(Roving correspondent/ photographer Kristen Tobiason revisits and documents the scenes of our youth. Today, the Adams Avenue Theater meets “Project Runway”!)
No one could have imagined that this hallmark of our glory days, the Adams Avenue Theater (3325 Adams Ave.), would metamorphose into something so random as Discount Fabrics. I don’t think it’s as humiliating as it is simply bizarre.
The humiliation occurred in the late ’80s, during the venue’s brief reincarnation as the Purple Rain Club. The transforming of a theater into a fabric store has a thread of irony that keeps San Diego “weird.” Frankly, I prefer it to the gentrification that has sucked the charm out of other neighborhoods.
Discount Fabrics never remodeled. Outside of the merchandise, everything looks the same as it did. A quarter-century later, there is still a reflection of the building’s punk-rock roots. Shadows still linger, and I can imagine an entryway streaked with the scuff of Doc Martens and cigarette butts; blood, sweat and spit in the hall; the pit, a cluster of motion, like hornets, swinging fists and bodies, a stage bomb, a swan dive from the balcony …
My first show at Adams Avenue was Iggy Pop with Nash the Slash. I was 16 years old, and the experience was exciting, yet terrifying, as if that wild energy would spin out of control at any moment. Right up against the stage, Iggy was so close I could have touched him while he sang “Raw Power.” Those were the early days of “Tim Maze Presents.” Dead Kennedys; UK Subs, 45 Grave, GBH, The Cramps (with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Tell-Tale Hearts) … The list goes on. I recall a Lords of the New Church show where Stiv Bators (RIP) got shot with a bb gun. …
It’s a miracle that we survived our youth, amidst complaints, coppers, the paddy wagon … riots and broken glass. We used to moan that the community wasn’t supportive. Now grown up with a family of my own, I wouldn’t appreciate drunk people throwing up or fornicating in my yard, either! But I’ve got a sense of humor and consider it karmic payback when people partying wake me up at night.
The employees of Discount Fabrics thought it was pretty cool that they were standing within a landmark of San Diego’s music history. Buttons and brocade by the balcony stairs, rolls of taffeta in the stage area … I’m priming myself for a punk-rock quilting party!
– Kristen Tobiason
More views of San Diego then and now:
- Then and Now: Topsy’s
- Then and Now: Greenwich Village West
- Then and Now: Funland
- Then and Now: Studio 517
- Then and Now: La Posta
- Then and Now: Presidio Park
- Then and Now: El Cajon Blvd. Denny’s
Tags: 45 Grave, Adams Avenue Theater, Dead Kennedys, Discount Fabrics, GBH, Iggy Pop, Lords of the New Church, Purple Rain Club, the Cramps, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Tell-Tale Hearts, Then and Now, Tim Maze, UK Subs