When The Sex Pistols Came to Town, Part 2: San Francisco

DeviceI’ve been a listener, collector and player of music for decades. Like most people, I have distinct phases of fandom that have come and gone over the years. One in particular is a love of punk rock. That flame still burns hot. Not surprisingly, I’ve listened to the Sex Pistols quite a bit and it turns out that they’ve been present during some pretty key creative moments in my life so far:

1. Having a bass guitar thrust into my hands during a friend’s high school punk band practice was an epiphany. After a quick lesson of where to press my fingers, I was playing! I don’t remember exactly which song that was, but they were playing Sex Pistols covers that day. This is an important moment in my life because I already believed in the Independent/DIY (Do It Yourself) ethos, but hadn’t realized exactly how it manifested in music. This was the day it all became clear how so many people were able to pick up instruments and make up songs whether they “knew how to play” or not and truly do it themselves.

2. A few years later, after forming my first punk band – Suspect Device (named after the Naked Raygun cover of the Stiff Little Fingers classic), with a few friends, we had the opportunity to open for Jack The Lad, a veteran Atlanta, GA, punk band that I had been a fan of for years already. I was so excited to be playing on the same stage as some of my heroes. After the show, I talked to the singer (whose name was not Jack) and he told me how much he liked our set and that it reminded him of “the Pistols”. We didn’t sound like “the Pistols” at all, but the fact that he liked us and mentioned us in the same sentence with legends was a real confidence booster. The Pistols song in the set that night was Holidays In The Sun.

Never Mind3. When it came time for the Sex Pistols to break out and tour America, their manager came up with the strange, but semi-brilliant idea to have them play at out of the ordinary venues in out of the ordinary cities as a way to garner press because of the sure to be had controversies along the way. In January 1978, Atlanta, GA was definitely out of the ordinary as a city for the norm-shattering Sex Pistols to begin a tour. I’ve always been proud of the fact that my hometown was ground zero for such a cataclysmic event and have had the great pleasure of knowing people who were there at The Great Southeast Music Hall when it all went down. This was a sign, even in heavily conservative Georgia, that independent thought, spirit, and energy was alive and well. Not that many years later, I was going to see concerts in different clubs and venues around Atlanta, which continued to further the idea that being different is cool.

4. Fast Forward to 2018 and the decision for my wife and I to move across the country to the Bay Area of Northern California. While we don’t live in San Francisco proper, just a few short weeks after the Sex Pistols began their American tour, the band broke up abruptly after a full set and one song encore at the Winterland Ballroom in SF. The important part here is that Johnny Rotten “felt cheated” and decided there was nothing to do but quit. It was time to stop and change directions. It was time to do something different. That’s how we felt when the idea of moving to California came up. As two Georgia natives, we decided it was time for a change. It was time to do something different. And it was one of the best decisions of my life.

WinterlandThese instances are examples of how, when and where my development as an independent thinker/creator/maker and professional creative occurred. Influences that have always resonated with me the most are those who come up with crazy ideas and actually try them out. I love people who are not afraid of criticism, who are not afraid to be different and who are willing to try something new.

-Jon Milavec

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