This year, The Glass House Concert Hall in Pomona, California, should be celebrating 25 years of business. Cheers should be erupting from hundreds of people, bleeding onto the small street it sits upon. However, like most venues around the globe, what sits on the corner of 2nd Street and Thomas, is just another empty room.
April 3, 2004 was the day that I first stepped into The Glass House. I was just on the verge of turning 15 and my teenage adolescence was on the rise. After a few years of going to shows either with or accompanied by my older brother, I was finally deemed old enough to attend a punk show by myself. Most of my concert-going experiences up to that point had either been at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, or in a number of much larger venues like The Hollywood Palladium or The Universal Amphitheater. I had been sharing my music interests with a friend in high school and asked if he wanted to go to the "Punks vs. Psychos Tour" at The Glass House. We'd be going primarily to see Tiger Army -- a band I loved but had not had the opportunity to see yet as my brother wasn't much of a fan. After some convincing, my parents agreed to let me go.
My dad, who always chauffeured me to shows no matter the distance or the cost of gas, dropped me and my friend off a little before doors opened. We got our tickets scanned, walked in past the foyer where the merch tables had been set up, and into the open ballroom where we grabbed a spot close to the stage on the right. The four other bands that played that night were The U.S. Roughnecks, F-Minus, The Business, and Roger Miret & The Disasters.
Bright Eyes playing a "secret" headlining show
Other than F-Minus, I wasn't familiar with any of them at the time. My focus was all on seeing Tiger Army. I can't remember too much about their set these days other than that they played my favorite song that night, "Under Saturn's Shadow." I remember going into the show with low expectations of it happening, but when frontman, Nick 13, proclaimed that they were going to be playing a song they had played for the first time the night before, my heart started racing with anticipation. Sure enough, it was "Under Saturn's Shadow!" I was elated. At the end of the night, my friend and I shuffled our way out to the merch booth where I bought a shirt (which I still have) before walking out to the street where my dad was waiting to take us home.
My relationship with The Glass House may have begun that night, but for others, it began 8 years earlier on January 25, 1996 when the venue first opened its doors with No Doubt headlining and support from Nor-Cal's, Samiam. Sergie Loobkoff (Guitar) recalls "Although I've lived in LA for 19 years now, we were all originally from up north in Berkeley... so when we came down to Southern California back then I really had little understanding that Pomona, Hollywood, Downtown, Calabasas weren't all a mishmash of what people considered, 'LA'. So yeah, I remember the month that No Doubt got huge we played with them in Denver, Stockton...and I thought LA. (Laughs)...but now I guess it was Pomona! [...] in 2000 we played The Glass House with a very young Thrice opening and had a great time. I think we may have played there again two other times."
Kodaks of Rise Against, Tsunami Bomb, and Alkaline Trio
The following year, I started attending The Glass House more often. Catching stacked shows like Rise Against with Tsunami Bomb and Alexisonfire, Alkaline Trio with Rise Against and Death by Stereo, Death From Above 1979, and Bright Eyes with Copeland and The Spill Canvas. I didn't realize it at that time, but some of those shows would also be the start of my interest in "show photography." Only, those were shitty "potato cam" quality kodaks from the crowd. Nonetheless, they were some of the first shows where I ever took pictures.
These days, standing in a crowd with a camera is something I decry. A couple of shots here and there don't bother me, but phone technology has completely changed the way people experience a show. Most of the time the floor is either filled with people watching the band play from their phone's screen or with people trying to sing-along while there's a phone obstructing their view. The result is dozens of shaky or out-of-focus live videos on YouTube and Instagram. In the early 2000s, if you were lucky, Joe Escalante of The Vandals (bass) and his Kung Fu Films crew rolled out to your show to film for the Show Must Go Off! Series -- of which they would occasionally shoot at The Glass House. Tsunami Bomb had their chance to shine for the camera back in '04. Dominic Davi (bass) reminisces, "While I didn’t play the show, I set it up[...] In setting up the filming of 'The Show Must Go Off!' there was this incredible pressure to get this right. Here was a live performance of the band that everyone was going to have and be able to watch over and over. Any mistake would be viewed a million times (that’s common place now thanks to smartphones but it wasn’t then). By this time having that performance take place at The Glass House at the end of a long tour was actually more reassuring. We knew we were going to be surrounded by friends, and we knew it was in a place that had made us welcome as if we had grown up there. It felt like we are coming home. That made the whole situation way less intimidating. We were going to be ‘home’ for the shoot… so we knew we were going to be okay.”
Anthony Green doing an impromptu set outside before Circa Survive show
After 3 years and 19 episodes, the series came to an end with The Bouncing Souls at The Glass House -- a recording I'm grateful exists, as I was relatively sick at the show and don't remember much of it. Joe Escalante recalls, "When we started the concerts we were the first people to rapidly release a bunch of concert films so there was a lot of space on the shelves for our product. Soon, bigger companies started making these for commercial bands and the space on the shelves got tighter and tighter until there was none." Escalante had also often used The Glass House for his other productions, "For the film Cake Boy and the TV series Fear of A Punk Planet, the Glass House had a lot of different rooms to use. There was a big stage, a little stage, a bar, a big bathroom for our epic diarrhea scene in Cake Boy, exterior alleys that were cool, a kitchen, all kinds of setups."
As I got older and the world around me grew, I branched out to attending shows in L.A. and even San Diego more frequently. I started to notice the difference between the attendees in these cities. Even Orange County, only maybe 30 minutes from Pomona, harbored a more aggressive crowd, while L.A. audiences seemed rife with cliques or elitists that kept to themselves. Pomona, on the other hand, always had a unique community that made everyone feel like they belonged. There's a warm and inviting feeling to The Glass House that I've yet to find anywhere else. A show in particular that had a huge impact on me would be the first time I saw Against Me! towards the tail end of 2005 with The Epoxies, The Soviettes, and Smoke or Fire. Even the line-up was more diverse than the primarily male-dominated shows I had been accustomed to by that point. When Against Me! hit that stage, the level of energy and connection between the band and the fans was a phenomenon I had only experienced before with one other band. It set the bar for what I would dream all shows would be like from that point on. The experience would only be topped when they returned in ‘07 and fans stormed the stage during "We Laugh At Danger and Break All the Rules!" Something that felt spontaneous at the time, but would become a staple act* for years to come.
The Epoxies opening for Against Me!
* Funny story: when my wife and I saw Against Me! at The Glass House in 2017, we were the only ones to jump on stage during "We Laugh at Danger..." I got the boot pretty quickly, but LJG made sure my wife was free to dance and sing along to her heart's content.