Friday, September 21, 2007

Gorilla Gardens

"We played the very first show at Gorilla Gardens, where Soundgarden played their second show ever. That was like the place where all the out of town bands would play all-ages shows. A total rip-off joint." -Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden/March of Crimes)

"At the time, the local tavern rock scene was dominated by granola R&B with an occasional serving of loopy new wave. Metal ruled the burbs to the east of Lake Washington. Most of the early bands who would later be associated with the embryonic 'Seattle sound' were still playing at Gorilla Gardens, an unsavory all-ages club." -Sub Pop's Jonathan Poneman (Spin, 9/92)

I was a bit young to catch most of the shows at Gorilla Gardens, but I caught a few in 1985 while in highschool. Oddly enough the first time I checked out this legendary punk club was to see The Green Pajamas, a more psychedelic rock band two of my highschool friends were doing a class project on. Located at the edge of Seattle's International District (still called Chinatown back then) off of 5th Avenue and Jackson, this all-ages club featured two different stages/rooms for bands to play in - Gorrilla Gardens and The Omni Room. The club was managed by Doug Mays, who also managed the band X-15 (who later became Life in General). The shows I went to were all local bands and one cover got you into both rooms. At times you could walk back and forth between the two and bands would be playing in each. Bands like Bam Bam, Green River and The Fartz seemed to play Gorilla Gardens a lot, but the venue also pulled in good-sized touring bands like The Ramones, Circle Jerks, Guns'n'Roses, Sonic Youth, Violent Femmes, Hüsker Dü and Butthole Surfers.

Eventually the club shut down and relocated for a short time to the Fremont neighborhood (I think in late 1985). While Gorilla Gardens flew under the radar as an underground club for most of it's existence, it was thrust into the spotlight in January of 1986 when the Circle Jerks played. A couple songs into the headliner's set the Fire Marshall busted into the venue and shut down the show. Needless to say, the crowd wasn't so happy, bottles started flying and cops stormed in and started beating people with clubs. As people ran outside the club chaos ensued--cops chased punks, punks through snowballs at cops (it was during a snowstorm), more kids were beat, dumpsters were lit on fire, a car or two were tipped over. I remember watching it on the TV news with my folks at home thinking, "Damn, I should be there!" and my parents being outraged that it was a club I'd gone to and all the kids run amok.

UPDATE: The address of the second location for Gorilla Gardens was uncovered by a blog reader recently on an old Accused flyer. It turns out it wasn't in Fremont after all, but across the Fremont bridge in the Queen Anne neighborhood at
307 Nickerson:

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This is a partial list of shows at Gorilla Gardens:
(I'd love help filling it out if people have old flyers)

02/31/84- Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows
01/11/85- The Wipers, Girl Trouble
01/19/85- Sonic Youth, U-Men, Green River
01/25/85- Violent Femmes
02/23/85- Hüsker Dü, Rancid Vat, Limp Richards, Thrown-Ups
02/24/85- Hüsker Dü, Melvins, Soundgarden
??/??/85- The Faction, Manifest Destiny, Insolents
06/08/85- Fastbacks, Guns N' Roses, 5150
06/28/85- Adrenaline O.D., The Accused, False Liberty, Inverted Morals
08/16/85- Sonic Youth, Green River, Upright Citizens
12/31/85- Green River, Shadow
06/06/86- GBH, Frightwig
??/??/86- DRI, 7 Seconds, NPO


Anonymous said...

I don't have dates but in the fuzziness of my memory here are some of the bands I remember seeing there that aren't on your list.
Poison Idea
Final Warning
Ten Minute Warning
Burning Spear
Soul Asylum

Anonymous said...

saw doa poison idea and final warning there for sure, pretty sure i saw the descendents there as well.

haizman_brain said...

Soul Asylum played w/ Husker Du and the Detonators if I recall....

Toxic Reasons, Battalion of Saints, and many others played there.

Local openers were the likes of Sedition, Inverted Morals, and Noxious Fumes.

I had to hitch hike all the way from Gig Harbor (didn't have a car) to see some of those shows - even on some school nights - what dedication!

I liked when the Faction played and someone tried to steal their gear, then the angry crowd caught the bastards. The show went on...

Dan 10Things said...

Sweet, thanks for all the additional band info folks. I'm gonna try to track down more of the show dates to have a better timeline.

