Back in the ’80s I would see so many fights break out at punk shows in Chicago, or witness a group of dudes single out and jump someone for no real reason. Riding trains from the south side of the city to the north to see live music was never easy or safe and always posed obstacles for us young punks. There wasn’t a train or bus ride where I wouldn’t ask myself, “What the fuck is gonna happen tonight?” Growing up in gang-infested parts of the city earned me some smarts, and the last thing I would ever do was carry anything on me that was of value, especially my camera.

I was obsessed with seeing live music and would go to almost anything that was happening in Chicago at the time. Entering the ’90s, so many bands were changing and jumping genres, and locally it seemed that bands had lost that hardcore edge to them. I wanted to start one that brought it back. In 1991, Los Crudos were born. Later I would go on to form Limp Wrist as well as Arma Contra Arma, Tragatelo, Harto, Needles, NN, the Shhh, Nrrrv, and, most recently, Canal Irreal.

At the tail end of the ’80s and into the ’90s, when punk shows became fun again—more about the music, the bands, and the fans—I decided to risk bringing out my Canon AE-1 to document this scene that meant so much to me. Prior to shooting digital, I could afford about a roll of Tri-X per show, maybe two, and I’d hope for the best. When things went digital I had more chances at capturing killer shots, but I could also take 100 frames and end up with garbage.

I have been photographing for more than 35 years now. I do a variety of styles but am mostly known for shooting punk shows, and I still get knocked on my ass here and there while doing it. But I live for this, the energy and the sound. I love watching a kid in their first band, trying their hardest and sucking, only to come back a year later with a new project that blows all our fucking minds. No band is too small or unknown for me to photograph; there is something so raw about it, it’s all worthy in my eyes. Punk shows have always been a blast, the ones that happen without permits, illegal shows, basement shows, on the street or in someone’s shitty apartment. Those tend to be the best ones, and I always try to have my camera for them.

GWAR perform live on stage in Chicago.
Blood, cum, punks, and skins! (1989)
Gwar played a show at Club Dreamerz, a small venue in Chicago, and somehow my camera survived. The entire crowd was doused in liquids and I found myself ducking and dodging the entire set. I’ve had plenty of loads in my face over my lifetime, but Gwar shot best.
A photo of punks in Mexico.
Punks in Mexico (1994)
(Top) On the first Crudos tour of Mexico, about 20 punks took a day trip to Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico. (Bottom) These are Otomi punks from Toluca, Mexico. We spoke about life, punk, the world, and pulque. As they told me about pulque one of them reached down and grabbed my dick and said it would make it really hard.
Gag at the Oakland Metro (2013)
Gag at the Oakland Metro (2013)
I recall the first time this band came through the Bay with their crew from Olympia, they were young and trying to make a name for themselves. It was an aggressive set and by the end of the night the singer’s shirt was drenched in blood.
Infest at Chi-Town Futbol in Chicago (2013)
Infest at Chi-Town Futbol in Chicago (2013)
Infest rose from the dead with a series of shows and made a trip to Chicago. It was nonstop stage-diving during their set and everyone was ready for it. Capturing this moment, with boots and legs amidst all the chaos happening in the room that night, was a photographic highlight for me.
A photo of Limp Wrist written on an arm.
Limp Wrist (2005)
After Crudos ended, a few friends and I started a new band called Limp Wrist. Members were spread out all over the U.S. and I would bus to Philadelphia to practice and play our shows. Over the years we all moved around a bit and two of us lived together in San Francisco. While moving out of “GPH” (Gay Punk House) there, we walked around the neighborhood burying dildos in fancy storefront planters, knowing they would someday be found, as a farewell and a fuck-you to what the city had become.
An audience member thought it would be wise to taunt the vocalist, so he brought a knife to his face.
City Hunter at Club Rectum in Chicago (2016)
An audience member thought it would be wise to taunt the vocalist. Playing staredown with a dude who has a knife in his hand is not a recommended move. As the blade pushed up against that kid’s cheek, I saw the look on his face shift.
A shirt that says "Only Punks Are Pretty."
Only Punks Are Pretty (2009)
It is so true and anyone who says otherwise is lying.
Dawn of Humans perform at the Mousetrap in Chicago.
Dawn of Humans at the Mousetrap in Chicago (2013)
A rat-infested empty storefront that I loved going to from 2005 to 2017. When punk happens in illegal venues, punk houses, and alternative spaces outside of the clubs—free of bouncers and an endless list of rules—it is allowed to be its true lawless self and interesting shit starts to happen.
A photo o Alice Bags in front of a wall that says "Drugs, Pussy, Music, Future, Bags."
Drugs, Pussy, Music, Future, Bags (2014)
It doesn’t get more visceral than this. Alice Bag photographed in front of original 1977 graffiti in a basement in Hollywood that was once the legendary L.A. punk club the Masque.
A photo of Juan Crudo in Tokyo.
Juan Crudo in Tokyo (2015)
The first time Los Crudos toured Japan, in 1996, was such a unique experience coming from the South Side of Chicago. We were in awe of so many things and took it all in. Our prior knowledge was limited to what was sonically making its way to our turntables in the U.S. At our first Tokyo gig the punks sang along with us in Spanish and our jaws dropped. Six trips to Japan and I find myself always wanting more.
Lebenden Toten at the Manic Relapse Fest in Oakland (2018)
Lebenden Toten at the Manic Relapse Fest in Oakland (2018)
Something about this band’s brand of noise and power always moves me to start jumping and screaming. On numerous occasions I’ve found myself handing my camera off to someone so I can lose my fucking mind for a bit. The next time someone says, “Oh, you like punk? You mean like [insert corny radio-friendly garbage here]?” cut them off and say, “No, I like this,” and play Lebenden Toten.
Fugazi at Club Dreamerz in Chicago (1989)
Fugazi at Club Dreamerz in Chicago (1989)
The floor beneath me bowed with the weight of 300 people who were crammed into the upstairs of Dreamerz. They jumped up and down while Fugazi played, most not realizing the old building could give out under our feet. Up against the stage I planned my escape and was prepared to cling onto Ian’s leg, some cords, a guitar cab, anything while hundreds of bodies plunged to the bottom floor of the club. Injury? Death? We got lucky that night.

Thanks for reading CREEM. This article originally appeared in our Spring 2023 issue. If you prefer to read in print, grab a copy here and subscribe to never miss another one.




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