It’s time for a history lesson, kids. The Deaf Club was a punk venue founded in SF’s Mission District (right there on 16th and Valencia by the Roxie!) in 1978.
Some of my favorite Bay Area (and So Cal, actually) punk acts of the ’70s played there. Giants such as Dead Kennedys, X and Crime, but also some fan-fucking-tastic lesser-known female punk groups including Noh Mercy, Pink Section, and Dinettes.
So how does a punk space get a name like the Deaf Club? It actually was… a deaf club. Started in the ’30s, the people behind the clubhouse started letting Robert Hanrahan rent out the space for $CHEAP on a nightly basis. Which worked out well, when you think about it. Crazy, arty, brutal sounds coming out of the space at all hours of the night wasn’t going to disturb the deaf and hard of hearing. In fact, a bunch of deaf people frequented the shows during that time, forging a dope cross-cultural punk/deaf community. Unfortunately, other local residents the venue were not quite as “down.” Neighbors were known to call the cops and complain that the noise was simply (wait for it) “deafening.” After operating for just over a year, the Deaf Club was shut down due largely to disorganization, noise ordinance and fire safety issues, and the fact that, well, it was punk rock, and everything that is good and punk only lasts for about a year.
Fortunately, Walking Dead Records put out an excellent compilation called Can You Hear Me? Music From the Deaf Club. Oh, and this hella cool guy also made a bunch of the tracks available via free download.
The legacy of the Deaf Club is more than some cool old posters featuring obscure SF art-punk bands. It’s a testament to the intersection between deaf and punk culture- something largely unnoticed even today, but a very real historical and contemporary experience that I personally would love to learn more about.