Richmond's Aural History: The 1980s 

Doug Dobey
Graphic Designer

"[The punk scene] was a real closed society, sort of like the beats or hippies — it was a rite of passage. It was not so much important that it was punk, but it was where the folks who acted differently came together. Back then, if you had an earring or leather boots, you were targeted as a freak. So we looked out for each other, hung together, felt like outsiders, or outcasts. … Benny's on Main Street was kind of the center of the earliest scene I was involved in — it's been called Richmond's CBGB's where a lot of the first punk bands started."

Dale Brumfield
Writer

"The Iggy Pop Halloween concert of 1981 could probably be called a true VCU riot. Playing the Mosque [now Altria Theater] basement, Pop abruptly stopped playing at 1 a.m. after only 40 minutes on stage. When Richmond city police mobilized to close down the Mosque, the crowd — fueled by almost 40 kegs of beer, long delays and a bathroom shortage — reacted predictability. As they hurled projectiles and rushed the stage in protest, one policeman panicked, pulled his billy club and threw it into the crowd, striking one fan on the right temple and sending him to the hospital unconscious. The cop then pulled his gun and pointed it into the crowd before he was subdued by fellow policemen.

"The crowd roared in protest, but concert committee members and more reasonable policemen talked the crowd into dispersing, and the event ended business-as-usual, with Iggy later knocking back beers with fans in Benny's bar on Main Street."

Kuzzen Wyldweed
Musician and Promoter

"ModSubs and Degenerate Blindboys Halloween show at Newgate Prison. Someone put a pumpkin full of rancid fish guts on stage knowing Blindboy's singer Dickie Disgusting wouldn't be able to resist kicking it into the crowd, which he did, covering everything and everyone in putrid, scaly slime. It was one of the funniest, most horrific, surreal, violent, insane, terror-inducing spectacles I've ever witnessed, like a punk rock "Carrie" directed by David Lynch."

Doug Dobey
Graphic Designer

"My favorite local band later in the '80s was Honor Role, who just blew everyone away. Their legacy was amazing and their influence. A lot of the Richmond angular sound comes right from Pen and Honor Role — "math rock" is a term bandied about jokingly and it stuck. One time Pen and I were watching the Orthotonix play, their drummer Pippen [Barnett] was doing looped patterns, Pen and I were counting time signatures. I made some comment about math rock. That's where that all started. Pen was trying to school me about how Pippen played."

Ray Bonis
Archives Coordinator, Special Collections and Archives at VCU

"You'd go to Shafer Court every Friday night, it was free. One of the best ones, the Bopcats were playing, they had a motorcycle up onstage, started running it during "Born to Be Wild." The Good Guys played there and sang a song, "Stop James Watt If You Wanna Keep the Trees You Got." Everyone got into that song. You'd get like two or three hundred people — the Red Hot Chili Peppers played in late '89. … Schafer Court was over by 7 or 8 o'clock and you'd go to parties. The drinking age changed in '85, that really changed the music scene. Crowds got smaller at the clubs."

Chuck Wrenn
Artist

"Single Bullet Theory was a fairly big Richmond band, they had a song that got to No. 79 on the national Billboard chart. They toured with the Pretenders for a while, I think."

Doc Gillespie
Plan 9 Employee, DJ

"I saw [actor] Harry Dean Stanton shooting up before a show with the Call. I met the Blue Oyster Cult and they were all 4-feet tall."

Randy Blythe
Lead Singer, Lamb of God

"I remember seeing Gwar for the first time. I had no idea who they were. I was at 7-Eleven on Grace Street one night and I saw all these people covered in blood. I asked them what had happened to them and they said that they had gone to see Gwar. I said, "What the fuck is a Gwar?" The next show they played was at the Metro. I took three hits of acid and I'm sitting there looking at all this strange, fucked-up shit happening onstage when this really old lady [musician Dika Newlin] in skintight hot pants and a leather jacket walks in. I'm peaking on acid and I'm like, my god, there's a 140-year-old punk rocker here. Even with all the fire, blood and madness going on, she was the one thing that stuck out the most."

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