(Re)Collection #20: Honda Civic, Pt. 1
Updated: Mar 31
I have had two significant Honda Civics in my life. My friend Dave Brower owned the first one. He had a white 70s Honda Civic hatchback his junior year of college. It holds a very special place in my heart. Not necessarily for automotive reasons. Actually, not for automotive reasons at all.
The most crucial aspects of the car were as follows: 1. It ran 2. It had a cassette player 3. It never broke down 4. We both fit inside of it--just barely.
The first time I saw Dave's Civic, one of the rear mudflaps was draped nonchalantly over the rear impact bumper. 3/4 on the bumper and 1/4 hanging off. Like someone removed it from the wheel well and absent-mindedly rested it there and forgot about it. For the whole time I knew that car, the mudflap never moved. Even after countless long drives and all kinds of weather. Why that memory endures, I do not know.
Dave and I are tall. I am 6'3" and he is 6'4". We made a pretty comical picture both of us jammed in that car with our knees practically up to our chins. A couple of clowns with long hair stuffed into a white clown car.
This little Japanese car with a Thrasher sticker on the back window was our chariot. It carried us to quite a few punk rock shows. We would regularly drive from Carlisle, Pa down to shows in D.C. I recall lots of groggy, late night drives home in that little thing.
The first time I heard Sonic Youth's Sister was in that car. We were driving through the pitch black Pennsylvania woods with those spooky and disconcerting sounds blasting from the tiny, old speakers. I can't say that I liked it at all. I didn't really get into them until Daydream Nation came out. Teenage Riot hooked me.
Washington, D.C. had a few regular places to see live music. There was the old 9:30 Club on F Street in amongst the wig and shoe shops on a gritty block a stone's throw away from where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater. I haven't been back there much since the early 90s, so I don't know what that block is like now. The club moved to a different building some time in the 90s.
Back then, the 9:30 club was a smallish, nasty smelling hole in the wall on a street that time seemed to have forgotten. The walls were painted black and the staff were stone faced and not at all friendly. Typical for the era, I guess.
The other club, d.c. space, was actually a restaurant that held shows at night. It was very small. The stage was a platform 6 inches off the floor which faced plate glass windows with a view of the 7th and E Street intersection. I saw many amazing shows there with and without Dave. What a place.
At those venues we saw raucous shows by The Royal Crescent Mob, the Pressure Boys, Husker Du, Scream, Fugazi, Defenestration, Ball, Kingface, Sonic Youth, Verbal Assault, SoulSide and a few others.
One afternoon, we got out of class and decided we were going to drive down to D.C. to see Dagnasty. I was pretty pumped up about it because I loved Can I Say. Dave Smalley was not the singer at that point, though. It was the Wig Out at Denkos-era. Peter Cortner was the vocalist. My recollection was that Dave Grohl was there. I remember seeing this smallish teenager with black and bleached blond long hair walking around and wondering who the hell he was. It could have been right about the time he joined Scream when drummer Kent Stax left. The memory is a little foggy though.
The 9:30 club had lowish ceilings. When people were crammed in there slamming and jumping around, the sweat would condense on the ceiling and drop down on your head like salty rain. It was gross.
Dave and I got there really late. I am not sure if traffic was bad or we got lost. We came rolling into the club and caught the last song of the set. Thank you and good night.
This was the first of two memorable "thank you and good night" moments for Dave and me. The second happened in New York at the College Music Journal (CMJ) convention in New York City in the Fall of 1987. We had not traveled there in the Civic though.
We had been running around to shows and music discussion panels all day and evening. Bad Brains were playing at CBGBs that night. We played the hell out of I Against I at WDCV, our college radio station. I played it to death in my own car as well. SST used to send out generic looking white cassette promos with typed and photocopied j-cards. I still have that tape. So the show was going to be awesome. They were legendary performers.
We hop in a cab and roll down to the Bowery for the show. We get through the door as Bad Brains are frantically working their way through the last song. I recall it being I Against I. Thank you and good night. Missed another great one. That kind of sums up my relationship with early punk and hardcore. I missed it by that much. Late bloomer. Late to the club. Late to the scene. Just late.
Anyway, what a car. Dave tells me that the Civic was supposed to be his mom's car and somehow he got it. She was angry at him for a while about that. All I know is that car was responsible for many great experiences. Without that little car, I might not have gotten so involved in music. For better or for worse.