Home Music 35 years ago: Black Flag, Dead Kennedys make stops in Oshkosh

35 years ago: Black Flag, Dead Kennedys make stops in Oshkosh

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Today, it’s an unassuming downtown building with a computer repair business on one side and a phone number for Jazzercise posted in the window of the vacant, opposing suite.

The facade doesn’t scream former hardcore punk venue, actually the opposite — though things tend to change over three and a half decades.

Friday marked the 35th anniversary of Black Flag’s headlining, Oshkosh appearance.

It was a key year in the timeline of the L.A. punk legends, who released three albums over the course of 1984. Henry Rollins and crew also played a grueling 178-show tour schedule that year.

In Oshkosh, their stop was the Arcade Video Recreation Center at 683 N. Main St.

It was the brainchild of 23-year-old David Gibson, who opened wanting to create a positive place for teenagers — right square in an Oshkosh tavern district.

“I want a place for kids to go where they can have fun without drinking or smoking dope,” he told the Oshkosh Northwestern after its June 1984 opening. 

Gibson put his rec center in an old A&P grocery store. It featured video games, pool tables, foosball and a snack bar. He put in a stage for bands, but also for Saturday morning auctions and boxing.

Today, the rec center only sticks out on the itineraries of some of the bands that played there.

In August, Milwaukee’s Die Kreuzen played a gig at the Arcade Video Recreation Center on the heels of their eponymous debut album release — their last release as a hardcore punk group.

Black Flag played Oshkosh on a Thursday after playing Minneapolis the night before.

Tom Troccoli’s Dog, featuring Troccoli — a roadie and musician — and Black Flag’s Greg Ginn on bass, opened the show. Saccharine Trust, another L.A. punk band that joined Black Flag on the SST label, were also on the bill.

In the five days after Oshkosh, they’d play Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Oshkosh punks had another big show right around the corner.

Dead Kennedys played the rec center on Nov. 2, 1984 . Verbal Abuse, also based out of the Bay area, opened for Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray and company. 

The under card was made up of Wisconsin bands. 

Madison’s Imminent Attack and Green Bay’s Depo-Provera opened. Suburban Mutilation out of Green Bay was also on the lineup. The band was fronted by Rev. Norb who would move onto Boris the Sprinkler.

The Arcade Video Recreation Center had its share of controversy before it even opened. 

Nearby tavern owners petitioned against the proposed youth-oriented business out of concern for drawing kids into the area. They hoped a municipal code prohibiting liquor licenses near schools, hospitals and churches would work in their favor, but it didn’t.

Owner Gibson said it was the job of taverns to keep teens out and had nothing to do with his enterprise.

“If they can’t do their job, that’s their business,” he said.

As for his own business, there wasn’t much for a plan. He wasn’t going to charge much for admission on concert nights, he told The Northwestern.

“I have no idea if the place will even pay for itself,” he said. 

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