At the end of a Fullerton shopping center, next to DiceHouse Games, a tabletop gaming store that hosts role-playing nights and Magic: The Gathering tournaments, sits a relatively unassuming skate shop. Programme Skate N Sound also happens to sell vinyl records on one side, and on about a dozen nights per month for the past couple of years, it turns into a very different scene.
Guitar amps, drums and a PA system are brought out to one side of the store. The clothing and skate-gear racks are wheeled out of the way, as dozens of hardcore, punk, indie and/or hip-hop kids cram into the shop–often with more left waiting outside. The young fans own the responsibility to not damage anything that can't be moved. "Obviously, you can't drink here, and there are no security guards or anything, so we just tell the kids to be cool, and they listen," says Chris Gronowski, one of Programme's owners. "Kids protect their own scene. No one wants to be the guy who ruined it for everyone."
Since Bane played there after having their show canceled about two years ago, Programme has become one of the best small hardcore and punk venues in Fullerton. Gronowski and his partner, Efrem Schulz of Death By Stereo (and several other bands), have also offered a lot of indie shows recently, with hip-hop acts on the horizon.
Programme isn't the only skate shop in the world that hosts local and touring bands in its space, but it's certainly the most prominent in OC. What began as the desire to allow a few stripped-down sets like those prevalent during the heyday of record stores (and still happening at Fingerprints in Long Beach) has grown into such a popular series that Gronowski and Schulz have had to turn bands away and limit the fans to keep things under control. "Every month, the amount of phone calls and Facebook messages and emails we get goes up," Gronowski says. "Bigger bands want to play here; people want to have more bands at each show. We went from doing one or two cool shows a month to being asked to do one pretty much every night. We're not booking agents; we can't do 25 shows per month. If a venue falls through for someone, or we get a name we really can't turn down, we'll sometimes do a last-minute show, but it has to work with our schedule."
Gronowski is himself a product of OC's punk and hardcore scene. After moving to Orange from Chicago as a sixth-grader in the early 1980s, he became enamored with such local bands as the Adolescents and Social Distortion. (It's still a kick for him when Steve Soto comes into Programme or hangs out with him.) And Gronowski wants to help build that scene for today's generation. "I think hardcore kids always seem like they come from better circumstances," Gronowski says. "They might be better educated. They want something from their scene and from their music. It's not just 'Let's go get drunk.' Most of these kids aren't doing anything wrong."
Programme Skate N Sound, 2495 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 798-7565; www.programmehq.com.