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Silicon Alleys: Local Bands Return to Their Roots for Show at The Ritz

In Clubs, Music
A young Lars Frederiksen literally holds down the rhythm section at this 1983 Faction show. Frederiksen would go on to join Rancid. Photo by Murray Bowles

A young Lars Frederiksen literally holds down the rhythm section at this 1983 Faction show. Frederiksen would go on to join Rancid. Photo by Murray Bowles

In 1983, deep in the suburban hinterland of Campbell, the punk rock photographer Murray Bowles attended a backyard party and shot several pictures of The Faction, San Jose’s legendary skate punk band. A software engineer by day, Bowles was just starting a decades-long side job of capturing Bay Area punk.

In San Jose, the scene was a hodgepodge of house parties, rented halls and skate ramps because no real venues existed. As the Faction played, an 11-year-old kid named Lars Frederiksen sat on the ground in front of the drum set to keep it stationary. (See photo.)

“The cinderblock wasn’t working so the kick drum kept moving and moving and moving,” Frederiksen recalled. “I remember someone tried to put a 12-pack of beer in front of it, and that obviously didn’t work. I think someone even said put the keg in front of it, but then everybody would have to come up when the band was playing to fill their beer. So somebody said, ‘Put Lars in there.’ And that’s how I ended up in there.”

The rest is history. Ten years later, Frederiksen joined the band Rancid, which then exploded into one of the most successful punk bands of all time, inspiring generations of fans around the world, even still.

But now, in what is probably the most spacetime continuum-shattering full-circle punk hoedown in local living memory, the Faction will first open up for Rancid in San Francisco on Thursday, and then they will headline on Friday with one of Frederiksen’s other bands, the Old Firm Casuals, at The Ritz in downtown San Jose. The whole shootin’ match will trigger many individuals to reflect on their own crazy journeys over the last several decades.

Over the years, Bowles’ photos from that party have almost achieved folk status. He may have captured the most punk rock Norman Rockwell moment in San Jose history.

In those days, the Faction’s bass player, Steve Caballero, was already a world-famous professional skateboarder with sponsorships, trophies, tour stories and the whole nine yards, all while not yet even 20. People around the world devoured skateboard magazines and then VHS videos of the Bones Brigade, of which Caballero was a key member. Thanks to what he and his crew were doing, it’s not an exaggeration to say San Jose was one of the skateboarding capitals of the country. Specific street tricks and maneuvers were pioneered right here in town. As the lifestyle became inseparable from punk rock, the whole scene put San Jose on the map way more than any politician has ever been able to do. It is a travesty of justice that Caballero is not in the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.

But I digress. With the Faction, Caballero eventually switched from bass to guitar as the band became a five-piece and then soared to even more stardom before breaking up a few short years later. After sporadic reunions over the decades, they returned to semi-regular gigging about four years ago.

Bowles’ photo captures what the scene was like in those days: punks and skater kids dealing with the intrinsic boredom of suburbia. Several people in the photo are still in the area. For example, leaning on Caballero’s bass amp is Denice Vaughn, wearing a pair of pink Paradise Garage creepers, shoes Caballero bought her when he was in LA for a contest.

“I threw a fit because he wanted to get me the red and black ones,” Vaughn recalled. “And I said, ‘No, I want the pink ones, and if I can’t have those, then I want nothing.’ And he drove all the way [across LA] back to Hollywood to get me those. I totally remember that. I still have them.”

Bowles has since retired from the software industry, but still has a long photography career on which to reflect. His catalog of photos, now in the thousands, remains an integral component of Bay Area punk history, although he doesn’t scour the scene as much as he used to.

“Nowadays everybody takes pictures with their phones,” Bowles said. “It’s not as though if I didn’t take pictures, there’d be no pictures taken at all. Which is sort of the way it was for a lot of shows.”

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