By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In a major metropolis like San Francisco, it is tough to leave your mark on the local music scene once, much less twice. But that is exactly what Thee Parkside talent booker and longtime SF club fixture Audra Angeli-Morse did in the ’90s.
Angeli-Morse was working at the Paradise Lounge in the mid-1990s when she became involved with Incredibly Strange Wrestling, a mix of live punk rock and rockabilly acts interspersed with wrestling matches equally inspired by Mexican Lucha Libre, outlandish Weekly World News tabloid headlines and social satire. The bizarre, beer-soaked parties were initially held at the Paradise Lounge’s neighboring space the Transmission Theater before moving on to bigger venues and major tours (ISW participated in Lollapalooza and the Warped Tour).
ISW tales of flying corn tortillas and preposterous ring regulars like El Homo Loco, Pollo Diablo and Scientologist boy band 69 Degrees would become part of San Francisco nightlife lore through the ’90s and into the new millennium. But Angeli-Morse also founded another institution of unabashed punk-rock debauchery in SF when she started Stinky’s Peepshow at the Covered Wagon Saloon in 1997.
Featuring a variety of sleazy punk and unhinged garage-rock acts as the main attraction, the weekly club night billed itself as “The Home of the Large n’ Lovely Go-Go Dancers,” who were always found gyrating on the Folsom Street dive bar’s pool table. The entertainment also included an array of backroom peepshows with varying levels of nudity and satirical/scatological humor and Angeli-Morse cajoling patrons into the room with her trusty bullhorn and a steady stream of insults and carnival-barker banter.
Much like the now legendary Incredible Strange Wrestling events, it was almost impossible to not have a good time at a Stinky’s Peepshow. The club night would survive several venue moves after the closure of the Covered Wagon, but Angeli-Morse would eventually close the peepshow doors — though not before Spike Slawson, her then-boyfriend and the crooning frontman of renowned Bay Area punk cover band Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, proposed to her onstage during a Stinky’s held at Cafe Du Nord.
She has stayed busy since then, booking Thee Parkside’s entertainment calendar and other SF events through her production company, Dino & Luigi Presents, but found herself frequently fielding questions about the return of Stinky’s, especially after holding a reunion show as part of Total Trash Fest at Thee Parkside in 2011.
This weekend, fans who have longed to experience the sleazy thrill of Stinky’s Peepshow again (or for the first time) will get the chance when Thee Parkside hosts the two-day outdoor weekend festival Stinky’s Al Fresco on Wisconsin Street. With a line-up befitting such a momentous occasion, the raucous block party includes an impressive cast of punk and garage favorites on Saturday, topped by Detroit garage-rock legends The Gories. The influential act guitarists Mick Collins and Dan Kroha co-led before the group split in 1993 — Collins would move on to the Dirtbombs, while Kroha founded the Demolition Doll Rods — the Gories were one of the highlights of last year’s similarly themed Burger Boogaloo in Oakland.
Filling out the Saturday schedule are the aforementioned Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Michigan-based juggernaut the Spits, Mississippi garage-rock duo Bass Drum of Death, revived late ’70s Cleveland punk band the Pagans, corrosive Memphis quartet NOTS, Fullerton trash punks Audacity and local all-female rockers the Booby Traps.
On Sunday, the main stage will be anchored by Oakland metal heroes High on Fire. The trio featuring guitarist Matt Pike (already a local legend thanks to his work with weed-focused Black Sabbath worshippers Sleep) and powerhouse drummer Des Kensel has built a reputation as one of the most ferocious live bands on the planet over its nearly two decades in existence. Providing Pike a more aggressive platform to explore his monolithic riff science, the band — rounded out by longtime bassist Jeff Matz — has refined a seismic mix of raw intensity and a locomotive fury that touches on Motörhead, classic thrash and lumbering doom over the course of seven studio albums.
The balance of Sunday’s line-up veers stylistically all over the map, but is unified by the high quality of the acts performing. Highlights include sets from pioneering Chicago post-punk band Naked Raygun, entertaining “drive-thru metal” group Mac Sabbath, celebrated psych/prog bands Radio Moscow, Mondo Drag and Glitter Wizard, all-star local rock crew the Re-Volts (featuring members who have played with Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Swingin’ Utters, One Man Army, and Filthy Thieving Bastards) and soulful hard rockers Wild Eyes. In addition, Thee Parkside will feature a full schedule of peepshows on the club’s stage as well as original DJs from the club’s heyday including Big Nate, That Black Girl, DJ Uterus and Cherri Bomb.
CBS SF recently spoke with Angeli-Morse as she relaxed in a Chicago hotel room in preparation for a Me First & the Gimme Gimmes performance at Riot Fest, looking back at the history of Stinky’s Peepshow and the planning that went into putting on Stinky’s Al Fresco this weekend.
