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Girl Trouble Christmas Show tonight

Ah, the memories ...

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Tonight, Tacoma’s legendary Girl Trouble will celebrate Christmas a little early in the City of Destiny, with a show at The New Frontier Lounge – joined on the bill by the always swanky and cool Lushy, not to mention The Dignitaries (a band I secretly love more than creamy peanut butter).

In honor of Girl Trouble’s Christmas extravaganza (if I may be as bold as to call it that), I tracked down Girl Trouble drummer, and the always approachable, Bon Von Wheelie – in hopes of mining Von Wheelie’s top three Tacoma music memories from her noggin.

I told her the memories didn’t necessarily need to be Girl Trouble related, and she could take this task whatever direction she chose.

Below is what I got. Enjoy, and talk amongst yourself afterward. Can you add to Von Wheelie’s memories? Have any good Tacoma music memories of your own to share? This is the place.

Von Wheelie’s Music Memories:


Sly-family-stone-1969-promo This is a really old one, but a pretty good one.  Tacoma used to have some big rock and R & B shows at the UPS Fieldhouse in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  They never had the biggest acts, but they did have lots of national acts.  I saw Canned Heat, the Buddy Miles Express (one the best shows I ever saw...ever), Cold Blood, BB King - and acts like that.  In 1971 Sly and the Family Stone played the Fieldhouse.  This was a big deal because, at the time, they were bigger than most of the normal bands that played the Fieldhouse and the band had a reputation for not showing up.  You’d hear about it all the time in the papers.  Everybody would have been waiting for the show only to find out they weren’t going to be there.  There were two performances booked at UPS, which was also unusual for the Fieldhouse.  I decided to go to the early show. 

When I got there the place was packed.  Those were the days of festival seating, so basically the whole floor was opened up and you could just mill around, get a good spot, sit up in the bleachers, hang with your friends - go where you wanted.  Both shows were sold out so there must have been about 5,000 people in there.  I think there was an opening band and then Albert Brooks was going to do his comedy act.  This was in the days when people thought it would be a good idea for a comedian to open for big rock acts.  I knew who Brooks was and liked him, but it seemed like no one else did.  In the meantime rumors were circulating through the crowd that Sly was going to pull one of his disappearing acts.  That didn’t set well with anybody. 

Albert Brooks came out and tried to do his routine.  I thought he was funny, but it’s tough for one guy to shout down a few thousand angry hippies.  So his routine seemed to go way too long - some people were throwing stuff at the stage and that rumor about Sly was growing.  Then Albert Brooks got extremely frustrated and said something like, “You might as well listen to me because Sly isn’t even back there.” 

That’s when the shit hit the fan.  People were throwing stuff and booing.  Somebody, probably one of the UPS students, came out and told everybody Sly would be here, he was just delayed.  So we waited and waited and waited.  I think it was about two hours.  The crowd was not very happy. 

Upsfieldhousetacoma In the meantime, the sold out crowd for the second performance showed up.  They also started hearing the rumors.  So there were about 5,000 pissed off young people inside and what was shaping up to be 5,000 pissed off young people outside.  As youthful crowds do, the outside crowd started taking matters into its own hands.  They tried to beat down the doors.  The Tacoma Police Dept showed up and I remember poking my head in the lobby (which they’d closed off) to see those massive doors moving inward and the UPS security team trying to hold them back. 

Then Sly showed up.  It was worth every minute of waiting.  They were a well-rehearsed R & B machine.  You’ve seen that footage of them in the Woodstock movie, right?  That’s how they were.  I think Sly might have made a couple off-handed comments about being late, but at that point we didn’t care.  Everybody was just glad that they played.  The crowd was totally into it and it was a great show.

So the next order of business was to get the first show’s crowd cleared out so the next show’s crowd could enter the building.  That wasn’t working too well because most of us thought if we just hung around long enough we could see them again.  When I saw Tacoma police going up into the stands to pluck lovebird hippies out from the top row of bleachers, I figured it was a lost cause.  So I went around in front to see if some of my other friends had showed up.  There was a huge crowd of really testy people out there.  Apparently they’d arrested the violent door bashers, but still, the tension was pretty thick.  Then somebody yelled, “He’s got a gun” and we all looked up into the corner windows to see a young kid pointing a gun downstairs.  Luckily the police had the situation in hand and must have wrestled him to the ground.  As I stood there a really amazing looking tall guy with a giant afro asked me if I wanted to buy a ticket for the second show.  By that time a lot of people had given up and gone home.  He said “5 bucks” which was more than the original price.  I told him I only had two so he begrudgingly gave me the ticket for 2 dollars. 

