CVIndependent

Fri07032020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Greater Palm Springs Pride has featured a variety of fun musical acts over the years—but none have been more fun than GayC/DC, which will be playing at Pride for the third year in a row on Sunday, Nov. 5, on the U.S. Bank Stage.

During a recent phone interview, lead vocalist Chris Freeman—also the bassist/vocalist of the legendary queercore band Pansy Division—said Los Angeles-based GayC/DC came about as a result of his participation in an all-male tribute band to the Go-Gos called the Gay-Gays. He told a fascinating tale about how he met one of the band’s guitarists, Steve McKnight.

“We weren’t really working or doing anything, and our singer said, ‘I’m done. I don’t really want to do anything anymore, and I’m kind of tired of it,’” Freeman said. “(The rest of us) thought, ‘What else could we do with the word “gay” in there?’ Our guitar player, Karl (Rumpf), suggested GayC/DC. I stopped and went, ‘Hey, that’s not a bad idea!’ I took the name and ran with it. A logo and all that stuff came really quick. It sort of wrote itself.

“I was the bass-player, and I thought, ‘Well, we’ll get a singer, and we need a guitar-player too.’ So I was looking through Daddyhunt,” Freeman said with a laugh, “and I saw a picture of this guy who was really handsome who played guitar. It wasn’t like I was looking at him like he was hot or anything, but I clicked on his profile, and I sent him a message. He lived in Torrance, and I asked if he was interested in playing guitar. I knew Glen (Pavan) was available and knew he should play bass, because I’ve known Glen for a long time and knew he was a big KISS fan. It worked out.”

Freeman said he didn’t originally plan on handling vocal duties for GayC/DC.

“We couldn’t find anybody to sing. I tried all sorts of people, and no one was willing to do it,” he said. “I thought this idea was too good, and I thought I’d give it a shot. I said to the band, ‘I’ll do it, but you have to audition me. Try me out like anyone else, because I want to make sure it’s right.’ After the audition, they said, ‘You’re in! Let’s do it!’

“It’s been difficult to do the lead-singer thing, because I’ve always identified as a bass-player and a songwriter. I never saw myself as a David Lee Roth. It’s a stretch for me to do this, but it’s working. It does require me to sort of change into this person, because it’s not really me. One of my favorite people is Alice Cooper, who was one of my rock-star crushes—not that I want to have sex with him or anything, but I was into Alice Cooper and Elton John when I was 13.”

Growing up in Seattle, Freeman said he became a fan of AC/DC during his teens.

“I always heard AC/DC stuff on FM radio, and it was stuff my brothers would listen to—some of the early stuff like ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top,’” Freeman said. “One night on the radio, they played the entire Let There Be Rock album when it came out. It was just before I was 16. I was blown away, and I was a fan instantly. That album to this day is my favorite AC/DC album. It’s got everything on it.

“But then I started to realize I was different, and I was probably gay, but I didn’t know yet—and then I started realizing that guys wearing AC/DC shirts … were the guys who would beat me up. So I didn’t go that direction. Within a year or two after that album came out, I was going to punk shows which were all-ages, and that’s where all the misfits were and the people who got beat up. When I would see there would be an AC/DC show, I’d think, ‘I’m not going to that show! I’m a target if I go to that show!’”

Freeman said the most interesting show GayC/DC has played to date was for a rather small group of people.

“We just recently played for a small theater company,” he said. “They were having some kind of improv party. This guy told us, ‘I want you to come in and play for 20 minutes in a small theater where they never have rock bands! You’re just going to walk in and be amped and kick their ass.’ Well, we did, and it was so much fun. … The PA system was where they were standing and talking on the mic—that’s what I was singing into. It was so loud and distorted. It was such a fun show, though. We played five songs and were done.”

Freeman said he was pleasantly surprised to again get the call for GayC/DC to play at Greater Palm Springs Pride.

“I’m shocked! The crowd in 2015 was the biggest crowd to this date that we’ve ever played for,” he said. “I’m expecting it’s going to be more that size this year than it was last year. Last year was a bit of a drag, because it was split between two stages. I actually played with three bands last year: I played in Pansy Division; I played in GayC/DC; and I played with this guy named Devin Tait, and I’ll be joining him again this year for a tribute to Bananarama called Boynanarama on Saturday.”

GayC/DC will perform at 1:15 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, at the U.S. Bank Stage on Arenas Road during Greater Palm Springs Pride. Admission is free. For more information, visit PSPride.org.

Published in Previews

They call it “Queercore”—punk-rock music that takes on the issues of the LGBT community.

One of the best-known Queercore bands is Pansy Division—and on Sunday, Nov. 6, the band will play in downtown Palm Springs as part of Greater Palm Springs Pride.

After Pansy Division formed in San Francisco in 1991, the band was incorrectly billed as the first gay punk band. In reality, Queercore has been around since the early ’80s and included bands such as The Dicks, Fifth Column, Big Man, and The Apostles. During a recent phone interview, frontman Chris Freeman mentioned an encounter with another Queercore band that would eventually become an Alternative Tentacles labelmate.

