‘We’re not just going to give anyone a back patch,” says Nick O’ Rooney, aka Papa Pizza, the 22-year-old guitarist from local fuzz-garage duo Sharky Coast. “You start out as a ‘Dough,’ you gotta show up to see bands, you have to be willing to put up flyers and help promote it, to tell all your friends about it.”
O’Rooney and 20-year-old Ian O’Connor, aka Sergeant Salami, along with O’Rooney’s girlfriend Denise Fraizer, are the forces behind the Pizza Punx. You may have seen their old-school cut-and-paste flyers for shows posted up on light poles all over town.
It’s not easy to become a pizza punk. To get fully initiated one must complete the herculean task of eating a large pizza in its entirety while watching Rock and Roll High School in one sitting. “If you can’t do that, you can’t be called a Pizza Punk,” says O’Rooney.
Beyond the PBR-and-pizza-grease haze, the two are dead serious about getting quality, underground bands to play in the often-overlooked locale of Sonoma County. At the Pizza Punx headquarters—a garage in a quiet neighborhood near the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, decorated with flyers, a few rescued pieces of furniture, a television and a drum kit—O’Rooney pulls out four large pieces of paper on which he’s meticulously written the names of over a hundred current, West Coast bands. He and the other Pizza Punx have reached out to every single one, asking them to come to Sonoma County with the guarantee of a place to sleep, do laundry, eat a meal, play a show and get a bit of gas money.
The effort has produced five months of solid lineups, with headliners like Cool Ghouls, Indian Wars, White Mystery and Acid Baby Jesus, from Greece, playing shows at houses in South Park and at the “Ranger’s House” in Howarth Park, where shows have been surprisingly trouble-free. (Only one band—CCR Headcleaner—was loud enough for the neighbors to call the police.)
The next Pizza Punx show, on Aug. 8, features NoBunny, the creepy bunny-mask-and-underwear-loving pop-garage persona of Justin Champlin (Like a “cuddly G.G. Allin,” says O’Rooney), along with Burger Records sweet pop duo Summer Twins, out of Riverside. The only rule is that it has to be all-ages because, really, in the end, they’re doing this for the kids.
“The whole world is trying to absorb those kids, sell to them, try to get them to buy Hot Topic bullshit,” says O’Rooney. “And we’re the opposite of that,” adds O’Connor.
Or as the Pizza Punx would say, “Keep it real, dough.”