The second show was even better.  Albert Brooks did not open.


Fartz_1 I consider the first real punk show in Tacoma to be the Fartz show at the Oddfellows in 1982.  We hadn’t even formed Girl Trouble when Kurt, Bill, Dale and I went to this show put on by our pals Jim May (who went on to run the Community World Theater) and John Grant.  Nobody had ever done a punk show like this in Tacoma.  Being into punk music was a challenge since about 95 percent of the population of Tacoma wanted to kill you, or at least beat the crap out of you.  Being different was definitely risky.  The first punk rockers in Tacoma had to be tough or crazy or both.

So Jim and John rented out the basement area of the Odd Fellows Hall (now the meeting area of the Grand Cinema) for a big show with the Fartz, The Silly Killers, UpChuck and some other punk/hardcore bands. 

Everybody in town showed up.  About 10 of us started out the evening by going to our friend Rose’s house and having a few underaged (for all the punks) drinks in her mom’s backyard.  We all walked to the show and it was quite the scene, with anybody in a car yelling obscenities at us.  When we got there the show was already in full progress.  Our soon-to-be singer, Mr. KP Kendall, had a little too much to drink and jumped up and sang with UpChuck.  He used to do that a lot back then.  He spent the rest of the night puking in the alley and I vividly remember Rose and some girlfriend hauling him back up the street to go home. 

Rocker guys showed up and made the scene, but that was mostly to harass the punks (the rockers and the punks were mortal enemies back then).  This didn’t work out because - for once – the rockers were outnumbered.  So they left, but not before Kahuna and one of them got in a brief punch out. 

Things finally settled down, and from what I could tell the show was going great.  Great that is, until the Tacoma Police Department showed up in full-on riot gear.  There were about 10 or 12 of them with the whole bit, face and body shields, walking two by two down the staircase and into the show.  It certainly made an impression.

The cops had showed up at the point where it was just a normal rock show.  I don’t think they understood slam dancing. Nobody had seen that in Tacoma.  The police were treating the whole thing like it was a huge riot, not just teenagers dancing and blowing off steam.  I can understand it.  They’d never seen anything like this before (unless they watched that stupid expose on English punk rock from one of those national news shows). 

At that point we figured they were going to round up the bunch of us and haul us all off to jail.  We cautiously started up the steps to leave.  That seemed to be fine with them, so we got the hell out of there.  We heard later that they just wanted the show to stop and everybody to go home. 

Nobody got arrested.  I’m not sure if the Fartz ever got to play. 


Granny07 So - this is one we actually played and it didn’t involve the Tacoma Police Department.  Bob Hill at the Swiss had asked us to play the Swiss a few times.  We were apprehensive because we didn’t think we could pull it off.  At that time, normally the Swiss only had one band play for an entire night.  I think a lot of the bands then would have songs that were longer jams, where the musicians could improvise big solos.  A seven or ten minute jam takes up more time. We didn’t think we could pull something like that off.  But Bob said, “You guys have four hours worth of material after being together this long, don’t you?”

And he was right, although they were in 2-3 minute chunks. 

So we decided we’d give it a try and put together a set that we thought would last through four hours... which turned into 63 songs.  Girl Trouble isn not good at long jams.  We put together four sets and practiced just about all the songs we knew.

Granny Go-Go (the Tacoma dance legend) had danced with us for a few years.  She was a real character, our good friend, and Kurt ended up helping her out and taking care of her in the last of her years.  She was 85 with a lot of medical problems.  We all knew her go-go dancing days were numbered.  This would have been a good show for her but we didn’t advertise it.  You can’t always depend on an 85-year-old go-go girl.  By the day of the show, Granny had miraculously gotten better and told us it was showtime.  We made her a big “tip jar” so she could work the crowd like the pro she was. 

Everybody we knew showed up and it was a great night.  We actually did play about 60 of our 63 intended songs, but Granny was definitely the star of the show.  We were sort of pooping out by the end, but Granny was a dancing machine that night.  She had more energy than we did!  She wore her favorite gold lame sparkle dance costume with the black fringe, had her hair done and seemed in great shape.  Everybody made a huge fuss over her, got photos taken with her and passed around her tip jar to get more donations.  It was special. 

She passed away later that year, but we were so thankful that we got one last dance with Granny Go-Go.   

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