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It's been a little over a year since Lance died. I still miss him whenever I hear his music. I just wanted to take a moment to remember here.

I just realized that the zine I helped put together for his memorial never got put up online. I'll have to follow up on that.

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[livejournal.com profile] wolfknuckles found this and posted in our little make-fun-of-sectarians LJ group. I believe it deserves a bigger audience.

I'm glad someone finally made a video for this song. And who better than the Maoist International Movement to visually interpret it?

Not that everything revolves around Lance Hahn, but he once told me how much he wanted to cover "Rebel Girl" in J Church but that he couldn't figure out how to do it without it being misinterpreted. He didn't want people to think he was making fun of a song he really loved.
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1. It was so busy right before Thanksgiving, such a blur of customers... At one point, [livejournal.com profile] dairryiere and I were discussing something at the cheese sink and someone walked by who gave us the shy nod of punk acknowledgement. We returned it and went back to our discussion. About five minutes later Dairryiere was all, "Hey, that was Aaron (Cometbus)!" I said, "Oh shit, you're right!" We've both known him for years and didn't know he was in town. We were just too dazed from customer service for the information to go to the thinking parts of our brains in time to actually say hello properly.

If you're reading this Aaron, sorry for the brush-off.

2. Martin from Giant Robot liked the Lance Memorial zine.

3. My drinking tolerance is very low these days. I guess I haven't been drinking enough. Cheese broker-paid drinks and a little dinner last night at Thirsty Bear = tipsy Gordon.

4. Number of suggestive "Wookey Hole" references made at the cheese broker holiday party: 6.

5. Picture of my Wookey Hole:
Untitled 69

6. I am so excited about some of the cheese coming in on Tuesday that I'm a little giddy. Let's hope it shows this time.

7. "The Devil Knows Your Dead" is a grim movie.

8. Looking forward to The Shondes on Tuesday at Annie's Social Club. Who's with me?

9. Also looking forward to fun holiday parties, out-of town guests, and the return of displaced Bay Areans

10. Also looking forward to February vacation plans. Yurts!
gordonzola: (Default)
Kimberley Chun at the Guardian wrtote a really sweet Lance Hahn obituary in this week's issue.

It looks like I'll have about 15 extra copies of the Memorial zine so please don't be shy if you want one. Besides the people who've already asked, and those who contributed, I'll send out a copy to the next 15 folks who request one. You didn't have to have known him. I'd rather send these out than have them sitting in my room.

You can e-mail me direct if you want. Include your mailing address.
gordon at gordonzola dot net
gordonzola: (Default)
So, obviously I haven't been on LJ much for a couple weeks. I agreed to do the zine for Lance Hahn's memorial. That, combined with my thanksgiving cheese buying responsibilities, left me really no time for anything else.

The zine included about 20 submissions of art or writing, childhood pictures sent by his sister, some writing of Lance's that his partner found while cleaning up his desk, a couple of things from the surviving Epicenter logbooks, and a million pictures and J Church/Cringer graphics scanned from our personal collections.

I mentioned this in the intro I wrote, but it was really hard to put this together. I thought it would be easier for me because, while we were friends, I was not as close to him as some other people were. After spending this week receiving nothing but Lance memorial news, submissions and stories in my e-mail box, I'm glad that I could help spare Lance's closest friends this task.

It was overwhelming. I wasn't able to get Lance's voice out of my head but I also couldn't stop listening to his music. Obviously I also had to keep reading the submissions and e-mail questions. I started and ended many of these days crying. The outpouring of love for Lance is remarkable and speaks to what a special person he was.

Two old Epicenter friends came over on Friday and we spent 8PM – 3 AM eating food, drinking beer and putting the 40 page zine together. We did it old school, cut and paste, gluestick, 8.5 x 14-folded in half-style. I spent most of the next day printing 250 copies.

The memorial was last night and really a special, if often too-crowded, event. Lance's sister brought home movies. There were videos of J Church. The room was covered with pictures, graphics, album covers, and flyers. I don't know how many people were there over the course of the night but it was a lot, especially when you consider that Lance hadn't lived here for 7 years. It was part memorial, part Epicenter reunion, and part punk show (without bands). Punks aren't great about showing their emotions, but people did their best. Old grudges were even overlooked for the night, maybe even forever, who knows?

It was really good to see a lot of the people there. It made me miss Lance, miss a lot of those people and even miss the old days a little even if I don't want to go back. The '90s Mission punk scene was a special time even if it sucked a lot too. I think many of us were mourning that loss and the loss of our own youth as well as mourning Lance.

I may have extra copies of the zine after I mail out the ones that were requested by out of town submitters. Let me know if you are interested.

*My original Lance Hahn obit is here in case you missed it the first time.
gordonzola: (Default)
For friends of Lance:

A memorial for Lance will be held on 11/11 at the Hemlock Tavern, starting at 4 PM. There will be an open mic to share Lance stories as well as J Church/Cringer music and videos. There will be no bands. It's also a potluck so bring some food to share.

