To the dismay of local punks and warehouse showgoers in OC, DIY art space and music venue Unit B skatepark announced that it has closed its doors and cancelled all future events. Great, one more valued all-ages venue down the drain. At least for now.
Mark Waters, who runs the venue and books gigs, posted the news last Thursday on Unit B's Facebook page, though he declines to go into too much detail about the reason for the closure.
“The bottom line is that the property owner somehow saw the videos of the shows we were doing there and just got real nervous,” Waters says. “They just saw it as violence, this goes back to 1980 in Los Angles, where punk rock violence is misunderstood by the masses.”
Unit B has been holding small punk shows for a little under a year. The shows were mostly local punk bands and occasionally a touring band would come through. Some the bands that played were Rotting Out, Hoax, Media Blitz, and Summer Vacation. The venue has a small stage in the only portion of the monster sized warehouse it uses for shows.
One show last month had so many people they had to have it held in one of the skateboarding bowls. About a foot off the ground, bands play right in the face of fans often moshing and crowd surfing to the music. Twice in the venues history has someone jumped from a 15 foot balcony onto members of the crowd. “Both the people who've jumped off the balcony got walked out immediately, by me,” Waters says. “Recently we put up signs that say don't jump off the balcony, but someone always wants to be the one to do it.”
Despite whatever precautions the venue has taken to curb possible injuries, the property owners are apparently still uneasy about potential liabilities.
“They seem like conservative people, they don't know anything about punk culture, some of the things that were said were 'there's girls there,'” Waters continues. “Someone said to me, 'we don't know if anyone's getting raped.' It got to the point where it was obvious that they were just generally nervous about what was happening.”
Behind on rent and worried the property owners would call the cops on the upcoming shows, Mark decided it was best to take a deal with the owners to leave now and be completely out of debt. “It was a big thing for me to have them pay off the debt, not just so I didn't have to dig myself out of a $9,000 hole, but so my company could remain in good credit when we're trying to find a new place.” Waters says.
When Unit B started, it was just going to be a photography studio for skateboarding. But the owners quickly realized that that wasn't going to pay the rent and they started doing skate board competitions and eventually started doing shows. “The shows started taking off and helped us to pay the rent, by March we were able to pay the rent, and we had a lot of momentum going,” Waters says.
During a typical show, Waters is scrambling all over the place. He runs the soundboard, he's taking pictures, he's working the door making sure everyone's paying, and he's acting as security, making sure nobody is going out of their way to hurt somebody else. "I tried to always treat the kids with respect, and it paid off,” Waters says. "I don't mean it paid off in money, but in community.”
Local musician Chip Lund, who's dealt a lot with Waters over the last year said, "I've played about 10 to 15 shows there, I can't remember specifically how many, between [bands] Tension, Bridge and Meat. Dealing with Mark was nothing but a pleasure; he always had been really friendly and always hooked it up with awesome shows. And personally I believe that DIY has been an over-glorified word in Orange County but Unit B was most definitely the purest definition of DIY to me.”
The Facebook post was short and vague letting everyone know that the current location wouldn't be available, However the note also hinted that Waters is looking for a new spot to potentially start holding shows again.
“The goal this time is to do everything completely, 100 percent legitimate from the start. I live in Orange County, there are plenty of places elsewhere, La Puente you have Bridgetown, in Downtown you have The Smell, there are a lot of places like Aladdin Jr. but I want to continue to serve this Unit B community.”