CBS SF: How long have you been thinking about something on this scale with the Stinky’s concept?
Audra Angeli-Morse: Well, I’ve been doing a festival out on Wisconsin Street next to Thee Parkside for four years running. But it’s been different things. The first year, I did it with these Somersault guys and it was mostly DJs and a few bands. It was mostly their thing, but I did all the production management on it.
The next year, I did the whole thing with Pirates Press for their 10th anniversary. Then last year, we did it with Fat Wreck Chords and it was two days for their 25-year anniversary. So it’s all sort of been building. I wanted to do it again this year, but not with a label or anything like that. I wanted to do something different. And I was wondering what the hell am I going to call it? What going to be the scene? What are we going to do?
And Spike, my husband, said, “Do a Stinky’s! Stinky’s was your thing.” And people have been bugging me about Stinky’s and talking about it the last few years and trying to get me to do a Stinky’s reunion. I’ve had all these weird people on Thee Parkside Facebook and Instagram who I don’t even know contacting me about Stinky’s. So Spike said, “Do Stinky’s.” And I thought if I did it, that could be cool and obviously there’s my theme. So that’s really how it came about.
CBS SF: I did a little research once I knew we were going to talk, since I’d been to a ton of Stinky’s Peepshows over the years, but wanted to get the history accurate. I remember it best when it was a weekly at the Covered Wagon Saloon and Annie’s, but I know it also was at the Justice League and Café Du Nord before you put it to bed…
Audra Angeli-Morse: The last place it was regularly at was actually Annie’s.
CBS SF: Oh, so the other places happened after the CW closed?
Audra Angeli-Morse: It was CW, Justice League, Du Nord and then Annie’s. It was at the Oasis for like three weeks before those guys tried to rip everybody off for everything.
CBS SF: And did it stay a weekly throughout it’s existence?
Audra Angeli-Morse: It stayed a weekly until Du Nord and Annie’s. I remember having to fill the Justice League every week and I was like, “Oh my God! This is insane!” And I didn’t want it there. I didn’t like it. It was just too big and it didn’t feel like Stinky’s there. So I did a few months there as a weekly before I decided I had to take it someplace else.
And that’s when I went to Du Nord. And I loved the Du Nord, but I was also like, “Uhhh, I don’t know if I can do this every week anymore.” It was crazy. And then when I went back to Annie’s, it was monthly because at the same time I brought it back there, I started booking Annie’s when she [owner Annie Whiteside] opened the club after she bought the Covered Wagon, or whatever it had turned into…that dance-club thing [Cherry Bar].
So I said, “I have to start a new club, book a new club seven nights a week and do Stinky’s. It better be a monthly and not a weekly.”
CBS SF: So it was just general fatigue that led to it ending as a weekly?
Audra Angeli-Morse: Yeah, I was just tired of doing a weekly. And I’m old now! C’mon! When I was in my twenties and single and everybody was drinking and partying and Stinky’s was great. I’m old, married and lucky if I get a glass of wine now.
CBS SF: You’ve done at least one Stinky’s reunion as part of Total Trash five years ago. Did you give any consideration to bringing it back as a regular event at Thee Parkside? Maybe something monthly or quarterly?
Audra Angeli-Morse: I did. I thought about it doing it maybe a couple of times a year. But it wasn’t right for me. I did think about it though. I was like, “A couple of times a year? Quarterly? What is this, a bank?”
CBS SF: Looking back now, is there any particular band or moment that stands out as the craziest thing you remember from Stinky’s?
Audra Angeli-Morse: There were a lot of crazy things that happened at Stinky’s. There was one night when [NOFX frontman] Fat Mike went to see Weezer play in San Francisco and brought Rivers Cuomo back to Stinky’s. They came back to the back room and it was this Hitler and Eva Braun peepshow with Jamin [Barton] in his Hitler underwear with the big swastika on the butt.
He had a chopping block and a cleaver and was chopping sausages and throwing them into the crowd while yelling in German. Fat Mike was catching sausages and yelling about being a Jew and throwing $100 bills at the girls. He was totally into it and having a great time. And Rivers, his guest, was horrified. And I saw that he was horrified and just kept pushing it.
I was like, “C’mon Rivers! You’re a rock star! Weezer! This can’t be that big of a deal!” And when the peepshow was over, we opened that back door at the Covered Wagon and he literally ran out of there and ran past the front door and bee lined out of the place. And Mike told me that he saw Rivers quite a few times after that — and they were pretty friendly too — at different festivals and stuff, and he wouldn’t speak to him. He finally spoke to him for the first time like last year [laughs].
There were a lot of great bands. I always loved the Gimmes at Stinky’s. They kind of grew up at Stinky’s. That was always fun. Now that I look back, it seems like a lot of super important rock and roll and garage bands played. Like the Reatards; nobody knew who the hell they were when they played Stinky’s.
