From The Desk Of Pansy Division: The Lookouting, January 2017

No band has waved the rainbow flag more proudly than Pansy Division. From its origins and involvement in early-’90s Bay Area punk to becoming de facto leaders of the “homocore” movement, Jon Ginoli, Chris Freeman and a rotating cast of straight and gay drummers (the band is now rounded out by drummer Luis Illades and guitarist Joel Reader) never shied away from graphic depictions of queer, bi and questioning dudes getting sweaty with each other and a variety of apparati. But as acceptance of queer culture and community has grown and the band’s members find themselves in their 40s and 50s, the topics on new album Quite Contrary have also progressed. Pansy Division will be guest editing all week. Read our new feature on them.


Ginoli: When Lookout! Records began in 1987, it documented the newly emerging underground punk-rock scene based around the all-ages 924 Gilman Street club in Berkeley, Calif.. Green Day and Operation Ivy are the best-known exponents of that early local scene, and as the label grew, it was very successful releasing records by bands outside that area or scene. As has been well-documented elsewhere, the label declined and finally faded out in the mid-2000s. It may be gone, but Lookout! Records bands are still remembered fondly by many.

On January 1, 6, 7 and 8, 2017, a number of these bands are gathering to play at Gilman Street, in an event called The Lookouting: A Celebration Of Lookout Records: 23 bands are scheduled to play over four days.

What’s interesting is that the organizers asked a number of the early, more obscure bands to play, and many have re-formed to do so. Some haven’t played shows in more than 25 years. Many released only singles, never got around to making albums; others did make albums, and were popular locally, but did not catch on nationally. Most of the “name” bands from the label aren’t playing; many that are playing don’t fit the “pop/punk” tag for which the label is best known. I love the grassroots aspect of the lesser-known bands dominating the lineup, though some of them have cult followings that will be thrilled to see them play.

Pansy Division released records on the label from 1992 until 1999, and we are playing this event, but I’m not writing about it to try to get anyone to go, because the whole thing is already sold out. Sometimes it’s easy to be cynical about older bands reuniting, but I would venture that for most of these bands it’s a chance to do what they wanted to do when they were younger—be creative, make music the way they wanted to, and play it in front of a crowd. It’s hardly a cash-in: The bands will make a little money, but it’s hardly lucrative. We’re in the era where older music never disappears completely, and can make surprising returns, and I like that.