Founding Flipper drummer Steve DePace wasn’t sure if he and the band’s fellow surviving member, guitarist Ted Falconi, would celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019 or not, until he got the heartbreaking news on Christmas about the death of Jimmy Wilsey, Avengers bassist and Chris Isaak axman. He was jolted into action. The Avengers at The City’s Mabuhay Gardens in 1977 was his first punk show, and Wilsey later gave him crucial advice, to advertise on Aquarius Records’ popular bulletin board and wait for the phone to ring. He did, and was hired by Negative Trend’s late Will Shatter. The duo formed Flipper in 1979, and tracked the definitive post-punk 1982 classic “Album — Generic Flipper.” “His passing hit me really hard, and it was clear to me that life is short, time is limited, and I’d better get busy,” he says. So, with Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow on vocals and Rachel Thoele on bass, a 40th-touting tour is underway.
In San Francisco in 1982, someone had carefully stuck “F” stickers over the Cs on every Clipper Street sign until the whole street read Flipper.
Ted Falconi was working in the (Clipper) area, and he and I often worked together on sites —I painted houses, he worked in sheet rock — and that’s what gave him the idea to turn Clipper Street into Flipper Street. So he figured out the size and the style of the font and had stickers made accordingly, and then late one night he changed every last street sign.
What other crafty methods of self-promotion did you resort to?
In those days, we were tagging everywhere with the Flipper Fish logo. And other people came up with slogans, like “Flipper Rules OK,” or just “Flipper Rules.” The logo was all over the place in S.F., but it went so far and wide that it actually got tagged on the Great Wall of China, and even on the security wall between Palestine and Israel.
Flipper sounds just as combustible and relevant today, with a horde of new fans.
This kid who has cerebral palsy and his mom came to our show the other night, and his favorite band in the world is Flipper. His wheelchair was near the stage, and a couple of songs into the set, we started into “Way of the World,” and he got up onstage with us, grabbed the micophone and started singing. He wanted to sing the song that bad, even though he can’t really talk or sing. His T-shirt said “I came to rock,” and that’s exactly what he did. We were all just so moved by this kid, now we’re his biggest fans.
IF YOU GO
Flipper with David Yow, 40th Anniversary Tour
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $20 to $22
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.eventbrite.com