to the Bay Area soon.
Turkish Techno came in like a freight train and smashed into everyone full speed. By this time most of us at the show were pretty hammered and we all were squished together screaming the band’s lyrics right back in their faces. It was drunken pop punk at its finest and Turkish Techno is a master at their craft. I was positioned off to the side of the stage standing next to Jimmy and Ilya who kept moving Andy’s drinks around on the PA speakers. Whenever Andy would reach for his beer between songs, it wouldn’t be where he last left it and he would paw at nothing for a minute while the two pranksters just laughed.
Everything after Turkish Techno was a blur. Toys That Kill played. I really like that band, but I have very minimal recollection of their set because I crawled off to some corner in Pomona near the train tracks and puked up a bunch of pretzels I had eaten earlier. Did I mention we had forgotten to eat that day? Then I had a very intense and heartfelt conversation with a woman who had been really down on her luck lately and she told me about her life and her struggles. Sometimes people just need you to listen to them, so that’s what I did. I hope I made her feel better. We parted ways and I stumbled back to the bar and caught the last few songs of Heartworms. What I remembered was super solid pop punk with multiple lead vocalists and that I really liked it. I cheated though and listened to their Bandcamp for a second while writing this up, and I guess I was correct. They have some really good melodies, but I remember them being a bit faster live.
Bad Cop / Bad Cop closed out the night and got everyone all riled up. The show down the street had just let out too and a bunch of non-VLHS punks came to see them play. It was officially PACKED. I met Bad Cop/Bad Cop shortly before their career took off and they are still just the same wonderful women I met back then. I am continuously inspired to keep going by their determination and amazing songwriting skills. They have been on tour almost continuously (currently in Europe right now) and so I have not gotten much time to see them lately. It was really awesome to finally give them all hugs and watch them rock out. They put on such a good show.
It is very hard to listen to bands when you are talking to everyone you haven’t seen in awhile at the same time, AND drinking heavily. My attention was split throughout most of the night but it was an amazing good time. As the night was winding down, the blur of green VLHS shirts slowly filed out and the bar emptied. Not only was this night a reunion, it was also a benefit for a key member of the VLHS scene. Cisco, the father of two members in Horror Squad, has been battling cancer. He has made progress and his cancer is on the way into remission. This benefit did great because this community really came together and are still together even after their home base was shut down.
I’ve said it before in prior articles, but VLHS is not really just a building. It’s wherever the people are that helped shape the community. VLHS is an attitude, a mindset, a support network, a community, and a family. VLHS is in your heart. VLHS is forever. VLHS POR VIDA!
Relive the night by enjoying Eden’s amazing photos of all the bands that played below: