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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

SRL in SF, November 1995


Our Second SRL Experience

By this time, we were probably on some kind of SRL mailing list, or maybe I was just monitoring their website on a daily basis, hoping for an announcement. Somehow, we were alerted to their next show, again in San Francisco.

SRL had gotten themselves some unwanted official attention since their last big show. As a result, the location of their upcoming show – to be titled “Crime Wave” – was a closely-guarded secret. No tickets would be sold in advance. All information would be revealed at the last possible moment, via a local San Francisco phone number with a recorded message.

I couldn’t really afford to go, but Eric had some frequent flyer miles saved up, so my wife’s protestations fell on deaf ears. Which might be one of many reasons I ended up divorced a couple of years later. In any case, we flew to SF, met up with some old school friends, and killed time (and spent money I didn’t have) until the vital info was released. Lucky for us, our friends were SF-savvy. After asking around and doing a little bit of recon work, we found the location of the SRL show several hours before it was announced. We hung around and took pictures until they shooed us away.

At the appointed time (or, given my OCD, perhaps just slightly *before* the appointed time), we returned to the show site, at the foot of the Bay Bridge. A parking lot had been rented for the night, but I am fairly certain that the lot owners had no idea what was about to happen. Let me list for you just a few of the things that we saw:

  • The “Street Sweeper”: A retrofitted armored car, with spinning, rocket-tipped helicopter blades mounted on the roof, which drove directly through the assembled crowd
  • A machine that produced a howling 20-foot high tornado of flame
  • A truck engine mounted on a trailer, with a 5-foot length of steel cable attached to the spinning driveshaft. You have no idea how loud, or how scary.
  • A mocked-up prison wall, with an animated silhouette – of a prisoner being sodomized, naturally – visible through the bars
  • A walking machine with a single mechanical arm that would randomly and violently stab outward with a bolted-on butcher knife
  • A life-size Unabomber mannequin overlooking the lot from a hill. Near the end of the show, it blew itself up.
  • A fully-operational trebuchet, which would launch gasoline-soaked, flaming bales of hay or, alternately, rusty iron spears, across the parking lot.

I should also mention that the parking lot was just across the street from some swanky-looking condos. Every time something blew up, you could see their windows vibrating. The hellish light of multiple, seemingly out-of-control fires was reflected on the faces of horrified condo occupants, standing on their balconies and angrily dialing 911.

After about a half hour of this, the fire department showed up and ordered SRL to shut everything down. Immediately. The police also appeared, strung “Crime Scene” tape around the whole block, and threatened to arrest anyone who didn’t disperse quietly. Mark Pauline, the creative head of SRL, was arrested, questioned about the Unabomber (?), and held for two days. SRL was fined and warned.

Amazingly, one year later, they did this.

We didn’t shoot any video this time, but SRL put together a nice official video (below), and we did, of course, take some pictures.

The Official SRL Video

Viewing the Gallery

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