I'm putting together a memorial zine for the event so if you knew Lance and want to share a memory, a story or a picture, please contact me or leave a comment below.
gordonzola: (Default)
I don't want to be maudlin or go for an easy emotional cliché. But my 40th birthday party will always be linked to Lance's death. I don't think that's awful (though Lance's death is certainly awful)… life and death intertwined… a milestone birthday and confrontation with mortality… It's so fucking poetic that it would seem contrived if you tried to use it for a short story or something.

Lance died at 40 and I was celebrating my 40th. Most of the people there were in a good party mood, part of the party was somber. Some folks had fun despite themselves and then felt guilty. Mourning is a tricky thing filled with the potential for self-hate.

As I mentioned, I got the news as I was shutting down the computer as I left my house for the party. In the car ride over, I got a call and a text. I freaked out a little asking how I should deal. Should I bring it up? What if I knew they didn't know? Should I turn my party into a memorial?

I got good advice from my people. Try to have a fun party. Don't bring it up but talk to people if they do. Let party guests tell each other and do what they need to do. We have the rest of our lives to mourn.

Many of the people there who knew Lance hung out with each other, but they probably would have done that anyway. I couldn't tell if they were mourning or just having a mini Epicenter reunion. Occasionally someone would come up to me and I could see they were teary and red-eyed. We'd acknowledge the obvious, and try to smile. We'd show some muted and socially awkward signs that we were glad the other person was alive and in our lives. Then we'd move on.

I felt bad the next day when I found out a few people, that I assumed knew, didn't. I have many different social scenes in my life and they have different styles of mourning.. Some would have been loud and aggressive, trying to make the world stop with their outward pain. The old Epicenter crowd is quieter, more stoic, less likely to call attention to themselves. I'm sure many people at the party had no idea that others there had just gotten very bad news.

The advice I got was good even if it didn't stop my own mixed feelings from creeping in. We do have the rest of our lives to mourn our dead. A San Francisco memorial for Lance is being organized and that will be a better place to remember him. Weirdly though, it was kind of an honor to share my 40th with Lance's memory.

I'm not sure I did him exactly right by him. Should I have said something from the stage? Had a moment of silence? But he was taking space in the hearts of all of us who knew him, publicly acknowledged or not. I'm glad I was around those folks. Even if my focus was elsewhere, it was comforting to look around and see other folks with their own internal struggles of mourning vs. celebrating written lightly on their faces, decipherable only to the other people who shared the pain.
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I never really understood Lance's songwriting until I listened to radio in Hawai'i. Island reggae, Hawai'ian pop, and other Hawai'ian songs have a sense of history. There are lots of elements that, out-of-context, I might find sappy or overly nostalgic. But they not only work with those songs, they are crucial elements to the genre.

Lance's songs, especially the Cringer and early J Church ones, had that same element. I'm nostalgic and sappy by nature, mind you, so they always appealed to me. But there was no real punk genre for it. His bands mirrored his personality more than most songwriters I know. Both Cringer and J Church were intellectual but friendly, political but approachable, fun but taking themselves seriously. Unlike many of the bands Lance (and I) admired, his lyrics were never preachy. He always sang as one of us, not to us.

"Sometimes I wanna go back
Sometimes to the beginning
Sometimes I wouldn't change a thing.
Sometimes the things I've done, It seems like martyrdom
Sometimes it doesn't mean a thing
Don't wanna,
Won't be sad
Like the sailors
Of Petrograd

Lance was a sweetheart. Everyone who's written about his death so far has called him "one of the good ones". He could get away with writing lyrics like those, which could easily be read as pretentious on paper, because his personality came through in his singing. He wasn't comparing himself to the theory of the Great Revolutionary, he was connecting through history to the emotions of the people he admired and wanted to relate to. Ones who died anonymously in service to their beliefs but who were just ordinary working folks doing what they felt was right..

He'd also just probably read an Alexander Berkman book and wanted to write a song about it. He was always reading.

Lance was an auto-didact, a student of history, especially anarchist history. I mean geez, he even put Leon Czolgosz, unlabeled, on a J Church shirt. He was also sweet, kind, thoughtful, and quietly funny. He knew how to make people feel good but more than that, he cared about making people feel good. He carried a million details in his brain, surprising you with something you said offhand at some show or some party months before. He was a special, special man.

Lance lived above me on Valencia St, half a block from Epicenter Zone. Lance's apartment was referred to as jokingly "The Crash Pad" after an SF Weekly reporter dubbed it that in an article.* Our apartment was already name "House of Failure" because our phone number was 552-FAIL. Oh, those early '90s…

Here's Lance on our back stairs watching some illegal punk show we put on in our backyard when the 1st floor tenants went out of business. 1993
failure stairs071

It seems symbolic that many of his songs remind me of our shared neighborhood. Early J Church is so time and place for me: all songs about the Mission in the early '90s., While traveling out of the Bay Area for an extended period, and leaving from my apartment on Mission St , "November" made me cry while riding a train through Eastern Europe. I had made a Mission District bands cassette and as soon as he mentioned rain on Mission St, I started bawling.

