Rock & Roll Pärty Town: Richmond punks in the Reagan years by photographer Cindy Hicks

by | Sep 1, 2017 | PHOTOGRAPHY

Back in the early 80s, suburban kids who’d picked up on the first wave of punk rock from NYC and London were starting to pick up guitars and create their own regionally-focused underground bands and scenes. Richmond was no exception, and photographer Cindy Hicks was an essential presence at those early shows, often turning away from the bands on stage to document the kids in the crowd, capturing the scene as it really was for the kids involved at the time. From the touring bands making their name at the time, to lesser-known RVA locals of the era like White Cross, The Prevaricators, and Judicial Fear, Hicks’s photos give us a window through time to see them all–and, just as importantly, the kids who came to see them.

Harris: What was the Richmond scene like when these photos were taken?

Hicks: It was amazing, so many great tiny venues. Benny’s, Rockitz, the Doghouse, Going Bananas, 538 Club, even Mosque Ballroom.  

Harris: What was the country like back then?

Hicks: Reagan era, I think! Ha! [In] 1982 the music was changing. I had dropped out of VCU, to go back in 84. I was never political, just an artist.  I worked part-time at Richmond newspapers–I got a full page picture story out of some of my images, after they had me shoot punk rock night at the Bus Stop in Shockoe Slip.  Because it was so alternative! I still have negatives from that night. 

Harris: What bands did people have to see?

Hicks: Local bands like White Cross, Red Cross [the forerunner to White Cross], Death Piggy–I could be mixing up my eras, but I went to shoot the people in the pit. Sometimes I did not know any of the bands’ songs.  But I saw and or shot: Suicidal Tendencies, COC, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Richard Hell, GWAR at Shafer Court on Halloween, and others that I can’t remember since I am not looking at my binder of negatives. Oh yeah, Bad Brains! No photos of that, the show was so amazing that I just had to experience it. Judicial Fear, The Prevaricators… so many.

Harris: What do you think of Grace Street today?

Hicks:I don’t recognize it. It makes me feel old.

Harris: Who were you back then? 

Hicks: Just a girl who loved to shoot the energy and people. Someone on the fringe, not in the scene, but an observer–though now, I count so many people from them among my oldest friends! Doug Dobey is an example of that, so is Lisa Perilli. 

Harris: What is you life like now?

Hicks: I am in reboot, retool stage. About 20 years in advertising. I am starting over, working in films/tv–a prop person, though I was that before advertising. 

Harris: Do you keep in touch with anyone from back then?

Hicks: Yes. It is Richmond, so no real degrees of separation. 

Harris: Maybe there should be a reunion somewhere?

Hicks: There was one a while back for Benny-fit. I prefer to remember what it was vs. seeing lead singers needing to put on their reading glasses to see the set list & someone could break a hip stage diving.

Minor Threat at Benny’s Richmond, VA June 1983

Suicidal Tendencies at Going Bananas in Richmond, VA March 1985

Circle Jerks & C.O.C at 538 Club in Richmond, VA May 1983

Dead Kennedy’s at The Mosque Ballroom in Richmond, VA July 1983

GWAR at Shafer Court VCU, Halloween 1986

The Prevaricators at 538 Club April 1987

White Cross at Benny’s in Richmond, VA 1983

You can see more of Cindy Hicks’ work HERE

*Introduction by Marilyn Drew Necci 

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work:

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