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Alternative History

The 5 greatest bands from 924 Gillman Street

gilman street green day

The Alternative Music Foundation with its location at 924 Gilman Street, in California, became a veritable Arcadia of 90s punk rock. The club’s mission was twofold. On the one hand, the West Berkeley located club offered the chance for new bands to play their original music in front of an audience eager to hear punk rock. Just as important, the bands and audience adhered to a strict code that discouraged violence and the use of narcotics.

Today we look at five of the most influential punk rock bands that graduated from the notorious 924 Gillman Street venue.

5. Jawbreaker

Jawbreaker was a group that inspired incredible devotion from their fans. The band also has the distinction of being one of the first to be dubbed emo. Far from derogatory, the moniker was meant to reflect the intense emotional connection their earnest punk rock songs built with their audience. Singer Blake Schwarzenbach’s lyrics featured the honesty usually reserved for a journal rating. The degree of obsessive admiration from their fans was compared to the type of attention enjoyed by the likes of Morrissey.

The band rarely courted mainstream success. But, Jawbreaker delivered a string of critically acclaimed albums until the band’s dissolution in 1996. The band’s influence could be felt in the sound, look and themes of bands such as AFI, Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. Jawbreaker’s fanbase has remained fiercely devoted until the present day, with the band reuniting in 2017.

4. The Offspring

The Offspring story told before their 90s platinum success was a vastly different one from the tale most of their current biographies tell. The group was viewed as a hard working DYI band and easily welcomed among the Gilman Street crowd. But, not many saw the Offspring as candidates for a commercial breakthrough.

It’s likely a fair assessment that few of their contemporaries saw it coming either. The band already had already released two albums by the time of 1994’s Smash. The album spawned a number of hit singles that turned the Offspring, seemingly overnight, into one of the biggest bands in the U.S.

The band would enjoy consistent sales in the subsequent years. Their latest album appeared in 2012. Despite Gilman Street playing a large role in their formation, the association is often forgotten. This may be due to the fact that, unlike most of the other groups there, the Offspring were rarely favorably reviewed by the critical establishment.

3. Rancid

Few punk bands have survived the 1990s as gracefully or left as big a legacy as Rancid. The band was created by Tim Armstrong, a veteran of Gilman Street. The music reflected the singer’s passion for the Clash and for classic American songwriting

Despite being less anxious for mass appeal then some of their peers, Rancid achieved worldwide success with their 1994 album …And out come the wolves. While commercial success may have fluctuated, the group has remained one of the most respected bands in the punk rock community. The group continues to record until this day, with members also performing in sucessful side projects.

2. Green Day

Green Day may have sold the most amount records out of any of the Gilman Street bands. But, they were also the group that many of the club’s regulars tried to consign to oblivion. The young members of Green Day were in fact known initially as one of the hardest working bands at Gilman. By 1994 they had released two albums and had gained significant underground notoriety.

As a popular vlog states,for the most part the type of music Green Day was making was miles apart from that of most other bands present at Gilman Street. The sound of the other bands tended to be faster, more aggressive. Many bands were identified as hardcore. Other groups fueled the lyrics of their songs with emotional confessions. There were also those that incorporated styles like ska into their sound.

From the very beginning, however, Green Day focused on classic rock songwriting and arrangements. While some fellow Gilman alumni would grow to hate them for it, Green Day’s songs always hinted towards something that could be played on commercial rock radio. Some might argue that this was a cynical attempt to use the resources offered by Gilman Street. Most others would agree that their songwriting chops and drive to succeed made them stronger candidates for reaching international fame.

Green Day’s 1994 album Dookie launched the band into superstardom. But, the band’s new hook-heavy songs were perceived as a commercial compromise by some of their early fanbase. Despite this, the group continued to support the club, as well as support the ethics of their punk rock predecessors. Gilman Street owners briefly banned the banned, but later allowed them to return for a charity gig. Green Day continues to be active and remains one of the most commercially successful rock bands today.

Notable mentions

Before you get to our choice for the #1 spot, we thought we need to mention some of the other stellar groups to have played Gilman, or to have been involved with it. Christ on Parade has the distinction to have been the first band to headline shows at Gilman. Isocracy became something of a house band, having been formed of employees of the club. Pansy Division made a name for themselves at Gilman, before supporting Green Day on their Dookie tour and being exposed to a wider audience.

Other notable groups associated with Gilman Street include: Bad Religion, The Mr. T Experience, Corrupted Morals, Filth, Crimpshrine, Neurosis, Tilt, The Criminals, Squirtgun, AFI, Plaid Retina, 7 Seconds, Link 80, Monsula, The Lookouts, Pinhead Gunpowder.

1.Operation Ivy

No other band better expressed the hopeful spirit and the intensity of Gilman Street as Operation Ivy. The band’s members were teenagers when they began the band in 1987. Operation Ivy managed to forge a sound that fused the speed and aggression of hardcore punk, with the dynamics of ska. The band’s lyrics centered around themes of personal intergrity and social justice.

Operation Ivy 924 Gilman Street

Operation Ivy seemed destined for success. But, that would arrive only after the group had disbanded. This happened suddenly in 1989. Much like the Velvet Underground who had failed commercially, but had helped inspire a host of groups, so Operation Ivy would enjoy tremendous influence over the future wave of punk bands. Members of the group would go on to play in groups such as Rancid, Big Rig and Transplants.

The 924 Gilman Street remains a symbol of music and art created under a heavy DYI ethic. The members of these bands were, for the most part, individuals with strong desire for social justice. But, more than anything, Gilman once offered a stage to a number of great punk rock bands, still beloved by many today.

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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