"As the rain falls hard, it fills the cracks on Mission St…"
"No matter who you are, you feel the same when you're wet, cold and alone…"
"We only dream to float downstream, reminded by the rain,
Tied to a tree, cannot break free, reminded by the rain"

It's a sad song about rain making people feel alone, but it does the typical Lance thing. He empathizes with strangers and tries to find a human truth. This un-self-conscious sappiness is a unifying force in Lance's songs. Even the punks have to admit their fuzzy feelings sometimes. It kept his lyrics, no matter how political, from being as dogmatic and alienating as a lot of the other anarcho-punks.

I think my favorite thing about Lance was just running into him in the street. I can think of hours spent on Market/14th, at 16th/Valencia, in front of Lost Weekend, just gossiping, talking about bands, demonstrations and friends. He made this city a better place by just being around, having time to hang out. He also rarely missed a demonstration. He had good priorities even if rather than being in front with a bullhorn he's be bringing up the rear, poking fun at the sectarians and trying-too-hard anarchist kids. I think he'd appreciate that my favorite picture of him was from the San Francisco Rodney King riots. Hip-hoppers and punks were unified in their desire to liberate electronics to facilitate their communication with a hostile world. Somewhere, maybe his room, I saw a picture of Lance coming out of an electronics store with his hands full and his eyes blacked out, like any punk wouldn't recognize his long hair, his slouch and his band t-shirt. Or maybe I just made up that picture in my head.

Lance still seems like a San Francisco icon 7 years after moving to Texas.

My oddest Lance moment was probably seeing him play guitar for Beck at Slim's. It was near the height of Beck's post-"Loser" glory. If I remember correctly, he knew Beck from playing at some German squat show together back in the day, but I could have jumbled up that memory. Anyways, he put me on the guest list, possibly because no one else we knew wanted to see Beck cuz he was like, all popular and stuff. It was so odd seeing Lance play and not be the central feature of the band. The first thing it made me realize that Lance could actually really play guitar. The second was that in another scene Lance's non-traditional singing voice might have forced him into a lesser role if he wanted to be in a band. What a loss that would have been.

The third thing was seeing him walk across the club without kids coming up to talk to him. He was probably the most approachable band guy I've ever met, constantly talking to kids who came to SF hoping to see him working his shift at Epicenter or at some of the bars, taquerias, and cafes he mentioning in his songs, if not his shows. Occasionally he'd have to hide from a creepy one, but that was rare. Usually he'd hang out, talk about their hometown (which he probably had played), and generally treat them as a new friend. There were times he really represented all that the punk scene should have been.

I hadn't seen Lance in awhile when I got the word he went into a coma.. My heart goes out to his partner and his friends there. To many of us in San Francisco, or maybe just to me, his bad health was a little hard to fathom. My memory of Lance is full of mellow energy, happy to see you, happy to chat, always looking for new bands and new fun. I imagine that the last couple of years, being on dialysis, not being able to go to every show, was incredibly hard for him. But I always thought I'd just run into him in the Mission or at a show one day. That he would have beaten his bad organs, that he'd be the same old Lance.

Old Epicenter workers crashing the Epicenter closing party 1999. I believe this was right after Lance's first brush with hospitalization. (Thanks Jeff Heermann!)
goodbye epicenter

In one of his best known songs, Lance wrote:
So where's my sense of humor?
My life is a disaster,
No one has a future,
So let's all get there faster

But it was a cautionary tale. He wasn't a No Future Drunk Punk.. He was writing about going to the local bar and looking at what he might become if he let himself. He didn't want to get ground down like other working class people around him there: unhappy, overworked, underpaid. The narrator in the song reacts to those thoughts by deciding to blow off work the next day and take time doing something important for himself.

Lance organized his life to be a writer and artist. He recorded what… 300 songs? His bands put out albums faster than the Minutemen in their prime. He wrote for MRR and was trying to document the obscure bands of the '80s Peace Punk scene. Bands that meant a lot to people like us even if almost no one has ever heard of them. He was one of the people who make all these alternative scenes and obscure political movements possible. People in every city with a punk scene, or that once had a punk scene, are mourning him

He worked his whole life for it, never getting famous or rich, but doing it anyway. It's something a lot of people promised when they were 18 but few actually did. He meant it, ya know? All of it.

Bye Lance. You are missed already.

* So funny I had to link. Filling a booth near the Photo Area, Edgar, Wells, and Hahn share a laugh over the crash pad half a block from Epicenter This was also the apartment referred to as "My home, my tomb" in "My Favorite Place".

** If anyone's interested, my favorite Lance albums are Cringer "I Take My Desires for Reality… Because I Believe in the Reality of My Desires." And the J Church early singles collection " Camels, Spilled Corona and the Sound of Mariachi Bands". The "Nostalgic for Nothing" comp is pretty good too. If you want to find one song to download, I'd say "My Favorite Place", "Nostalgic for Nothing" or "Bomb" (J Church) or "Petrograd" "Despair Ends" or "(If I had your) Pen" (Cringer)

*** Other Lance stories from at the same time, Commander cranky, and at a blog set up for Lance stories here. Someone also set up a Flickr Photo pool (which I also LJ syndicated)


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