Punks for life
Chico Area Punks have been impeccably weird and rocking for a decade
On rare occasions, a punk, metal or indie-rock show at Monstros Pizza has to stop momentarily because the crowd gets too “moshy,” says Puck James. There’s no true stage at Monstros—bands are on ground-level with the audience—so, there’s always the potential that someone will fling themselves into players, equipment or someone’s pizza.
Or maybe the bands themselves get too amped, Chris “Scribles” Schreiber said during a recent monthly meeting of the Chico Area Punks, a loose collective of a dozen or so local musicians, promoters, bookers and generally rad humans who’ve drawn underground bands to Chico—almost always to Monstros, specifically—for nearly 10 years.
Like this one time about five years ago: The notoriously raucous Israeli garage-rock band Monotonix played at Monstros and, mid-set, frontman Ami Shalev began climbing over diners’ booths and the restaurant’s front counter.
“Didn’t he lick somebody’s pizza?” Scribles asked James.
“He stepped on it, licked it and then smeared it all over himself,” James recalled, “and then tried to swing from the lights.”
Schreiber: “Yeah. And then he went into the bathroom and pulled out the trash cans and threw the bathroom trash all over the place.”
James: “And this was all, like, during the show. He was doing this stuff while they were playing.”
Not all CAP-hosted shows go completely bonkers, however. Most musicians and showgoers appreciate the efforts of the volunteer-run collective and are therefore respectful of the all-ages space, Schreiber said.
“We try to walk a line between not having any macho, tough-guy bullshit, but we definitely like it when people get a little crazy,” he clarified. “We don’t want people getting totally out of control, but we want them to have fun and express themselves.”
Many of the members of the CAP (formerly known as the Chico Area Pyrate Punx) hosted shows in houses around town prior to forming the group. Now, they’re still booking the same sorts of underground bands—DIY crews that might not have a wide following but get a handful of people very excited, Schreiber said. And much like house shows, the atmosphere at Monstros is intimate.
The quirks of the venue itself are part of the mystique. Consider: The shop’s usually open on Fridays and Saturdays, but otherwise, hours are irregular. The owner, Greg Danielewiez, has an affinity for wicked-cool-yet-nonfunctioning video games and pinball machines. And there’s more. “Every Christmas, for some reason, Greg sells Christmas wrapping paper,” said Schreiber. “So, it’s like, come to Monstros for pizza and punk rock and wrapping paper.”
There are more practical reasons the CAP has enjoyed such a long-standing relationship with Monstros (they’ll book other shows at The Maltese Bar & Tap Room and the 1078 Gallery occasionally, but Monstros is definitely the base of operations). Danielewiez doesn’t charge the punks overhead; he just sells more beer and pizza than he normally would. Money collected at the door almost entirely goes to the bands, though some goes toward equipment and printing fliers. That allows them to attract “a lot of unknown bands,” said Schreiber. “We want to give them a chance to play. It also gives us leeway to do a lot of weirder, stranger shows.”
Without the CAP, Chico would have missed out on innumerable underground acts over the past decade. At one point a few years ago, the Punks were one of the more active promoters in town, putting on two shows a week. Founding member Rachel Love said that’s slowed down a bit lately, to more like three or four shows a month.
It’s remarkable that the CAP has had such a long run, Love said. (The group will host a 10-year anniversary bash sometime this fall.)
“I don’t think any of us sat down and were like, ‘In 10 years, we’re still going to be together and doing this,’” she said. Why are they still at it? “It’s the same reason you play in a DIY touring band and get paid $20 a show—because you love to do it.”