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Though chain clothing stores in climate-controlled shopping malls have corporatized punk, it's good to see the spirit of the music thriving in the underground. Thankfully, true punks—with their cockroach-like tenacity—can't be killed off so easily. The Clinic in Santa Ana offers a home to these die-hards, hoping to nourish the beleaguered punk crowd and get the genre to mean something again.
"It's nice that young kids have a venue to see punk, as opposed to other clubs that specialize in emo or death metal or Goth," says Gorjis of the band Famous Tea.
"The place was opened so we kids could have a place to play and enjoy going to shows, since these days, you gotta drive hours to do that," chirps Atomic Youth's Thaddeus Hudzinski.
Once just a warehouse in industrial Santa Ana, the Clinic has been turned into a punk sanctuary with apropos accoutrements: a stained carpet, a homemade stage (really more of a big wooden box) and artistic graffiti in bright colors painted from floor to ceiling. "It's definitely a true punk-rock venue, run by punks for punks," says Joe V. of New Faith.
Gorjis says the Clinic's atmosphere "is ?different because it's literally a warehouse: ?a stage, a PA, a light, no tables, no chairs, ?no booze. But since this is an all-ages venue, it's pretty safe to send your kids to, to see ?punk rock the way it was intended to be ?seen: simple."
Simple it is. You go down an alley lined with parking spots, and a few red lights tucked alongside an endless row of gray concrete signal there's activity inside. The front room is small, and a folding table in front of a twisted mural of a sinister doctor is where patrons pay the standard $5 admission to the large, rectangular room.
"What's cool is that it's probably the only game in town that will let punk bands play in front of an all-ages crowd with no presale bullshit," explains Famous Tea drummer Shortstack. "The place reminds me of the one-off shows they would have in Hollywood in the early '80s, when a venue would appear for a brief time, then be gone."
The Clinic opened in February, and it has hosted a steady stream of shows. But because the venue is dedicated strictly to punk and hardcore, its future could be unstable. (Dear Santa Ana public officials: Please don't screw the Clinic and the kids by thinking up some lame excuse to shut it down.) However, Andrew from Wholesale Murder believes the Clinic provides a righteous alternative to profit-hungry venues: "It's hard enough to find a venue that's not connected to Live Nation, because they are the monsters who feed off the independent music scenes and buy out the all-ages clubs. Playing those places leaves a bad taste in a band's mouth when they feel that they've compromised their beliefs. No amount of 'fuck this and fuck that' can make up for the fact that at the end of the night, the people who say, 'No, fuck you' are getting a cut of the door. That sucks, and I think a lot of [punk] bands are more into playing house gigs and guilt-free warehouses with no political ties to anyone."
As Wholesale Murder guitarist Billy observes, "Venues like the Clinic are invaluable to the DIY scene. Support them while you can because they won't always be around. . . . It's a great atmosphere and provides a great opportunity for bands to step up and show what they've got. I hope the kids respect it enough not to burn it. We've lost a lot of these over the years."