Political Punk

Inside a punk’s run for supervisor in a small Bay area city.


Robby Bancroft calls for movement from the crowd during a performance at Pacifica, Calif.’s Winter’s Tavern on Sept. 24, 2022. Bancroft later jumped in and joined them as they moshed and crowd surfed. (Joshua Carter / Xpress Magazine)

In April 2022, the band Obsolete Man played for a surging crowd of punks at Church of the Buzzard, an old warehouse in Oakland. The show had everything — from the smell of pungent body odor to old punks in camouflage shorts, moshing violently. Obsolete Man’s lead singer, Robby Bancroft, ended their song “Violence” by asking the crowd to help him surf all the way to their merch table.

Robby Bancroft screams with a fan during a performance of his band, Obsolete Man, at Pacifica’s Winter’s Tavern on Sept. 24, 2022. (Joshua Carter/Xpress)

On a night like this, it might be difficult to imagine Bancroft announcing his candidacy as a supervisor for the city of Pacifica — the coastal town of 40,000 people just 15 minutes south of SF State. 

“When Robby told me he was running for supervisor, I didn’t even laugh,” Devan Bleyle, Obsolete Man’s bassist, said. “I mean, it does kind of make sense. He’s always doing community stuff. If you go to Pacifica, pretty much everyone knows that dude. I graduated five or six years after him, and even I knew who he was before I met him.”

Bancroft serves on the Board of Directors for Pacificans Care, a nonprofit helping provide core social services to the community. Bancroft has also worked as the communication director for the Pacifica Resource Center, one of the social services Pacificans Care provides. The Resource Center provides essential care to Pacificans —  ranging from rent payments to food banks and clothing drives. He previously worked with Chegg and traveled across the country getting people to vote. 

Bancroft’s campaign officially kicked off on September 24 at Fogfest, a local celebration highlighting Pacifica citizens. It was the ideal time for candidates to make their first appearance on the political stage with dozens of vendors, hundreds of city employees and thousands of residents and visitors crowding the streets in a merry atmosphere of community appreciation. 

Christine Boles, his competitor, walked through Fogfest alongside environmentalists and teachers. Boles, an architect and community advocate, took a more orthodox approach, smiling and waving while she walked through the street as her supporters held up signs in support. 

Bancroft decided to take a more confrontational approach. On a white moped, the political punk drowned out the other supervisors with his horn, speeding through the crowd to their floats to give out bags of candy and “Robby 2022” buttons to locals. Those who stayed ahead of Bancroft’s horn found themselves equally drowned out by a legion of bike-riding supporters ranging from young children to tattooed waste workers, all shouting “ROBBY! ROBBY!” at the top of their lungs.

Robby Bancroft stares in amazement as a local biker performs a trick in Pacifica, Calif. on Sept. 24, 2022. Dozens of bikers of all ages arrived moments before the parade kicked off and rode through the crowd chanting their support for Bancroft’s campaign. (Joshua Carter/Xpress Magazine)

While his approach is unconventional, Bancroft says it’s time for the framework of professionalism to change. 

“Politicians should be people.” Bancroft said. “We’re representing people, so why are we afraid to be people? I’m not ashamed of who I am. I’m proud of my band, proud of my community, proud of my Filipino heritage.”

At the end of Fogfest, Bancroft met his band, Obsolete Man, for a show down the street at Winter’s Tavern, a local rough-and-tough, live music bar. Supporters who spent the day questioning Bancroft on housing policies and credentials stared on in admiration, shock or confusion as their potential supervisor climbed on top of the bar to scream philosophical lyrics about community and hopelessness.

When Kevin Burleigh’s isn’t drumming for his hardcore band Soul Pain, he creates photo and video content for Bancroft’s campaign. Burleigh originally started off filming shows archive-style and met Bancroft while filming an Obsolete Man set. He feels Bancroft’s transition into politics was natural.

Krista Allen looks on as Robby Bancroft gives her son Scotty a fist bump on Oct. 6, 2022. Allen says she knows Robby through her husband, who is involved in local unions and supports his campaign. (Joshua Carter/Xpress Magazine)

“We used to joke that one day he’d be mayor,” Burleigh said. “We’d walk around Pacifica all day and he would always be stopping to talk to everyone.” 

While Bancroft’s over-the-top stage personality bleeds over into his political canvassing, he says it’s the logistical part of the job that prepared him for office the most.

“Some of the benefits of being a vocalist are kind of obvious,” Bancroft said, power-walking up a steep hill on Monterey Road. “But it’s the logistics that have always benefited me the most. The DIY scene is a pretty significant place for grassroots movements and fundraising, and pretty much every band nowadays has to be good at marketing to some degree. I’m lucky the guys in my band know about the scene and nerd out over hardcore and powerviolence, because I’ve always been more of a logistics guy.”                

A Local Approach

Pacifica has a $2.7 deficit from a decade’s worth of lawsuits and a handful of mandates, including a recent law mandating district supervisor elections. Bancroft says his opponents have pointed to his inexperience, but he argues his age represents the grassroots capability of his platform.

“I know they say I’m inexperienced, crazy, young, whatever,” says Bancroft. “The community pays attention to the fact that I’ve been fundraising in this community before a lot of residents even lived here. They don’t think you can make a change unless you’re older, or have a ton of money, but I’m here to show that all you need is community.”

Bancroft’s primary goals as supervisor are to raise funding and create contracts to increase mental health services in lower-income parts of Pacifica. He also wants to build more affordable housing, a promise San Francisco’s supervisors often mimic in their campaigns. But while San Francisco may have municipal political systems to emulate, it can’t compete with Pacifica’s small-town level of familiarity.

Bancroft says his struggles and experience as a small business owner, plus his track record in community service, give him an appeal to the working class. As he canvasses through the community, he makes sure to mention how his father’s house foreclosed the same year rival candidate Boles bought a lot in his neighborhood.

“My greatest strength is that I know the heartbeat of this place, and genuinely care about the people in this town. When I talk to locals, I always tell them how I lost my house and that I’m still fighting for an affordable place to live in my own community. When someone is struggling alongside you, someone born and raised in the same community, it makes it more personal.”

A white pair of coveralls Robby Bancroft wears in Pacifica, Calif. on Sept. 24, 2022. After having Pacifica residents sign them as they passed his tent, Bancroft later wore them on stage during his band’s performance. (Joshua Carter / Xpress Magazine)

Recent lawsuits from the ACLU targeting the city’s aggressive stance towards RV parking and district representation have only added to the city’s deficit, and both candidates promise similar solutions for finance and equity. With eminent crises looming, the Pacifica residents head to the polls on November 8 to vote for either a pragmatic architect with a focus on affordable housing and the environment or a local with a DIY influence and a long rap sheet of handling budgets.