Anonymous said...

So cool to see mention of Gorilla Gardens on your blog. That was a great time and thanks to haizman_brain for mention of Sedition--I sung for the band for a couple of years until I was kicked out for "artistic differences"...right before the Circle Jerks show....we also opened for the Descendants, Morally Bankrupt, the Edge, the Faction, etc (totally crazy when someone stole Caballero's bass--he even had a broken arm at the show!). Tony Chu used to call us up at the last minute to fill in as well---such an wild ride. The great thing about the gardens was that you could see a punk band on one stage, and then go to the other to see a reggae band in the next. A rare time for all ages. Some of the other show there were:

RKL "rich kids on lsd" (one of the best shows ever)
Dr. Know

Butt Pirates and Skank Puppies--two other great local bands. Inverted Morals were cool too.

It's too bad the kids today don't have the same venue that we did.

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school, we saw Snakefinger and Frightwig play Gorilla Gardens, maybe in 1984 or 1985. One of the guys with us wore white tennis shorts and a Bellevue Baseball jacket. I thought we were going to get beat up. But everyone was cool. The bass player of Frightwig's picking hand was all cut up and had blood all over the pickguard. I remember them kind of sucking, but Snakefinger ruled.

Speaking of X15 -- I traded some e-mail with Doug Mays a couple years back and he sent me a copy of an X15 release that he was trying to put out. It was cool, brought back good memories. My band in high school covered "Vaporized". Never saw X15 live, but did get to see Life in General at Bumbershoot. I still have my original "Life in General" record (one of the first/only? 1000 pressed).

Just found your blog this week, now it's been taking up all of my free time. Thanks!

--Patrick from Urban Cheese Records (

Anonymous said...

I shot a ton of shows at Gorilla Gardens back in the day. Even attended some at the Gorilla Room.

Anyway, I started posting photos of some of these gigs on my site

Lots of Fartz,Refuzors,Silly Killers, Napalm Beach and the like.

Dan 10Things said...

Yeah, you've shot some great punk photos! I checked out your website before. It's insanely slow and hard to navigate though, I always give up after looking at just a few. I'd highly advise trying to streamline it and make it more user-friendly.

Anonymous said...

Love your site Dan, but with 2000 images up and probably 3000 more coming it's only gonna get slower i'm afraid.

I just got cable and it'd fast as shit by the way.

Susan M said...

I never made it to the Gorilla Gardens, just a little bit too young. But I used to have a flyer for a Violent Femmes show there. And my oldest brother told me he saw Dead Kennedys there.

haizman_brain said...

I don't recall DK's playing there. He was probably thinking the Moore Theater. They played there with the Crucifucks circa '85 or so.

Dan 10Things said...

I know the DKs played at the old Showbox when it was pretty divey and not redone with a bar too. There's a great photo from that show they used to use as their press photo.

deweydecimal said...

Cool post. I was one of those who got arrested at the Circle Jerks riot. They played like half a song and the cops and firemen busted in and started whacking people. People were pissed because the show was overpriced and G.G. wouldn't refund a penny even though it was shut down because it didn't have the right permit. All the punks were lined up on one side of the street throwing snow balls and the cop cars were lined up on the other side of the street in front of the club. There was a pickup truck that had a bunch of bricks weighting it down for driving in the snow, and plenty 'o bricks were thrown at the cop cars. Kids were going nuts, siphoning gas and starting fires in dumpsters. I remember the cop smashing my face into the snow and asking for my name and age, to which I replied, "I'm dewey f#ck1ng decimal and I'm 99 years old." Straight to the paddy wagon then to the station where we were totally harrassed and put in the pink padded cell. There was some killer video of the riot on the news, my friend Dick Cheese running across the street and nailing cops with snowballs. There was a big concert organized for the four or five of us who got arrested to help pay our legal fees (my memory is fuzzy and I can't remember if the show actually happened--we eventually all got off with a light slap on the wrist).

Other great shows at the original G.G. over the years: Part Time Christians (OK, that one wasn't that great), 7 Seconds, Accused. That Poison Idea/Final Warning show someone else mentioned was killer (did GBH headline that one?), and so were the Sonic youth, Batallion of Saints and Dr. Know shows.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have the address for the former location for the Fremont Gorilla Gardens?