Danny Furious - drums; Penelope Houston - vocals; Greg Ingraham - guitar; Jimmy Wisely - bass
By 1977, the stinking fog of punk rock had crept all the way to the West Coast where untamed youth that might have been doused in paisley and patchouli a decade earlier were now taking razorblades to clothing and safety pins to earlobes. If peace and love were curious and troubling to establishment squares in the '60s, the abject nihilism of this new subculture must have been positively terrifying.
Around this time, at a San Francisco art school (where else?), the members of the Avengers were slowly coming together. Once the line-up was cemented, fronted by proto-riot grrrl Penelope Houston, the band quickly became a staple of legendary SF venue Mabuhay Gardens, as well as the growing circuit of punk-friendly clubs and rec-centers in the Bay Area and Southern California. By 1978, when Bill Graham grudgingly booked punk's vanguard, the Sex Pistols, at the Winterland, the Avengers were the obvious choice to round out the bill.
The festivities that night commenced with a typically profane and violent "introduction" under a hail of spit, shoes, and lit cigarettes before the Avengers tore into their signature anthem "The American in Me," a snotty political indictment delivered in under two minutes. The pace rarely lets up over the course of the set as songs are rattled off like Gatling fire, the bleak paranoia of "Desperation," and "The End of the World" ultimately redeemed by the more hopeful but no less aggressive "We Are the One" and "I Believe in Me."
It's likely that no one was aware of the significance of this evening's performance, but within 48 hours the Sex Pistols would be broken up, torn asunder by the very principles, or lack thereof, on which their union was based. The Avengers soldiered on for a few more years, even recording an EP with former Pistol Steve Jones, before eventually collapsing as well. The reputation the band built during their short existence guaranteed them a place in the heart of any self-respecting California punk. Listen to them here, the night that punk rock died. Long live punk!