Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series revisiting Sioux City’s punk rock scene, a subculture that embraced live music, distinct fashion and specific sets of ideologies. These stories are told from the perspective of those who lived and breathed the punk scene, and are forever molded by its existence.
Dave Janssen just happened to stumble upon Sioux City's punk rock scene. It was sometime in the early '90s. He had just moved into town from Lake City, Iowa, and was working at a guitar store on Pierce Street. The shop would often duplicate cassette tapes for customers, a service that local punk rock bands took full advantage of.
"They'd record their own singles," said Janssen. "Throw one song on one side and one song on the other. There are probably a ton of those tapes still running around town, I'm sure. But that's what the kids were doing."
Duplicating those cassettes allowed the 19-year-old Janssen to meet the people who would introduce him to the punk rock scene. A musician entered the shop one day needing some custom tapes duplicated for his band called Fur. That man's name was Peter Phillips -- who was also known by many as "Sioux City Pete."
"Pete has a certain character and a certain look about him pretty much all the time," said Janssen. "It was intriguing to me as a kid."
Janssen listened to the tape and complimented the band's work. An elated Sioux City Pete encouraged Janssen to stop by King's Court to see the band play. Shortly after meeting Pete, Janssen met a guy named Todd Murphy during a visit to Uncle John Records.
Murphy asked if Janssen was free to help him out with a sound gig with live bands. He needed volunteers to unload and run equipment. Janssen agreed to help not knowing that it was the same show Pete had urged him to see.
"That was kind of my introduction -- I wanna say that was my first show," said Janssen. "It was at King's Court. Anybody that's ever described King's Court to you, I'm not 100 percent sure they can do that justice."
The aesthetics of King's Court, Janssen added, were similar to the setting of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video. I looked like a run down old school that had probably been condemned before being transformed into a music venue.
It was a place -- much like the Cattle Club -- for people to rent out space to throw rock parties. A home for punks.
"It was like this oasis for these different kids," said Janssen. "A lot of them were kids that wanted to express themselves with blue hair or with patches on their jackets or by wearing different clothes they saw in Clash videos. They wanted to be different. They wanted to stand out."
Janssen, who now resides in Sioux Falls, was instantly hooked from the moment he helped Murphy with sound equipment at a King's Court show featuring the one and only Sioux City Pete. He found himself hovering around people who "worked" in the punk scene. People like Rob Treinen, who booked and promoted shows at King's Court.
Growing up as a Midwest farm kid in a town he hated, Janssen never felt like he fit in the small town community he was thrust into as a sophomore in high school. He wasn't the athletic type and he admits he was never all that scholarly either. Janssen played in bands but "wasn't even all that great at that."
But he saw something he liked about the Sioux City punk scene. He wanted to become involved somehow. He didn't care if it meant sweeping floors at King's Court after shows.
"I see this and it's so completely different from anything I've ever known that I gravitated towards it," he said. "The people, I thought, were interesting and creative."
When Treinen left Sioux City, he passed down his "little black book" full of bands, phone numbers and booking contacts to Janssen and Thad Sand, which allowed Janssen to become more involved in the scene.
"We tried booking shows at King's Court for awhile -- Thad did most of it," said Janssen. "Shortly after -- I'm not entirely sure what happened -- we couldn't do shows at King's Court anymore. So then it was us kind of looking for another venue."
There was a need to find a new "home" for the local punk kids. American Legion Hall shows were common, even up until the new punk home was found at the Cattle Club. Janssen continued to help book shows and played in his own bands at the time. It was a lot to undertake.
"It was a struggle," he said. "It wasn't easy to keep these shows happening. Parents didn't like us. Cops didn't know what to think of us. It was tough to appease everybody."
But what stood out to Janssen about scheduling concerts at places like King's Court and the Cattle Club was that it was all "lowbrow and do it yourself."
"It was an anomaly, for sure," he said. "It was happenstance. It was the right place, the right time and the right people. It all came together and, frankly, something really magical came out of that. It happened. And it was awesome."
Trying to maintain that magic, however, proved to be a much bigger battle.