Epicenter Closes

Punk lives elsewhere

That’s right. It wasn’t a rumor. Epicenter Zone is going under at the end of June. Hats off to all the volunteers who kept it sailin’ for nine years. Thanks to Tim Yohannan and Maximum Rock n’ Roll (MRR) radio show and magazine staff for starting the much needed space which served the community of punx, activists, artists, pirates, bikers, losers, vagrants, and outcasts.

Epicenter Zone was more than just an all-volunteer collective record store. It was the closest we had to an infoshop in this windy city by the bay. It also housed many projects, such as a community switchboard, a Food Not Bombs meeting place, Prisoner Literature Project meeting and library space, a punk zine library, artist studios and displays, musical performances, zine fests, a free box, community bulletin boards, Black-list punk record distribution mail order (which also folded a few years ago) and a general gathering space.

I last saw co-founder Tim YoMama at Epicenter Zone, with his usual smile and greetings, before his death by cancer over a year ago. He and the MRR staff put money down to help the space get started, after also helping start the Gilman Street Project in 1987 ” a much needed all ages venue in Berkeley (which is also threatened and needs our support).

Why the Ship Sank

Basically, we were in a big hole and couldn’t pay rent anymore. Why we got to that point has many reasons, but one thing is certain it is a great loss to the community (or what is left of the community since rents are now so high in central locations close to subway and bus lines).

Although I’d been involved with the Prisoner Literature Project for a while, I only got involved with the record store the past year. As with many collectives, there were a few people doing most of the work. There was a new wave of volunteers, but we weren’t being trained too well and tasks were not being distributed. A lot of the people who had run the store burnt out and left without spreading that knowledge. The few who had it running, were too busy, really, to train others.

New volunteers seemed too overwhelmed, apathetic, or nervous to always seek out answers. If you wanted to know how to do something you had to ask around. We weren’t being spoon-fed, and that was good, but there was definitely a lack of communication even though we were trying to have regular monthly meetings. Most volunteers knew we were in trouble, for example, but not how deep. The few dedicated volunteers who knew the seriousness of the situation decided to fold so they could go out with some respect and try to pay people back, because that’s how Epicenter started ” with dignity.

A lot of people had been expressing the need to reach out beyond the punk ghetto. Many feel that punk ideology has become stagnant and narrow-minded, contradicting what it originally stood for, and bringing only a limited sector of society into the store (those with the right patches and tattoos). That, coupled with competition in the record business and higher bills, were also reasons for folding.

So go out there before it goes under and buy some cheap records and CDs at 475 Valencia (at 16th), 2nd floor. Hours are 3-8 p.m. weekdays and noon-8 p.m. on weekends.

Mission Records, on Mission between 19th and 20th, is still around for shows and benefits. Cell-Space is also a huge community-oriented center, with many projx going on, and is worth checking out. (On Bryant St., between 18th and 19th.)

For years we have been talking amongst friends about the need for a new infoshop/venue/ community space. So one good thing coming out of Epicenter’s closing is that we’re forced to look.

Running a collective smoothly can be very difficult. My suggestion is to work in a small tight-knit cohesive group of friends and remember, as always, that communication is the key. It would be wise to start by talking about the meaning of a collective, how it should be run, and arrive at a common vision.

Nothing is perfect, but it is worth striving for. From my experience with collectives, it is difficult to work or live with everyone or just whoever. Some Epicenter members have started a temporary office drop-in info-center garage nearby, at the former Starcleaners on Sycamore alley (between 18th and 19th), until a new space is found.

Stay tuned. For more info, you can contact Janice Flux at PO Box 16651 S.F., CA 94116-0651, magdalene@jesusshaves.com, or call Todd at 415-776-4654. Let’s hope the new space learns from past experiences.

Another good idea is to follow the example of our European comrades by occupying an abandoned building and turning it into a social center/infoshop. SQUAT DA CASTLE!