Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Everyone has memories of "the best of times". Talking to old friends, we all seem to agree that the memories of one time and one place in particular stand out above all others. That place was HOOLIGAN INK. I ran into a guy just the other night, and he sd "It's a wonder no one ever died at that fuckin place!"... no statement could be more true regarding Hooligan's!
Hooligan's is a tattoo shop on the South Side of Youngstown, OH... aka "The Armpit of America", and sometimes "Murder Capital of America" (some years). Hooligan's was no ordinary tattoo shop. There were regularly hardcore and punk shows in the basement staring in 1999. The basement was dark, creepy, and covered with graffiti. You walked in to the shows from the back alley (which regularly had stolen/chopped cars, gutted and sitting on blocks) and down a creaky hallway (watch your step... you might fall through one of the holes) and as you approached the stairs to go down, you saw in front of you the infamous "THIS WAY TO HELL" sign on the wall at the bottom of the stairs. Once you got down there, you saw walls covered w/ graffiti and blood (the "Blood Wall" was a wall where you would rub the blood your wounds, usually head wounds), and often you'd see a giant rat (or rats) scurry away. Sometimes the floor was covered in water (or even sewage) because the pipes leaked or got broken during a show. The poles that supported the ceiling were wrapped in barbed wire. Displayed proudly on the wall were crude weapons like baseball bats w/ nails through them and axe handles wrapped in barbed wire... and they looked like they had been used! All this was what you saw before the show even started!
Hooligan's shows were "anything goes" and were generally wild. Since it was in a bad part of town, only die-hards came to the shows... outcasts and ugly types were the norm, the rest of the sheep steered clear. There was NEVER a fight at ANY Hooligan's show... and for good reason. One look at the people at the show and the neighborhood.... you knew that no one was coming to save your ass if shit got out of hand. The staple of Hooligan's shows was CROWD DETERRENT who played nearly every show, and PITBOSS 2000. We tried to bring in the best of the best of bands we could get to play such a dump at the time, here's a few of the bands that came through and played Hooligan's: PITBOSS 2000, KILL YOUR IDOLS, INDECISION, BLANKS 77, 25 TA LIFE/COMIN CORRECT, RUN DEVIL RUN, REACH THE SKY, ONE LIFE CREW, PROBLEM SOLVER REVOLVER, MUSHMOUTH, DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR, DONNYBROOK, and many many more. The shows often featured skinheads running around w/ ski masks, and people wielding machetes. Straight Edgers and drunks moshed side by side, mowhawked punks and varsity jacket wearing hardcore folk smashed one another on the dancefloor. Age, style, race... none of that mattered. If you were into underground/angry music, you loved the shows at Hooligan's.
The best show/pinnacle of Hooligan's was the "Final" Pitboss 2000 show. This show featured PITBOSS 2000, CROWD DETERRENT, PROBLEM SOLVER REVOLVER, and NO RETREAT. The basement was filled to capacity (see the pic below)
It was difficult to tell where the crowd ended and the band began. At the end of the show, MEAN STEVE form One Life Crew came out and preformed 3 songs from CRIME RIDDEN SOCIETY. He had not been seen at any show for years, and this was pre-OLC reunion. Steve came out, sd very little, and the place erupted. Those 3 songs were one of the most fun times I have ever had in my entire life. I still watch the video of those songs and get chills. (pic below from OLC set)
(Pic below: 25 ta Life) The shows went on for about 4 or 5 years, then they died off. there was a "final" show featuring CROWD DETERRENT, DONNYBROOK, INTERNAL AFFAIRS and LOSING STREAK. The show was disappointingly uneventful until the final band, Crowd Deterrent played... then the place erupted into a frenzy of punks, skins, straight edges, and any kind of person you could think of moshing, stomping, kicking, swinging weapons, throwing fireworks... just what everyone had expected form the get-go. It was a fitting finale... although there was one more event at Hooligan's, the Crowd Deterrent "Down To Throwdown video was shot there.
I could probably write for hours about all the things that happened there. All the people who came and went and even passed away. The daily antics and characters that worked at and hung out at Hooligan's could fill a novel, but I just wanted to focus on the shows. It was a place where there were literally no rules. You could do whatever you wanted. It was truly a wild place which was not for everyone... many were too scared to even attend a show there, even if a band they liked was playing. I can recall bands that I booked to play there, and I would tell them to watch when they got into town, and to not turn off the main roads if they got lost... they would tell me "yea yea yea... we're from Brooklyn! We can handle it", and then when the same band pulled up to Hooligan's, they looked at me in astonishment and sd "What the fuck kinda place is this??? Is our van gonna be safe here? It looks like someone drove a tank through this city!" and I replied " I dunno... you're from Brooklyn... you tell me".
Hooligan's will forever stand out in my mind truly as the best times of my life. Where else could you see someone getting their head stitched up in the back alley with a needle and thread against a backdrop of a burned out/stolen car? Where else was there a mile-long spool of barbed wire sitting out for you to literally do as you pleased with it? Where else would you go to a show and see a refrigerator thrown at the crowd? Where else could you mosh in raw sewage? Nowhere, there's where. (pic below: original "Hooligan Crew")
The shop is still in operation today as a tattoo shop, the shows have stopped and the place is cleaned up from the days of wild debauchery. If you go there, and ask nice, they might just let you go to the basement and see where all the action went down.