A Night At the Regent With Vert and Scream.
By Sarah Daugherty Scream Photography By David Vchi Vintage Shots by DC Punks.
These days, we hear the phrase: “back in the day ” a lot. This startles me sometimes; some of the “way back” stories I’ve heard lately didn’t happen that long ago, but they all seem to blend together. That’s because nowadays, the stories are more about “being there” and “being seen” than “doing something.” This, to me, is a contradiction of what really went on (back in the day). What I remember is this: punk rock used to mean that people did things just to see what would happen. Punks pitched in, innovated, created, and took chances. Punks laughed when things didn’t work out and laughed harder if they did. Of course, like everyone who’s been around a while, my memory is pretty faulty. But luckily for all of us, the collective memory of punk rock is intact, relying heavily on story tellers, fliers, photos, van-loads of video, and of course, a soundtrack for every possible occasion. And from this collective memory of “doing things” came the documentary: Blood And Steel: Cedar Crest Country Club.
Produced by Mike Mapp and Frank Schueuring and directed by Michael Maniglia , the documentary details the impact of an improbably huge steel skateboard ramp built on country club property deep in the Virginia woods. It sounds like a line of fiction, but it was real. In 1985, after the local skate park closed and a big wooden ramp in suburban Annandale was shut down, the father of skateboarder Mark Hooper decided to help out. Eugene Hooper gave his son permission to use a piece of Cedar Crest Country Club land for a ramp and even provided building materials and an architect. The only “catch” was that the skateboarders do the actual build themselves. Mark asked Mike “Micro” Mapp if he’d be interested in the project, and with Mapp’s help and the backbone of local skateboarders, the massive steel skateboard ramp was completed.
The vintage footage in the documentary shows that The Cedar Crest ramp was one of a kind; the smooth steel arc let the skateboarders reach speeds and heights as never before. When word spread, people traveled from all over the country. Some came to skate the ramp, but others came just to see the massive improbable thing in the Virginia woods. And because skateboards and punk rock are equally damaging, the Cedar Crest ramp was a natural venue for local punk bands. When the raw and frenetic music of Scream, Government Issue, the Bad Brains, and Gwar slid into “The Crest,” sometimes at gunpoint, it was a perfect fit. The resulting scene was one which no one could have predicted when the ramp was first built. Some say that it was like Woodstock with people camping and hanging out, but it lasted a hellava lot longer than three days, and it had an energy and unpredictability that seemed more fun than simple peace. There are interviews with Ian MacKaye, Tony Hawk, Pete and Franz Stahl, Fred Smith and many others, and they each tell stories with a mixture of awe and mirth. People they knew built an incredible ramp in an impossible place and all kinds of fun and trouble ensued. What else can be said? It’s a good movie. I guess I should have mentioned this earlier, but it’s a good movie because it’s about people who did something cool because “why not?”.
The Los Angeles opening for Blood And Steel: Cedar Crest Country Club was held at the Regent Theater in DTLA on June 1st, and featured live music from seminal D.C. band Scream. The Regent was a perfect venue for the film’s debut. The Regent was a cinema house built in 1914, recently recreated as a music space with a bar and pizzeria. There was ample and comfortable space for both the movie and for the music that followed. Mike Mapp and director Michael Maniglia introduced the movie to a capacity crowd. The audience was rowdy and friendly, a good mix of punks, skateboarders, and vert fans from both the East and West Coast. After the movie, Scream (Dischord Records) came on to play. And they played with the same fervor as they’d played thirty years ago at the Cedar Crest ramp. As always, Scream put on a great show, taking the stage with showmanship, humor, and intensity and filling the Regent with music of uncompromising energy. To the crowd of appreciative skateboarders and punks, the Scream performance was a perfect ending for the night. With Pete Stahl on vocals, Franz Stahl on guitar, Skeeter Thompson bass, and Adam Wade from Shudder to Think stepping in on drums, for a moment, everyone at the Regent was part of that energy. And maybe for a moment, or maybe for that night, everyone there wanted to try-- to do something unique-- and just be a part of something impossible again. I know I did. And even though Johnny Thunders said: “you can’t put your arms around a memory,” I never did see the harm in trying.