An A-Z Guide to Punk Club Interiors


When we came across these fascinating photos of a seminal underground punk club on Sasha Frere-Jones’ blog, we were captivated by the simple charm of the cooperatively designed space.

Dedicated to the principles of DIY since it opened its doors 15 year ago, today The Smell is the humble mecca of Los Angeles’ influential punk, noise and experimental scene. As the website declares, “the community of individuals who call The Smell their home, whether it be the musicians who play there, the artists whose work hangs on the walls, or the dedicated supporters who attend the events week in and week out, are the same individuals who book the shows, run the front door, provide quality sound engineering services, staff the vegan snack bar, and help with cleaning and general upkeep.”

An inspiring study in what it means to do-it-yourself, here’s a look at the clubs that were home to the vanguard crusade that shunned anything mainstream in an effort to create the ultimate local scene. The hardcore predecessor of the hipster locavore, indie artisans, and the thriving handmade movement, these raw spaces showcase the fundamental tenants of artistic expression and experience.

From Madame Wong’s punk and New Wave club in Los Angeles’ Chinatown to Berkeley’s 924 Gilman, an all-ages performance club and community space, to the dizzying basement bathrooms of CBGB’s, click through to take a tour of authentic DIY design at its finest, past and present.

American flags

Image credit: Theresa K

The Germs with frontman Darby Crash playing in Pat Smear’s garage in 1977.

Benches from a van

Image credit: Sasha Frere-Jones

Bench seats taken out of a van and repurposed to make a sitting area beneath patrons’ drawings at The Smell in Los Angeles.

Communal bookshelves in neon colors

Image credit: Sasha Frere-Jones

Hand-painted communal bookshelves, including a ‘free stuff’ bin at The Smell in Los Angeles.

deWitt, Cali

Image credit: Sasha Frere-Jones

A long-time member of the LA music community, Cali deWitt is an artist and photographer who runs the Hope Gallery and “releases records and books and various curio and ephemera vis á vis the Teenage Teardrop label.” He’s also drawn some murals at The Smell.

Elk’s Lodge chic

Image credit: Meghan McInnis

Meghan McInnis has photographed the stage areas in underground hardcore punk shows for the past two years. “The spaces themselves are not meant to be used as venues for musical performance. They act as a temporary concert halls, often used only a few times for this purpose. These spaces often include Mooselodges, VFW Halls, Masonic Temples, living rooms, kitchens, basements, and backyards.”

Fluorescent lights

Image credit: Latrinalia

Omnipresent fluorescent lights as seen in the basement of CBGB’s.


Image credit: Ian Grant

The Masque was a small punk rock club in central Hollywood which existed off and on from 1977 to 1979. Operated by a Scot named Brendan Mullen, it was the nexus of the Los Angeles punk scene and frequently featured bands such as X, The Germs, The Mau-Mau’s, The Weirdos, The Avengers, The Dils, The Skulls and others. The Go-Gos rented practice space there.” The graffiti on the walls remains even though the building’s mostly used for storage now.


Image credit: Elle Indsay

The Broken Neck in Austin, Texas is “hidden in an industrial center on the east side of Austin, a simple warehouse space ignobly set next to an auto-body repair shop and near the famous Arkie’s Grill. And while you wouldn’t know it from looking at it, it has quietly become one of the most important venues in the city, all thanks to one man: Jon Hoff, punk aficionado and adherent of the DIY approach to booking that fed the ’80s hardcore scene and helped nurture the careers of bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag.”

Impromptu basketball hoops

Image credit: 924 Gilman

The 924 Gilman Street Project in Berkeley, California “is an all-ages, not for profit, collectively run, music/performance club and community space.”

Jesse Spears

Image credit: Sasha Frere-Jones

A Los Angeles artist and illustrator, Jesse Spears’ work also graces the walls of The Smell. A great documentary, Live at the Smell, features the many murals and their creators, along with footage culled from 20 hours of live shows by regulars Abe Vigoda, HEALTH and No Age.

Keyhole archways

Image credit: apartment therapy

The former site of Madame Wong’s punk and new wave club in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, this colorful space is now the private residence of two artists.

Linoleum marked with masking tape

Image credit: Wednesday Week

Wednesday Week performing at Cathay de Grande, a club in the basement of a barely operating restaurant, in Hollywood, California.

Mirrored diamond supergraphics

Image credit: Zack Dance

Scythian at Washington D.C.’s Hung Jury Pub in 1986.

Number stencils

Image credit: all-ages movement project

Wall art at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California.

Original fabric banners

Image credit: Anton Perich via Max’s Kansas City

The New York Dolls performing at New York City’s Max’s Kansas City in 1970.

Poster walls

Image credit: Harold Gee

10 year old frontman for The Skullbusters in front of the ubiquitous poster wall at a punk club in San Diego.

Quilted tablecloths

Image credit: Bob Gruen via Max’s Kansas City

The New York Dolls’ David Johansen and David Bowie at Max’s Kansas City.

Reprographic prints for large scale halftone murals

Image credit: 924 Gilman


Image credit: Joseph Holmes

Sticker covered walls at New York City’s CBGB’s.

Thonet-style bentwood chairs salvaged from an alley somewhere

Image credit: Ian Grant

Unusual silver salad dressing vessels

Steven Kasher Gallery via Magenta Magazine

Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, and Tim Buckley at Max’s Kansas City in 1968.

Vintage audio equipment

Image credit: 924 Gilman

Setting up for a swap meet at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California.

Wood truss ceilings

Image credit: Bridge and Tunnel Club

Xeroxed paper cockroaches

Image credit: Edward Colver via Morrison Hotel

Dead Kennedys at the Whisky in Los Angeles in 1984. TSOL was also on the bill, and the Butthole Surfers were added at the last minute. The papers on the stage are their xeroxed cock roaches.

Yellow gold velvet

Image credit: Jenny Lens

Natasha at Larchmont Hall in Los Angeles in 1977.

Zine libraries

Image credit: Michael Thompsen

The Guardian reports that “in the United Kingdom, the 1979 mod revival brought with it a burst of fresh creativity from fanzines, and for the next decade, the youth subculture inspired the production of dozens of independent publications. The most successful of the first wave was Maximum Speed, which successfully captured the frenetic world of a mod revival scene that was propelling bands like Secret Affair, Purple Hearts and The Chords into the UK charts.”