Exhibit Open Until March 2018
At The Grammy Museum
Friday, October 13 marked the public opening of X: 40 Years of Punk in Los Angeles — the newest exhibit to hit the Grammy Museum in Downtown Los Angeles. The evening before opening day, Exene and John Doe stopped by the museum to share first impressions about the exhibit, and explain some of the artifacts on display.
“It’s so neat to see my bandmates’ stuff,” Exene was quick to share. “I just love it. It’s so fascinating.”
Located on the second floor of the museum, the displays in this tribute to the widely influential punk band are organized by band member. John Doe, Exene Cervenka, DJ Bonebrake and Billy Zoom all have their own glass cases filled with old stage clothing and apparel, musical equipment, notes, mementos, art and photos. Lined in a row, the backs of cases hold televisions projecting various documentary and film footage featuring the band. Also included in the exhibit is a display of show posters and fliers from over the years, as well as rarely seen photography of X and its members.
Executive Director for the exhibit, Scott Goldman, emphasized that the entire band was crucial to putting the exhibit together, with most of the items on display coming directly from the member’s homes and personal collections. “They all participated,” Goldman explained. “One of the things that I’m trying to do [with the exhibit] is to obviously tell the story of the band’s music, but also tell their individual stories.”
“[Here’s] the first time I wrote the lyrics down to Los Angeles, you can see the water stains, the sweat stains,” John Doe said, pointing at a soiled notebook full of colorful scrawl in his case. “There’s sweat and beer.”
Other gems included in John Doe’s case are his and Exene’s old Olympia typewriter which they toted along with them on tours, as well as a very special “X” shaped sign — a token John Doe saved before the demolition of the old Brooklyn chocolate XLAX factory in 1979.
This is by no means a memorial exhibit, or a nostalgic remembrance of a “heyday” long passed. X, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary together this year, are still actively touring. Indeed, the bass guitar displayed in John Doe’s case (his very first) was used in a live show as recently as 2015/2016 — decades old sweat stains and all!
As John Doe aptly put it, “I think this is more a tribute to the beginnings of the band. The band still seems very real because we play all the time. We are probably playing over 100 shows this year because of the 40th anniversary. So, getting in the van every day and going to the next city — that’s as real as it gets.”
He went on to add, “It’s great to revisit my stuff, Billy’s stuff, DJ’s stuff…We each seem to keep a whole different thing. DJ somehow managed to keep a lot of the X shirts. It’s nice to see old posters and things like that, from time which it was all mashed together from say ’77 to ’83 or ’85.”
Exene echoed a similar sentiment of not feeling detached from the older memorabilia on display, but felt rather as though the exhibit offered a chance for the band to share a bit of their lives with the public.
“It’s not [decontextualized] kinda just because you see these pictures over the years,” she explained. “They come out sometimes in publications and some of the clothes we have in our houses, same with the art and the journals.”
“What’s impressive to me is seeing some of DJ’s stuff!” she added. “Like, I’ve never seen that picture of DJ.” Then, pointing to a pair of thin sunglasses in DJ’s display case she exclaimed, “What is that? What are those?”
“It’s nice…but someone just said to me, ‘Look what they did for you,’” Exene said. “Well, no, they did it for everyone who comes to the museum. This is about celebration. This is about a life together doing stuff.”
X: 40 Years of Punk in Los Angeles will run until March 2018. For more information about the exhibit, including hours of operation and ticket inquiries, please visit http://www.grammymuseum.org/exhibits/x.