It is with heavy heart and fond memories that I write this piece as Louis "Louie" Bocchini, whose Vans California Daze (and the off-shoot, Whatever) were integral parts of the Phoenix punk rock and skateboarding community, died on Saturday, May 17. Many longtime Phoenicians will recognize, at very least, his surname, which was synonymous with local music for more than two decades. Louie was definitely one of a kind and a loving family man, who was looked to as a surrogate parent and friend to literally dozens and dozens of valley musicians and skaters. He will be truly missed by those that loved him.
Father of valley musicians, the late Vince Bocchini (Los Dirt Clods, Rabid Rabbit, Van Buren Wheels, and Thee Unfortunates) and Frank Bocchini (Bigshot Allstar), one of my favorite things about Louie was his pride in the musical accomplishments of his sons. He loved to talk about the crazy situations Vince and his band mates would get into and was especially vociferous when it came to both Rabid Rabbit and Bigshot Allstar. He loved to talk about how each of those bands should have been huge and the love he felt for Vince and Frank, was more than apparent in the twinkle in Louie's eyes.
It was always a treat to be in one of their stores when Louie was around, especially if his amazing wife Angie was present. Louie was an awesome storyteller, but it was truly hilarious to see Angie's reactions to his stories. I visited them fairly frequently when they were winding things down and had an outlet for the last of the Vans and Whatever merchandise on 3rd Street, just South of Osborn about a decade ago. Occasionally, Angie would roll her eyes as Louie was telling me a story or say, "that's not what happened" and that was always a cue that a great discussion was about to take place. I tend to think Angie may have had the more accurate accounts, but either way, it was a privilege to be part of it. If Vince happened to be there, we'd just sit there and laugh while his parents figured it all out.
Stories of Louie and his exploits around the Vans' stores were legendary. Mark Wooten, who was a member of Los Dirt Clods, as well as the Zany Guys, was a longtime Vans employee. He remembers, "My favorite Louis story was when I was working at Vans at Metrocenter. I was teasing Louis for buying some god awful bright red pig leather jackets. 'I bet you don't sell one of these,' I said. Louis turned and said, 'Watch it you little shit or I'll start paying you with these fuckers!' I laughed it off, but sure as shit there was one with my x-mas bonus all tied up with a bow."
Son Frank, who resides in Southern California now, recalled a story about the first time Louie and Angie Bocchini went to see his brother Vince's band, Rabid Rabbit, at the Mason Jar.
"Who other than Mighty Sphincter was opening," Frank said. "There are my parents sitting at a table, looking regal. The Mighty S take the stage. No sooner than the first tri-tone chord, Doug [Clark, Mighty Sphincter guitar player] spits blood at the crowd. Dad's nostrils flare, proceeds to rush the stage with his fresh cold pitcher of Miller Draft and soaks Doug and the rest of the vampires. Music stops and Doug goes after him, and it's a Bocchini vs Sphincter bar fight. Just one small story of many."
The Vans stores, as well as Whatever, were an oasis for valley youth, and adults alike, who were "different." In a time where malls like Metrocenter were still a destination for kids looking for something to do, Louie's stores were a place of acceptance. You could have a pink mohawk and work there, especially if you were willing to work hard and have fun, but more importantly, you could go there and find the t-shirts, pants, and shoes you wanted. You could find the records, stickers, and skateboards, and for a lot of us, we could find ourselves.
Louie Bocchini is survived by wife Angie, daughter Lori, and son Frank, and their families. Louie was a tremendous contributor to the look, style, and attitude that helped form the Valley punk rock scene. I know I speak on behalf of many friends, fellow musicians, and skaters when I say thank you, Louie, for everything. We respected you greatly and will miss you. Rest in peace, dear friend.
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