Tired of being misunderstood as pierced and mohawked harbingers of the apocalypse by talk show stiffs like Parents of Punkers family therapy founder Serena Dank, LA punks Youth Brigade formed the Better Youth Organization, or BYO. Through the BYO, hardcore youth asserted their straight edge independence by throwing DIY all ages shows and building skate ramps in buildings free of sometimes judgmental and ill intentioned adults.
The BYO’s influence spread across the country via xerox copied zines, eventually landing in Philadelphia in 1982. After booking a handful of shows in the city, the Philly chapter planned their biggest one across the Delaware in Camden, NJ. As flyer above indicates, the show featured canonical hardcore acts from all over the East Coast like DC’s Minor Threat, New York’s Agnostic Front and Boston’s S.S. Decontrol (a.k.a. SSD).
At that point Camden was well ensconced in its economic decline, with racial strife and crime flaming up at the merest spark. The show was booked at Buff Hall in that city’s Gateway neighborhood, that BYO Philly founder Nancy Petriello described as a “war zone” in an interview with Loud!Fast!Philly!
Almost immediately upon arriving at the venue a man driving a stolen car slammed into SSD’s van, striking Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye and sending him to the hospital. In an interview with Double Cross, MacKaye recalls:
Beyond that, when kids started showing up having been beaten up or mugged on the way to the show the BYO feared the show might have to be cancelled. Inside, Nancy recalls seeing members of two bike gangs, The Ghetto Riders and The Wheels of Soul (pictured below), drinking at the bar.
Miraculously, the bikers proved friendly telling Nancy: “we’ll take care of you, just listen to what we say and don’t go outside.” The consequences of going outside became clearer to Nancy well into the night:
At one point I did go outside for some reason or another and somebody threw a Double D battery at me… and I’m like: okay, I’m not going outside again.
MacKaye was quickly released from the hospital with contusions and went on to perform that night. Between that and the biker’s intervention the night wound up a smashing success. Footage of the evening survive, below is a clip of Minor Threat tearing through a part of their set:
The show’s notoriety spread quickly hitting punk and skater zines like the one below, the BYO pressed on, throwing shows and raising money to rent out a building of their own in Philadelphia proper. After renovating the space to build a stage on one floor and skate ramps on another, former Mayor Bill Grove personally shut it down after driving by. BYO member Dennis McHugh tells journalist Tony Rettman:
And just like that, the Philly BYO chapter faded slowly into the underground, eventually disappearing into the city’s punk memory.