Long Beach punk-rock band goes viral for a show at a Denny’s restaurant
December 26, 2019
Teenagers swinging from lamps, crowd-surfing and moshpits made up the scenes at a Denny’s diner in Santa Ana on Dec. 14, all the while experimental punk-rock band WACKO from Long Beach played on top of tables.
Videos of the show went viral, garnering over 100,000 views on YouTube overnight. The scenes were spread throughout social media and mainstream news platforms, but how did this all come about?
The show was organized by 17-year-old Bryson Del Valle, from Costa Mesa, who prior to this, had never thrown a show before.
With a $100 deposit, Del Valle booked the banquet room in September and invited some of his favorite bands, including WACKO, to join the line-up.
“I literally just called my local Denny’s, and I just asked if they had a spare room, they said ‘sure’ and didn’t even ask any questions or anything, it was actually pretty easy,” Del Valle said.
With the bands booked, the show was ready to take place in the banquet room. Later realizing that more people were planning to show up, Del Valle made an RSVP list, but as soon as they began letting people in, “it just kind of went out the window, like almost immediately,” Del Valle said.
WACKO was the first and only band that was able to play their set at the Denny’s show before being shut down by the manager. Hailing from Long Beach, WACKO an experimental hardcore punk band, consists of members Zaine Drayton on lead vocals and guitar, Gartex on lead guitar and vocals, Lucalyptus on bass guitar, Alan Connor on drums and their honorary fifth member Poppa Michael, their “Cult leader” who happens to be Lucalyptus’ dad.
WACKO, which has been playing together for almost a year, came in contact with Del Valle about getting booked for the Denny’s show through Instagram.
“Honestly for a long time we thought that it was a joke that was being taken too far,” said Drayton. “Little did we know how much of a legend Bryson would be.”
Even before the music began, it was mayhem.
“People just started flooding in and it almost got shut down, like, immediately because of how packed it was inside the main part of the Denny’s and the manager was kind of freaking out a bit,” Del Valle recalled.
The banquet room, with a 50-person capacity, was overflowing with so many people that they filled up the main dinning room. Waiters weren’t able to get to the customers as they attempted to wade through the crowd. Del Valle eventually had to send the overflow crowd into the parking lot, and this was before the music even began.
“I came for the senior citizen’s special,” announced Poppa Michael as he introduced WACKO, “And they tell me the special tonight is WACKO.”
The band began to play, and the chaos that captured on people’s smartphones went viral.
The morning after the show, the band members didn’t realize the viral impact their performance had until they heard from relatives across the country saying they saw them on the internet, according to Lucalyptus.
For Drayton, it was when he saw the video featured on Time Magazine.
“I called my mom and I was like, ‘Mom, I’m on Time Magazine’,” he said.
For WACKO, although they appreciate the exposure from going viral, they said that it was the same as any other show they’ve played, except for the location.
“We’re basking in the joy of knowing that this happening,” Lucalyptus said, “which was no different than any other except for the location. All of our shows really look like that except that they’re not inside of a Denny’s.”
Drayton explained that video from the Denny’s show “invaded middle America” because it took place inside a national restaurant chain that isn’t typically known as a rock-show venue.
“That was put in front of the eyes of all the people that are the kind of people that are the reason that we kind of have to cut this thing away,” he said. “Because we’re so ‘weird’ or whatever.”
The media exposure following the show’s aftermath was mixed, Del Valle said, but it was beneficial when the dinner fined Del Valle $1,800 to pay for the “damages” that resulted from the show.
“The damages weren’t what people think that they were, people just ripping [explicit] off walls and destroying, it was like overcapacity, like over double capacity, and so people have to like scoot back and stand on tables and eventually some tables broke,” Drayton said.
When it was time to pay for the damages, WACKO assisted the 17-year-old in starting a GoFundMe account to raise money. The $1,800 was eventually collected through numerous donations, including a $2,000 donation from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Green Day.
“This is so crazy, how the community kind of banded together, especially because of WACKO,” Del Valle said. “They definitely got the word out.”
The community has also thanked WACKO for bringing back the punk/DIY scene.
“We played a show on Friday in Santa Ana, and I cried,” Drayton said. “One guy grabbed my hand and he looked at me and said, ‘thank you for what you guys did for the scene. I think […] the most important thing is the kids, who our music is for the most.”
As for any profit made from the viral publicity, Del Valle said he hasn’t made much aside from the donations that were used to pay back Denny’s.
“I’ve had a lot of people actually telling me that I should make t-shirts and stuff like that, but that wasn’t really my goal for the Denny’s show,” he said. “The reason I did the Denny’s show in the first place is just to have a good show for the community to enjoy and to bring Long Beach bands closer to Santa Ana so more people can enjoy them,” said Del Valle.
Del Valle plans on throwing his next show on Jan. 18 in Northridge, which WACKO will be a part of.
For information on Del Valle’s future shows, visit his skate-punk company’s Instagram.