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Fat Mike’s Punk Rock Museum In Vegas Celebrates Inclusivity

Museum features artifacts from punk legends like Joe Strummer and Kurt Cobain, and even has a chapel for punk fans to get married.
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Vegas is also the most punk city in the country”, Mike told the Journal. “It plays by its own rules.”Fat Mike took the Journal on an exclusive tour of The Punk Rock Museum—and was apt to point out every Jewish-related artifact and musician, a group which includes Lou Reed, Joey and Tommy Ramone, Bad Religion‘s Brett Gurewitz and Greg Hetson.

The lobby is a stark, modern-industrial space—black walls with oversized black-and-white photos. The rest of the rooms are packed floor-to-ceiling with memorabilia: Posters, crude, Xeroxed leaflets announcing gigs that bands would wheat-glue onto utility poles and walls, albums, picture sleeves for singles, instruments, T-shirts and more. They’re a testament to the punk scene’s tenets of inclusiveness and do-it-yourself style.

Throughout the tour, Fat Mike would unlock exhibits to adjust artifacts and add his collection of LPs. The first exhibit he adjusted was a tiny bag of what looked like dirt. It was the last bag of weed of the late Joe Strummer of The Clash.

Two years ago, Fat Mike put out a call to all punk musicians to donate their own artifacts, that might be rotting away in their garages or storage lockers. “If you want to see something, send it,” he said. “We reached out to as many people as we could, and a lot of people just didn’t send stuff. They didn’t really believe we were opening.”

Since the museum’s opening this spring, there have been surprise visits from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dexter Holland and Noodles Wasserman of The Offspring and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

There is even a jam room where fans can plug in and play some of their musical heroes’ instruments—among them Joan Jett’s guitar and the late Wesley Willis’ keyboard. There is no rule forbidding visitors from jamming an overplayed song—they can even play “Stairway to Heaven” if they want. The room is closely watched—both to make sure no one walks out with a valuable guitar, but also so no one decides to imitate the cover of the Clash’s “London Calling” and smash one.

The number of bands included in the museum is overwhelming. You’ll see collections of the now defunct Maximum Rocknroll magazine, a couch used by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, L.A. Punk pioneer Darby Crash’s (The Germs) phone book,  Billie Joe Armstrong’s (Green Day) first amplifier, the shirt Strummer wore at his last performance. There’s a letter from a 15-year-old Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters to Necros —the Detroit hardcore band—asking for stickers and for them to play in his home town of Washington, D.C.PHOTO BY PEDRO BECERRA/GETTY IMAGES  

“I’m doing an interview with the Jewish Journal right now, and f–kin’ hanging out with the Muslims!” Fat Mike quipped. “Jews, meet the Muslims. Muslims, meet the Jews.”The Punk Rock Museum has much more than history. It encourages a communal feel; visitors are encouraged to meet each other. There’s a bar called the Triple Down where you can get several musician-concocted drinks, including one served in an empty Pringles can. There’s outdoor picnic tables with views of the Stratosphere Tower. On the museum’s second floor, there’s a chapel for punk fans to get married. There’s even a tattoo shop.

There’s no guarantee that Fat Mike will be there when you visit, but there is no doubt that there will be visitors from the punk community celebrating the music they love.


Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate

Edited by Asad Ali and Saba Fatima

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