It's only about seven miles from my house in Golden Hill to Shakedown Bar, a punk-rock dive on Midway Drive in Sports Arena. The only problem is, I don't have a car, so a quick 12-minute drive down I-5 turns into a brutal bus ride that lasts an hour or more. What's worse, any carousing I'd planned would be cut short because public transportation stops running after midnight.
So when I heard that Shakedown is running its own shuttle service to and from the club, I jumped at the chance to get a ride to what's fast becoming the hottest new spot for punk shows.
Last Tuesday, I emailed the bar asking for shuttle service—and, sure enough, Shakedown's vessel arrived outside my house around 9:30 p.m. that night. The "shuttle" was a beaten-up Dodge van owned by a member of Neverland Ranch Hands and driven by Ted Thompson, the bar's co-owner. As I climbed in, Dead Kennedys blared over the radio.
Shakedown has been running the shuttle for a few months and the venture has been so successful that the owners have decided to advertise it more. They charge $3 a ride to pick up bargoers across the city—all they ask is that you rustle up a group to cut down on multiple stops. Not a lot of the bar's patrons live in Sports Arena, Thompson says, so providing a shuttle service is a good way to cut down on drunk driving. Indeed, Thompson told me he wants to spray-paint "Fuck DUIs" in big letters across the side of the van.
Shakedown is a classic dive bar. The place sits between a Discount Tire Co. and a liquor store. There's pool tables. There's a juke box filled with the likes of Hank Williams, The Beat Farmers, The Damned and The Dead Milkmen. In keeping with Shakedown owners' love for skateboarding, hot rods and motorcycles, the bar is decorated with punk-band banners, motorcycle helmets and bottles of brake fluid. On the patio, Thompson's custom-built motorcycle—a gnarly beast straight out of Mad Max with a suicide clutch and a seat with no springs—was parked beside another, guarded by a velvet rope.
This summer, the bar will put on barbecues, skate jams and punk record swaps (the next swap happens on Saturday, May 14). They're building a mini-ramp for skateboarding in the back. On Wednesday, May 11, they'll have a bike and rod night with a wet T-shirt contest. The bar also puts on some great punk shows, having hosted veteran bands like T.S.O.L. and The Meatmen. On Friday, May 13, there'll be a performance by The Murder Junkies, G.G. Allin's former backing band.
On the night I visited, friendly punk rockers old and young watched one-man-bands—locals Pant Hoots and Low Volts and North Carolina's Reverend Deadeye—bang out vintage rock riffs. Thompson took me back to my house around 1:30 a.m. It was a relatively chill night, but Shakedown can get pretty crazy. That's where the shuttle comes in.
"I've had times where I'm driving and holding the puke bucket," he says.