At more or less the same time that Wiring Dept. was publishing the 1985 issue we recently combed through, another San Francisco Bay Area fanzine, BravEar #12, was making a similar pass at underground eclecticism, though far more “indie/college” than “sub-underground/fringe”. You could read the same magazines, covering the same general scene within the same four-month period, and come away from BravEar feeling that maybe the overall jig was up, and from Wiring Dept. that perhaps it was just getting started.
This early 1986 issue probably gave me the impression I’ve long carried with me that the greater San Francisco music scene of this time was pretty beat. The Cat Heads. Yo. Angst. Faith No More. Vomit Launch. Short Dogs Grow. The final fumes of the Dead Kennedys. – and so on. All contradicted by last week’s romp through Wiring Dept. #3.
BravEar ensured that their remit traveled further than the local, Northern California scene, however, which is why this issue has an interview with a touring Cocteau Twins, after their one & only San Francisco show in 1985 – a show I happened to attend as a high schooler driving up from San Jose (!) – as well as talks with The Meat Puppets and the UK’s Poison Girls. Such was the de rigeur dreariness of an 80s San Francisco fanzine, however, that the whole magazine basically kicks off with a brain-erasing discussion centered around preventing nuclear war. Please. There’s also a column that briefly and weakly attempts to take down the then-Boston fanzine Forced Exposure, which at this point was my absolute favorite fanzine on the planet, so between the “peace creeps” peddling their peace BS and the editors choosing to hang their hats on an anti-FE platform, well – I knew with certitude in 1986 which such of the divide I’d be standing on.
But listen, that hasn’t kept me from hanging on to this issue since the day I bought it, probably at Rough Trade on 6th Street, back in 1986. It’s all done at a pretty high level of quality, such as it is, and the recently-passed D. Boon was placed on the cover, a “quality move” as they say. Here’s the real revelation, after coming back to this issue for a re-read just now after many, many years spent away from it: this issue is, in many ways, a Seymour Glass project. Yes! Seymour Glass, Charles Nielson, Earl Kuck, the future editor of Bananafish, the proprietor of Stomach Ache and Butte County Free Music Society labels, performer in Idiot (The) and The Glands of External Secretion. That guy.
No, this isn’t his magazine, but he contributes the most copy in BravEar #12 by a country mile, and many of the folks surrounding him in this Berkeley publication are other Chico, CA stalwarts, including half of the aforementioned Vomit Launch and managing editor Rory Lions. Greg Freeman, later of Pell Mell, SF Seals, Virginia Dare and production credit on a ton of terrific records, is also a heavy hitter in this issue. Because Glass’s tastes and persona were so preposterously impenetrable later on, when he was writing Bananafish and championing the most horrific noise or whacked-out experimentalisms, I settled on the idea that this guy arrived to his outre tastes fully-formed – as if that were even possible, right? Nah, here he’s reviewing the Dead Kennedys and Beefeater and pop bands like 54-40 and he likes it all. An indie rocker, as go we all. I saw the guy at a “Gas Huffer” show once in the mid-90s and was like, “Did he show up on the wrong night?”. (Frankly, I’m not sure what I was doing there myself).
BravEar soldiered through three more issues after this and while I bought them all when I saw them, and probably even learned a thing or two, the overriding feeling even then after reading one was annoyance. You can look at all the covers here, and that’s probably good enough.