Before he founded his Giant Robot empire, Eric Nakamura was a kid with a camera who documented the Westside punk scene’s transition into the 1990s.
Armed with his Nikon F3, the Palisades Charter High School graduate caught Chicago punkers The Dwarves on several occasions, including at the Coconut Teaszer in 1992.
“The shows are among the roughest I went to. I’ve seen the guitar player hit people in the head with the neck of his guitar. The singer, Blag [Dahlia], would swing the microphone like a mace and hit people hard with it,” Nakamura recalled. “That’s a band where you don’t know what can happen. The show can end in 15 minutes; a fight could break out. The lead singer would go with it. A girl pulled down his pants and his [penis] is just hanging out.”
Nakamura also captured Mike Watt performing with Firehouse in 1989 at Santa Monica College, where Nakamura was on a committee to enlist bands to play at school events. He also helped bring Jawbreaker, Leaving Trains, Soundgarden and Young MC to perform at SMC, and organized backyard parties at Olympic Boulevard and Beloit Avenue in West L.A. that featured bands such as Jawbreaker.
After college, Nakamura shot photos for the Palisadian-Post in Pacific Palisades and, in 1994, entered L.A.’s thriving ‘zine scene with partner Martin Wong to create Giant Robot, an Asian-American pop culture magazine that ran for nearly 20 years. By 2001, Nakamura had launched the first Giant Robot toy and book store on Sawtelle Boulevard. Other locations soon followed, including in Silver Lake, New York and San Francisco. He expanded his Sawtelle reach with GR2 Gallery and is credited as a kick-starter of the Westside’s Little Osaka district.
Nakamura, 44, continues to manage the Giant Robot franchise in his native West Los Angeles and has curated three Giant Robot Biennale shows at the Japanese American National Museum. An exhibit of his punk rock photography, “Punk Photos B-Shots,” continues through Sunday at Balconi Coffee, 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. 124. Call (310) 906-0267 or visit balconicoffee.com.