They were into it before it was cool: Some of you may not remember this but in the time before smartphones, influencers and social media, subcultures were allowed to flourish largely undetected by the outside world. Only by constant, widespread word-of-mouth would underground movements occasionally bubble to the fringe reaches of the mainstream.
Now, for the first time ever, a new exhibit at the San Diego History Center (SDHC) puts a focus squarely on three local subcultures that thrived under the general public's gaze for decades. "I'm Not Like You: Notes from the San Diego Underground" -- an exhibition celebrating the creative energy, self-expression and independent spirit of local skate, punk and hip-hop cultures from the '70s through the '90s -- officially opens on Saturday, April 20.
Set to run through Oct. 27, 2019, the exhibit uses several mediums (photographs, videos, music, art, objects and memorabilia) from personal collections of individuals who were actually there to tell each respective movements' history.
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"Merging group identity and personal expression, these groups came together through shared interests, activities and outlooks, often forming around a particular record or clothing store, band, music venue, outlaw skate spot or graffiti-writing yard," a SDHC press release reads.
The Balboa Park center (a Smithsonian affiliate) hosts the exhibit's grand-opening reception on April 20 from 6-8 p.m., where attendees will hear a custom playlist of San Diego hip-hop and punk music from the '70s-'80s as they absorb the history around them. Admission is complimentary for SDHC members and $5 for non-members. A cash bar and light refreshments will also be available.
"The San Diego History Center is committed to presenting programming that addresses topics of real relevance to our community, in particular histories that are often untold or overlooked," said Kaytie Johnson, the San Diego History Center’s Bruce Kamerling Curator. "'I’m Not Like You' presents a history of three vibrant cultural scenes that have never before been addressed in a museum exhibition -- it’s a snapshot of a remarkable moment in San Diego’s cultural history, a sliver of a much larger, far more complex story that deserves further investigation and articulation."
For more information, visit SanDiegoHistory.org. The San Diego History Center is located in Casa de Balboa at 1649 El Prado, Suite #3 in Balboa Park.
Dustin Lothspeich is a San Diego Music Award-winning musician, Senior Associate Editor at NBC SoundDiego since 2013, and talent buyer at The Merrow. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.