And the Mummies and all these bands that I had been booking for wrestling to, they ended up at Stinky’s. It’s funny, because Russell Quan told me when I wanted to book the Mummies — this was before, for a Stinky’s thing — and he said, “Why? You used to book us when we were good! Now, who cares? We’re old.”
CBS SF: I’m sure based on the history of Stinky’s, there would be tons of bands that would jump at the chance to play. Was it hard to narrow down the acts you wanted to bring for it?
Audra Angeli-Morse: Obviously, some of it was scheduling and who was available and all that, but I knew I wanted some of the older bands that had played the original Stinky’s, because I knew they would bring that vibe. When I called the Spits originally, they were like, “No, we can’t do it. We’re totally busy. We have too much going on.” But when I said it was going to be a Stinky’s reunion, they said “Oh. Wait!” And they totally did an about face. They said, “Ok, we’re going to make it happen. We’re going to fix it in our schedule and we’re going to do it.”
And kind of the same thing with the Gimmes. NOFX is actually playing the Saturday down at this thing Picnic in Pozo, but Mike said, “I’m coming on Sunday! I can’t miss a Stinky’s!” So I wanted some of the old, but I wanted some of the new too. All of it had to be Stinky’s kind of music. I was never booking reggae bands at Stinky’s, I wasn’t doing super metal bands, I wasn’t doing indie or any of that kind of stuff. So I tried to stick to the rock and roll and garage rock and punk rock. And I wanted to see these bands! I tracked down the Pagans through Crypt Records and then through [record label] Get Hip before the band got back to me.
CBS SF: The Gories pre-dated Stinky’s existence as a club, and I don’t think I remember Mick Collins’ later band the Dirtbombs playing Stinky’s. How’d you settle on the two main headliners?
Audra Angeli-Morse: The Dirtbombs never played. I wanted them to and they were supposed to and I think they got some crazy offer, because they just happened to blow up right at that time. They ended up playing some really big show like at the Great American or somewhere on that San Francisco run. But yeah, I was a huge Dirtbombs fan.
CBS SF: It was funny that you said Stinky’s wasn’t really metal, because High On Fire definitely qualifies as metal to me. I know they played a couple of its early shows at the Covered Wagon, because the first thing I ever wrote about them was a review of a show there in 1999. Was one of those for Stinky’s?
Audra Angeli-Morse: I don’t remember if it was for a Stinky’s or not, but I did book them at the Covered Wagon. I still have the flyer, so I’d have to look it up and see. They’re still metal, but they’re metal to me like Black Sabbath is metal to me. It’s the whole hard rock stoner thing.
CBS SF: You mentioned the other big events you’ve had in the past at Thee Parkside. Is this one bigger or is it about the same size?
Audra Angeli-Morse: Well, it’s about the same size as the Fat Wreck Chords thing. They were both two days.
CBS SF: How difficult is the permitting process when you get something like this together?
Audra Angeli-Morse: The city and county of San Francisco makes it more and more difficult every year. If they see you making money, they’ll want more money and they’ll find something new to charge you for. It’s not easy. It’s hearings and applications and permits for literally everything. Permits for street signs, permits for Port-a-potties, permits for closing down the street, permits for the generator, fire permits, health permits for bar and the food tents. Permits everywhere!
CBS SF: So you’re just closing Wisconsin Street? This isn’t going to extend around to 17th Street too?
Audra Angeli-Morse: Yeah. We once closed 17th Street in front of Thee Parkside for a Sunday Streets thing, and just detouring Muni was the biggest nightmare ever. I’ll never do that again. If there’s a bus line on it, I’m not closing that street down. I don’t care who’s coming [laughs]!
CBS SF: What’s the layout like? Do you do a big outdoor stage and still use the stage inside the club?
Audra Angeli-Morse: There’s a big outdoor stage that backs up to 17th Street and faces 16th Street and the entrance is at 16th Street and Wisconsin. And that’s all the bands. And then inside we’re going to have four of the original Stinky’s DJs and peepshows.
CBS SF: Given this revival, do you think you’d ever resurrect Incredibly Strange Wrestling? I was trying to remember the last time you held an ISW show…
Audra Angeli-Morse: How did I know you were going to get to that [laughs]? Every couple of years, the thought crosses my mind. I still own a wrestling ring. That’s my answer. I don’t know, but I still own a wrestling ring and it’s in my garage. The last one was in maybe 2008 or around that time? We did some stuff out of the country too that was after San Francisco, but that was the last local one. Every once in a while, a crazy Japanese promoter will call and ask, “What do you think about bringing it to Japan?” I say, “If you can bring it to Japan, I will come to for any reason!”
Stinky’s Al Fresco featuring performances by The Gories, High On Fire, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, Naked Raygun, The Spits, Mac Sabbath and more takes place at Thee Parkside this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24-25, at 12 p.m. Tickets and more info here.