Tales from the Electric Banana

In the early 1980s, Pittsburgh’s punk rock scene emerged just as the steel industry was collapsing. According to the documentary Give Us A Chance: Pittsburgh Punk, “the shifting regional landscape, with its mill closings, historic employment loss, and eventual population flight into the suburbs, altered generations of individual families and communities, while creating new opportunities in its wake for its youth to connect.”

These “new opportunities” refer to the sense of community that Pittsburgh’s curious and disaffected youth found in the city’s burgeoning scene, and more specifically, at places like the Electric Banana (a venue chronicled in fascinating detail in Doug Hughey’s 2010 essay for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

“For many young people in Pittsburgh under the age of 21, the enigmatic culture of bars, nightclubs, and performance venues had always been a curiosity,” writes Michael Seamans, owner of Mind Cure Records and filmmaker behind Give Us A Chance. “Pittsburgh had already produced several successful underground punk bands in the late 1970s, and its music/bar culture was estimable. A new generation of young people however were missing out on the scene, and looking for ways to connect, be part of the culture, the people, and most importantly, the music.”

(Photograph: Mind Cure Records. Caption: Film still from ‘Give Us a Chance: Pittsburgh Punk.’)