The debate rages on about where and when punk started: London in '75? Detroit in '68? New York in '64? In any case, punk landed in Southern California in the mid-'70s, when Los Angeles and Orange counties grabbed it and, in true do-it-yourself fashion, twisted it into distinct scenes and sounds. The local music scene hasn't been the same since.
Prepare for your all-punk weekend by renting a video of Penelope Spheeris' unparalleled documentary on Los Angeles punk, 1981's "The Decline of Western Civilization." Spheeris caught the scene at its height, tracking bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs and X. A particular stroke of genius: translating the screaming vocalists with subtitles.
Return to the scene of the crime, the site of the Masque, Los Angeles' first bona fide punk club. It was in the basement of a Pussycat Theater and the entrance was in the alley south of Hollywood Boulevard, between Cherokee and Las Palmas avenues.
Over in Silver Lake, there are signs that punk isn't dead. At Destroy All Music (3818 Sunset Blvd.,  663-9300, open Mondays to Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.), an exclusively punk record store, you can pick up the latest CDs by the Hellacopters, Capitalist Casualties or Turbonegro. But about 65% of its sales are reissues from bands like X, the Avengers and the Dicks. "Same stuff that was selling 20 years ago," says owner Chuck Arjavac.
Right next door at Ka-boom (open 1 to 7 p.m. daily.  661-8697) is the little Punk Rock Museum. On display among the toys and trinkets are one of Iggy Pop's guitars, Sex Pistols 8-tracks and Devo hats.
The Masque is long gone, but its graffiti-covered doors and plaster chips are among the artifacts on display at Track 16 Gallery (at Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Building C1, Santa Monica;  264-4678. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). "Forming: The Early Days of L.A. Punk" is the most comprehensive exhibition of punk photographs and memorabilia ever mounted.
The work of graphic artists who made fliers and posters will be on display, as will buttons, albums and single 45s. Films, including Dave Markey's "Love Doll," will run in an adjacent screening room, and Exene Cervenkova (formerly Cervenka) of the seminal punk band X will re-create her bedroom in a gallery front window. An opening reception Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. is open to the public. Or catch the show Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through June 4.
It's still really early by punk standards, so get ready to go out. Visit one of the clubs that is fostering the current scene. The legendary Al's Bar (305 S. Hewitt St.,  625-9703) continues to give a sense of the good ol' '70s. Or, for a contemporary punk experience--slam-dancing teenagers, black walls, no air-conditioning or sound system to speak of--check out the Smell (5229 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,  761-7241), a storefront where the stockroom has been turned into a performance space.
On the Orange County front: Linda's Doll Hut (107 S. Adams St., Anaheim,  533-1286); Club Mesa (843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa,  642-6634); or Chain Reaction (1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim,  635-6067).
Bring the old and new punk worlds together with a 10 p.m. show reuniting Cervenkova and John Doe, the two people who met at a Beyond Baroque poetry workshop in 1976 and went on to form X. They share a bill with Fabulous Disaster, Tracy and the Hindenburg Ground Crew and Overflow at Joint (8771 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles,  275-2619).