Ah, Colorado Blvd. in good old Pasadena, where gentrified coffee houses sit among pristine storefronts boasting exorbitant price tags; where expensive mothers push their expensive babies in their expensive strollers. But if you go a bit east of the main drag, there is the unmistakable droning of punk music getting gradually louder, and your eyes are pleasantly assaulted by the pink and green neon that beckons you into the beautiful mess that is MeowzMeowz, Pasadena’s one stop rock shop. And behind the counter sits the goth goddess behind it all, Veronika Sorrow.
I think most people have a love-hate relationship with social media. But I’m sure many will agree that it’s always fun to catch up with people they haven’t seen for ages. When I first met C.J. Gunn (ne Christopher James Gunya), he was a little punk from Cleveland with a big mouth and a heart of gold. Now he turns up one book, one straggly beard, hundreds of tattoos, and 20 years later. I’d say we had some catching up to do and I was happy to have had that opportunity last week.
Born in Cleveland in 1974, Gunn had a tumultuous childhood and ended up losing both of his parents early on. A natural misfit, he turned to the punk scene for a sense of belonging. By the early 90s, Gunn had played in a variety of punk bands in the area. He was great at networking and ended up getting the attention of many local acts as well as national ones passing through nearby cities. One band that was a huge musical influence on Gunn and whose members would become recurring characters in his rock and roll life was The Ramones. When Gunn heard that drummer Marky Ramone was playing in Cleveland with his band The Intruders, he did everything he could to get on the bill with his band The Subtones. Not only was he successful doing that, but he also was lucky enough to get on two more dates opening for The Intruders in nearby towns.
[Betty Blowtorch original lineup (L-R) Blaire N. Bitch, Judy Molish, Bianca Butthole, Sharon Needles
If you were a rocker in L.A. in the late ’90s, the Pretty Ugly Club was the place to be. As I was arriving fashionably late, hobbling up the pavement in my too high heels, an assault of noise echoed into the street. Violent guitars and banshee wails filled the night time air… and it was good. I had to know who was emitting such dulcet tones. I went as fast as my platforms could carry me and as I stumbled into the club, and what I saw did not disappoint.
Judy Molish held down a thunderous, no-nonsense beat, Blaire N. Bitch‘s guitar blistered through, Sharon Needles held down the fort with steady rhythms and signature backing vocals, and snarling over the whole beautiful mess was charismatic rock goddess Bianca Butthole. In the coming years, I would have the pleasure of seeing Betty Blowtorch perform a number of times before it all came to a screeching halt. On December 15, 2001, Bianca was killed in an automobile accident leaving fans, friends, and family devastated.
Remember the ’80s heavy metal scene? The drunken debauchery? The sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll? When men dressed up like women, and women dressed up like the girl your mother warned you about? Well now, so many years later, the long hair has turned gray or perhaps fallen out completely, the girl your mother warned you about is, well, your mom, and even Gene Simmons proclaims that rock is dead while many reluctant rockers concede to agree.
But maybe it’s just sleeping. Maybe it’s waiting for a really good band to come along and kick it in the ass…
Against The Ordinary hail from Corona, CA. Though the members are just on the verge of saying goodbye to their teenage years, they manage to righteously pay homage to 45 years of rock ‘n’ roll. Continue below for more on the band and to see a video of them playing live.