Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Photo by Paul Silver

By Paul Silver
Photos by Paul Silver, Joey Tobin (, and El Diablo Photo

In the 1979 film, “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School,” Riff Randell and her friends take over their school from an oppressive administration with the help of the punk rock band The Ramones. Director Roger Corman wanted to use Cheap Trick or Todd Rundgren to play the band, but they were unavailable. One of the film’s actors suggested the Ramones, and punk rock history was made. It was the perfect storm: Punk’s anti-authority attitude and the spirit of DIY, that we can do things ourselves without some authority giving us their blessing and without their regulations. And we can have one hell of a fun time doing it.

Thus, when a group of Southern California punks decided to open a DIY music venue in the wake of the abrupt closure of an earlier space, The Warehouse at 12th & G, the name chosen was Vince Lombardi High School, after the school in the classic film. It became known simply as VLHS, and from 2011 it has been the premiere DIY venue in Southern California, and one of the best in the nation. It has been host to hundreds of shows and hundreds of bands over its six years of existence. It’s been a place for friends to gather, for local bands to play, and a welcoming stop to many touring bands.

Photo by Paul Silver

Photo by Paul Silver

Bryant Ned - Photo by Paul Silver

The Stupid Daikini - Photo by Paul Silver

But times change, especially in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. There has been a clampdown on DIY spaces nationwide, and VLHS has become the latest casualty. New property management in the warehouse complex where VLHS has been located brought increased scrutiny and a decision to terminate its lease. VLHS just recently celebrated its sixth anniversary occupying the unassuming Pomona warehouse location, and a mere three weeks later the announcement was made that it was closing its doors.

VLHS’s story began four years before its actual birth, with The Warehouse at 12th & G, a warehouse space in Chino, California that had been home to a skate shop and mail order business. When the owners decided to get out of the business, employee Tim Burkert and a co-worker, Donna Ramone, took over the Internet mail order part of the business, as well as the warehouse space. They built an indoor skate ramp and used the space for band practice for the band Horror Squad, occasionally hosting barbecues and shows to earn some extra money to keep the business afloat. It became a place for friends to hang out, have a good time, and play and hear music. Eventually the shows earned enough money to pay the rent, and the mail order business was jettisoned. Bands like Dead To Me, Toys That Kill, and Joyce Manor played there, as well as locals such as Horror Squad and Summer Vacation. Bigger shows, though, brought unwanted attention from neighbors and the police. The local cops had one of the neighbors warn the group that they knew about the next planned show, and if it happened it would be raided. All of the gear, the PA, amps and heads and drum kit, were quickly moved out under the watchful eyes of the local cops before the raid could take place.

A new place was found in Pomona, and a lease signed, indicating that the space would be used primarily for band practice and for other “related musical activities.”, Donna Ramone had always wanted to be Riff Randell, so the new space was christened as Vince Lombardi High School, or VLHS. Being a music “venue” was never really the primary purpose behind VLHS, though it hosted hundreds of shows and several hundred bands over the six years if its existence. It was really more of the hub of the Southern California DIY family. The bands were certainly part of that, but VLHS has been more than just a venue. It’s been a family home. People have been welcomed from their first visit. No one was left to feel like an outsider for very long. People who met each other at VLHS often became the best of friends. The members of The Stupid Daikini, for example, first met at VLHS and decided to form the band. VLHS was quite unique in that respect.

Jason Paul & The Know It Alls - Photo by Paul Silver

Damien, Tanner and Josh - Photo by Joey Tobin

Turkish Techno - Photo by Paul Silver

VLHS was located in the middle of nowhere, in a sense. The surrounding warehouses were closed up at night and no one else was around to be bothered or to complain. VLHS thrived as a community and as a venue. There were certainly well known touring bands that played there, including bands such as RVIVR, toyGuitar, Screaming Females, Vacation, Pears, and many others. But VLHS was also a place that lesser known touring bands could always count on for a show in Southern California. Marty Ploy, Aaron Kovacs, and Christina Zamora were three people who often booked shows there and had extensive contacts with bands around the country. They knew that they could book a show with a few of the local bands to get all the friends to come out and include an unknown touring band on the bill. This got the band some much needed gas money and it exposed everyone to more good music. Many of these touring bands became extensions of the VLHS family, coming back on other tours and to spend time with their newly found friends.

Much of the spirit of VLHS is due to Marty Ploy, of The Party’s Over Productions. His philosophy has been that everyone is welcome, everyone is a friend, and we are all family, all important to the scene. His tradition at the start of most every show has been to ask the audience to turn to someone near them who they don’t know and give them a hug. No one stayed strangers long at VLHS.

