February 24, 2018

Between two worlds

The Downliner (i.e., Plaza East bar), 4719 Troost Ave., in 1980, courtesy Banastre Tarleton.

The Downliner (i.e., Plaza East bar), 4719 Troost Ave., in 1980, courtesy Banastre Tarleton.

It is 1979
Troost Street, downtown KC,

Upstairs is the Tavern….
A down on the luck dive.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s blaring from the jukebox,
accompanied by the crunch of peanut shells
cracking under the pointy, scuffed boots
of Coors Light-drinking, red-necked cowboys in plaid collared shirts
alongside disheveled, skid-row drunks, their shoulders hanging over their cocktails,
all lining the bar like hopeless vultures,
Pool balls clacking under a blinking and buzzing fluorescent light and
an occasional drunken fist fight breaks out.

Just below in the basement is The Downliner, a bunker-like, concrete-walled punk club
stuffed and bursting with charged up, spiky, shaved, and Mohawk-headed boys, wearing band buttons on their leather jackets, or starched shirts and skinny ties, with safety pins through their ears, lips, and noses, posturing alongside bleachy blonde or jet black haired, tough girls, in torn tights, ripped tee shirts, tight jeans and stiletto heels. Off of someone’s mix cassette, Poly Styrene is screaming Oh Bondage Up Yours through the PA speakers.

And between these two worlds, just off the landing, is the green room.
Well, more like a closet jammed with a collection broken, old bar stools and peeling paint revealing a flowery wallpaper that fits neither the upstairs or downstairs online casino real money universes…
Between shots of Wild Turkey and cans of Budweiser,
We are busily crossing and uncrossing songs off our set lists which are scribbled onto crisp white sheets of blue-lined composition paper.
A sharp, striking knock rattles the worn wooden door. Someone pops his badly, shaven head
and bike-chained neck through the space between the door and frame and shouts
“Five minutes” and slams it back shut
We can hear chants, shouts, and stomps commanding us to play, an intoxicating, plodding, New York Dolls bass line, and crashing guitars, is exploding distortedly out of the speakers charging up from the basement, intertwining with something Johnny Cash drifting down, down, down, from the Tavern above …

The Debs were Kris Garnier (G), (from left) Peggy Smith (D), Terry Cone (B) and Katie Coffman (G).

The Debs were Kris Garnier (G), (from left) Peggy Smith (D), Terry Cone (B) and Katie Coffman (G). Photo credit: Annette Weatherman

In her teens, Kris Garnier was a singer and guitarist of The Debs, a maverick all-girl band that toured the mid-west in the late 1970s. Over the years, she has morphed into a storytelling, songwriting, create-or-wilt, botanizing, photoholic. She studies Botany at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and co-produces StorySlams, a new-fangled variety show, out of her now hometown of Woodstock, NY. Check out her work soon at her currently under-construction www.krisgarnier.com


  1. John Scanlan says:

    I remember many nights with the Debs. We open for them, they open for us. Exchanging mix tapes through the mail with Katie Coffman. Standing in the back parking lot of the Downliner ( I don’t think we ever used the front door) and listening for the first time to “Scary Monsters”. It was all put together by that couple that I can’t remember their names but they were essential to the time, making the deal with the owner of the bar to let us have the basement. I wish I was better at names.

  2. Hey John,
    What was the name of your band???
    I know, I know the details…maybe through this thread we will all paste the piesces of the past together!
    Who WAS that couple???
    Are you all still out there?

  3. John Scanlan says:

    She had short platinum blond hair and he wore a leather jacket all of the time. And someone named Johnnie, I think – who was the real punk rocker. I was really such a cynical little asshole who appeared so differently. Or maybe I didn’t. If I could go back…. I would embrace the community so much more than I did. It was the real deal and I wish I had given it everything that I had but instead, I held back, scared of the one terrible thing – contact with other people. .Now, that I know better, I respect you all so much more.

  4. Craig Travitz says:

    That couple was me, Craig Travitz, and my then wife Pam. If I remember correctly, The Morrell brought you (Debs) the first time you played Downliner, or maybe they just told us about you.

    We’re you guys playing the night the guy from the tavern came running down the stairs, out the Downliner door and was followed by the SWAT team a couple minutes later, with the KCPD helicopter lighting up the parking lot? I thought it was The Debs, but time has made a lot of the details of that whole Era a bit fuzzy.

    One day I’ll sit down and write about all the crap people have been asking me to and have fun reading all the posts saying I got it all wrong!

  5. Many thanks, Ron, for the links. I will print this all out and add it to what I’ve obtained so far.Very convenient for many people that President Kennedy’s so-called assassin was himself eliminated before he could talk. A loser like Jack Ruby just happened to be in the garage at the time? Yeah.I want as much information on this that I can get so that my heirs will have something to refer to when TPTB use Obama’s new Internet Czar wipes out everything that is now available.

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