24 November 2021
(L-to-R: GBH, DOA and Social Distortion. Photos by Alison Braun.)
Playing Favorites is a new interview series. Musicians, filmmakers, comedians or other creative types pick a topic and tell us their Top 5 favorite things about it.
If a legendary punk band played a gig in Hollywood during the early ‘80s, a teenaged Alison Braun was probably there with her camera. Starting with a Wasted Youth show in 1981, Braun snapped some of the most iconic shots of the LA punk and hardcore scenes for legendary fanzines like Maximumrocknroll and Flipside. Many of these images have been collected in her excellent photobook, In The Pit: Punk Rock Photos 1981-1990 (No Plan Records), including local and touring bands like TSOL, Black Flag, Misfits, 45 Grave, Descendents, Circle Jerks, Exploited and many more.
PLAYING FAVORITES: ALISON BRAUN’S TOP 5 PUNK BANDS TO PHOTOGRAPH
I did a poll a couple years ago and had people guess the band I’ve photographed the most for the chance to win a copy of my book. And nobody got it right. Everybody assumed it was Battalion of Saints
or Dr. Know
, the bands I was hanging out with. I think I actually discovered Blast because they opened for Dr. Know, and they were heavy as hell. They just had this great energy, an emotional and captivating live band. I think I photographed them 15 times.
4. Dead Kennedys
I really like shooting Dead Kennedys because of the crowd participation. Every time I shot them the stage got over-run and people were stage diving. There was a particular night at the Florentine Gardens where that happened. I was sitting on the stage as it got over-run so I kept backing up. I climbed on top of the monitors and the crowd started shaking them. I thought the monitors were going to get toppled with me sitting on top of them. So I went to the back of the club and just watched the mayhem.
I photographed D.O.A. a lot. What I liked about them—in addition to being such nice, approachable guys—is their guitar player, Dave Gregg
. He was just so animated, constantly bouncing and jumping. And he was so tall and lanky that he got this air underneath him. There’s a picture of him in my book where he’s in mid-air and I use that picture all the time because it’s one of my favorites.
2. Social Distortion
does this thing with his feet where he has a strong, bold stand in front of the mic. It exudes charisma, so I just loved watching him. I started shooting Social Distortion in 1981, but I hadn’t seen them for a long time—and when I look at more recent YouTube videos of them, he’s still spot on. Definitely not some pathetic old guy reliving his glory days; he’s still a force. And I say that with affection since we’re the same age.
They were from England, so I only got to photograph them three times. They were just fun because they were different. Photographing a touring band that came through LA was more of an event, not just a small club show. G.B.H. would play at Perkin’s Palace or the Santa Monica Civic, which were more like big concerts with a different type of energy. The band had smiles on their faces and the crowd loved them; it seemed like they enjoyed what they were doing, not just going through the motions or falling over drunk. Everybody had fun and I always really liked that.
Previously on Playing Favorites:
Jim Ruland’s Top 5 Favorite Punk Books
Frank Turner’s Top 5 Favorite Venues
Jenn Alva’s Top 5 Favorite Punk Singers