Marty Ploy and Tim Burkert - Photo by Paul Silver

Adder - Diablo Photo

Never Old Bones - Photo by Paul Silver

VLHS was also a nexus for many talented artists in the community. The walls were adorned with extensive artwork, and it played host to two art shows over the years. The first was Razorcake’s “How Much Art Can You Take?” a curated show featuring art made in various media. The second was the On Deck Art Show, in which participants were provided with a blank skateboard deck as the canvas for their creation. Other special events at VLHS included the annual Zombie Prom and Halloween shows. The Zombie Prom, organized by Tiami Douthit, Shannon Trimbach, and Mono Duran, had a different theme each year, and attendees were encouraged to dress appropriately, with full-on zombie makeup. The Halloween shows always featured local bands performing all cover sets, usually dressing up as the other band, as well. One particularly fun event was the Dead Celebrities Birthday Party for two of the VLHS regulars and volunteers, Bryant Ned and Stephanie Delilah, in which people were encouraged to dress up as their favorite dead celebrity.

In the film, VLHS ends in a blaze of glory by being blown up by the students. In real life, VLHS ended with a huge blowout. It was billed as the VLHS Class of 2017 Graduation. VLHS’s last hurrah occurred on Saturday, July 8, 2017, and it was a throwback to the early days. It began early in the mid-afternoon with a community potluck barbecue in the sweltering heat of the Inland Empire. The thermometer reached 105 degrees, yet it didn’t seem to bother anyone too much. The feelings were warm and the vibe was cool. Everyone pitched in, bringing food, folding tables and chairs for the bands’ merch, easy-ups to give us some shade outside, and plenty of ice and beverages of various kinds. Jimmy Gomez and Saul Ferman (of the band Dudes Night, who reunited just for this event) handled grilling duties, cooking up veggie burgers, dogs, and brats, plus more of the beef variety for the assembled throngs. Fifteen bands had been announced, yet the last band was scheduled to end suspiciously early. The VLHS gang had a surprise up their sleeves.

Caskitt - Photo by Paul Silver

Marriage Material - Photo by Paul Silver

Bryant Ned in the soundbooth - Photo by Joey Tobin

Longtime VLHS soundman Bryant Ned kicked things off with his VLHS debut, performing a set of acoustic numbers. Always the tireless volunteer, Bryant finally got a chance to come out of the sound booth and perform for us. He was followed by the underground rap stylings of Adder, who recently relocated from Los Angeles to Tijuana, and a host of others. Bands that had played VLHS many times and those that were assembled specifically for this event were on the bill, and they were mostly the homies, the people who lived and breathed VLHS. Even the bands that came from outside the region were members of the VLHS family. toyGuitar, from San Francisco, has played VLHS numerous times and have mentioned it’s one of their very favorite places to play. Everyone was dancing when they performed. Perhaps the craziest, most packed set of the night belonged to Horror Squad. Sure, they weren’t the headlining band, but the could have been. VLHS (and 12th and G before it) wouldn’t have existed without Horror Squad.

That surprise band? Members of the 2017 graduating class of Vince Lombardi High School were treated to a set from none other than Dead To Me. Chicken, Jack, Ken, and Ian played a nearly hour long set for the VLHS family. It was unadvertised so as to prevent the party from being overrun by fans who had never heard of or been to VLHS. This was just for the VLHS family.

When all was done, there had been somewhere around 300 people graduating from VLHS that day. Everyone pitched in the make it a success, and many people stayed afterwards to help clean up. Very special thanks have to go to Jimmy Gomez and Saul Ferman for barbecue duty, Drea More and Stephanie Delilah for all the hard work preparing the decorations, to Marty Ploy for getting the best lineups, always, and to the members of Horror Squad (Damien Trimbach, Gabe Aguilera, Paul Aguilera, Jimmy Gomez, and Tim Burkert, plus Aaron Ohio, past member). Extra special thanks to Tim for opening his house and making it a home to the best DIY scene ever.

Best Death - Photo by Paul Silver

Stephanie sorts through the diplomas - Photo by Paul Silver

Graduates - Photo by Paul Silver


Here is the full line-up of bands that played at the best graduation party in history:

Dead To Me (San Francisco, CA)
Toys That Kill (San Pedro, CA)
toyGuitar (San Francisco, CA)
Horror Squad (Chino, CA)
Chillout (members of Hillary Chilton and Struckout, Upland and Long Beach, CA)
Marriage Material (Los Angeles, CA)
Dudes Night (reunion, Fontana, CA)
Tiltwheel (San Diego, CA)
Caskitt (San Diego, CA)
Tracy Soto (Riverside, CA)
Best Death (Chino, CA)
Jason Paul & The Know It All’s (San Pedro, CA)
The Stupid Daikini (Riverside, CA)
Never Old Bones (Claremont, CA)
Adder (Tijuana, Mexico)
Bryant Ned (Fontana, CA)

You can hear more about VLHS in the “Aaron Ohio Is For Lovers” podcast here:

Chill Out - Photo by Joey Tobin

Horror Squad - Photo by Joey Tobin

Dead To Me - Photo by Joey Tobin

A few graduates - Diablo Photo

More graduates - Diablo Photo

Grilling Time - Photo by Joey Tobin

Tiltwheel - Photo by Paul Silver

Dudes Night - Photo by Paul Silver

Crowd surfing - Photo by Joey Tobin

Tim Burkert and Marty Ploy - Photo by Joey Tobin

Dead To Me - Photo by Joey Tobin

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