“I was working at Wells Fargo when we had just started playing our first shows,” Freeman said. “I’d get packages from this girl who would come in; I thought this chick just rocked. I didn’t know who she was, but she just rocked. … One night, she came in and said, ‘Hey, what are you up to tonight?’ I didn’t know what to tell her, because we were playing a show. She said, ‘Oh, well, I have this band, and maybe you could come and see the show.’ I showed up to the club, and she walks in with her band, and I was like, ‘… What’s your band?’ She said ‘Tribe 8.’ What the fuck? … They were terrorizing. We became best buddies immediately.”

Freeman said he and his bandmates just wanted to have fun after starting Pansy Division.

“We thought, ‘Let’s just focus on San Francisco and the ACT UP community,’ which Jon (Ginoli) and I were pretty active in,” Freeman said, referring to the AIDS/HIV activist group. “We thought that we would try playing a style of music that had not gotten anywhere in our community—power pop and that sort of fun style of punk rock.

“Punk rock was really fun when it first started. Later, there were different factions and cities putting their take on it, and Southern California added to the violent side of punk rock. But when it first started, it was about, ‘Let’s go back to this fun part of rock ’n’ roll,’ which had been lost. … We thought if we’re going to promote being out and gay with punk rock, let’s do it as humor. That’s the best vehicle to get people to understand or accept something.”

Freeman and Ginoli soon realized they were taking part in what amounted to a social experiment.

“Jon and I were both over 30. We were told if we were over 30, we were never going to have a career in music,” Freeman said. “ … Here we are 25 years later, still doing it. During our first couple of shows in San Francisco, we were shaking in our boots, because we didn’t know how people would react to us.”

Pansy Division gained a fan with status in the punk community soon after the band began performing.

“Jello (Biafra) of Dead Kennedys was an early supporter. He would come to our shows, and he would go, ‘You guys, this is genius!’ He was always a big supporter of the gay community,” Freeman said. “He had told us that he was going to sign us and cleared the way for us to do ‘Smells Like Queer Spirit,’ because he was at this protest in Portland, and Nirvana was on the bill. He talked to them, saying, ‘I have this band called Pansy Division out of San Francisco, and I want to put out this 7-inch and do this twist on ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ They said, ‘Yeah, go for it!’ But as it turned out, he didn’t have the money to put out the first single. Larry Livermore from Lookout Records was also watching us and had been a supporter. … We thought, ‘If Jello can’t do it, let’s go with Larry.’ Jello often regrets it, but he was still a champion for us and came to shows.

“When things went sour with Lookout and we got out of the contract around 2000, we went to (Biafra’s) Alternative Tentacles. It’s easy to do business with Jello and easy to work with him.”

Pansy Division found itself on tour with Green Day in 1994, right as Green Day’s album Dookie was taking off. It went on to sell 20 million copies.

“As we signed to Lookout, (Green Day) released Kerplunk,” Freeman said. “We thought, ‘That’s a statement! That’s a great record!’ It went on to sell 50,000 copies on Lookout, which was amazing for an underground band. They could see themselves going to a major label. They had seen our show, and we got the call from Tré (Cool) the drummer, asking, ‘Do you have a van? Can you tour?’ We were ready to go.”

Soon, Green Day’s audience swelled—and Pansy Division found itself playing in arenas, which led to a more mainstream audience.

“That was insane. Never once did Jon and I get used to it,” Freeman said. “We played these huge crowds. Also, we didn’t know what was going to happen to Green Day’s audience. All of a sudden, we’re playing to these 8-year-old kids coming to the shows, and we were up there signing about sucking cock. … None of it made any sense, and it just got weirder and weirder.”

Pansy Division has continued on, albeit with a more limited schedule since 2000 (although the band has been on the road a little bit more recently, due to the band’s brand-new release, Quite Contrary). These days, the members have full-time jobs and spouses—and the music industry has changed as well.

“In 2000, I was homeless. I was kicked out of my apartment because my landlord was gentrifying it,” Freeman said. “I didn’t have a job, because I did temp work in between tours, and the dot-com bust happened, and there were no temp jobs available. I ended up moving to Los Angeles, and we sort of had to regroup and figure out what we were going to do. Napster’s lawsuits coming from Metallica happened, and we had many discussions about, ‘Well, what is the future of music, then?’ At that point, we came to the conclusion that labels are going to go boutique in the future. Once something is on the Internet, no one is going to want to pay for it.”

Freeman performed at Palm Springs Pride with his other band, GayC/DC, last year.

“I didn’t know how open and receptive Palm Springs Pride would be to rock acts such as us,” Freeman said. “The roll of the dice with GayC/DC paid off last year. That was an amazing show. We got off the stage and were like, ‘That was great! We got such a great reception.’ We told the promoters, ‘Have us back! I have this other band called Pansy Division,’ and they were like, ‘PANSY DIVISION? CAN WE HAVE YOU NEXT YEAR?’ It worked out.”

Pansy Division will perform at 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 6, at the U.S. Bank Stage on Arenas Road during Greater Palm Springs Pride. Admission is free. For more information, visit pspride.org.

Published in Previews