Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.
After coming back from a six-month trip in Europe in a VW van, seeing as many art museums as possible, I started work at the Westender, a community newspaper where I met Dave. After we sent the paper to the printer once a week, we’d go to the Railway Club, where local punk and new-wave bands played, but the local scene was in a lull. It was 1981, and I’d missed the whole thing. Dave started giving me music—the Clash, the Jam, the Sex Pistols—and later, he gave me a book about Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, an elaborate art project of great collaboration and feminist ideas. Around this time, I was playing Flowers Of Romance by PiL very, very loudly—over and over, a lot. I saw PiL at Roseland on a trip I took alone to NYC. Sept. 28, 1982—I’d recently turned 23. Reading a review of that show online doesn’t bring back any memories. I remember that it was totally packed and very intense in the crowd. There was some sort of railing that I was sitting on, giving me some extra height, but people coming through couldn’t see a railing as they tried to push past me, expecting me to give way and let them by, which I would have if my feet had been on the floor. I must have appeared to be a person about 6’4″ tall and they were going to squeeze past me, but I couldn’t move and they couldn’t get past me because of the railing that they hadn’t seen. It was that crowded. This went on for ages. When the band finally started, it was incredible!!! The bass, the drums, the howl of Lydon, the sting of guitar—I couldn’t fucking believe it!!! They had white lights that blazed out into the audience. I was just reading online that part of the stage collapsed before the show and the light panels were impacted—they were attached to the stage (the soundcheck is on YouTube)—so maybe the lights weren’t even supposed to be blasting out on the audience, but that was one of the amazing things about that show. (Evidently, one of the first punk shows at Roseland, where Mecca Normal played years later, opening for Fugazi.) The intense white light and the sound—drowning in light and sound, me periodically grabbing at people for balance when someone tried to push me off my railing. Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party and PiL’s “Under The House” contributed to me leaving my husband, moving into a small apartment in a house near 21st and Main. I started painting with food—mustard, soy sauce, jam—and going to a lot of shows—Frightwig, The Spores, NG3, Death Sentence. Hall shows, clubs, illegal venues—City Space, Stalag 13—standing around not really knowing anyone other than Dave and his brother Ken, who had been managing D.O.A. and Jello Biafra.