So one of the surprising aspects of running a blog is that suddenly you get invited to events that are supposed to be exclusively for the media. It seems wrong. We're not journalists, and we certainly don't know how to use our cameras. I'll never get past the Quick Start Guide. On occasion the invitations have something do with metal, like the recent Sunn O))) media listening event for Monoliths and Dimensions in NYC that we unfortunately could not attend. Most of the time, the subject is way off. We recently got invited to cover the Vans Warped Tour press conference and pre-party at the Key Club. There's no metal on that tour, but a press conference? That was too much to pass up. So we sent Professor Bunkum, because he is our resident punk/hardcore expert, and also most likely to offend and be forcibly removed. We could use the press. And, of course, the good Professor showed up late and missed the conference, but at least he got to witness a performance by the remnants of one of his childhood idols, THE ADOLESCENTS (who are only playing the California Warped tour dates - see them in Pomona on June 26). Here's his report:
Last Thursday I went to the “kick off” party in Hollywood for the Vans Warped Tour, which actually kicks off in Ventura in late June. This show seems out of the purview of this page, but then again, if you can get a free ticket and courted as “press” for a teen punk festival simply for having a metal blog that is less than six months old, that says something about the state of music in L.A., which is the key to this thing anyway.
Because of work, I missed almost all the bands. I was bummed I didn’t see TSOL. I did see a band called Sing It Loud. The world is backwards because this band is on Epitaph but should be on K-Tel; in other words, I’m now my parents. The music was melodic “punk” or at least had a melody line and some distortion pedals and guys jumping around like they mean it (i.e., mean to be jumping around). The singer was a tall skinny guy with a rip in his jeans and a microphone that stuck through his hair. The oddest thing was a keyboard skanking in low-slung pants and being a real keyboard hooligan. This guy should go all out keyboardist nutso and get a Keytar.
Anyway, the band was roundly booed and the MC was reduced to a “hey-they’re-doing-what-they-want-and-that’s-what-punk’s-all-about” schtick. As much as I didn’t relate to the band, I couldn’t help but think about what would have happened to Paul Westerberg or some other sensitive punk icon if they had grown up in the era of Guitar Center and music software that puts 90% of everything imaginable in the reach of the youngsters. Plus if these guys are getting it on with teen girls because of this band, they are successful by traditional yardsticks and should not mess with a winning formula. Why they are on Epitaph Records or the Warped Tour just shows how little I understand about either in the 2000’s. These guys are healthy young Americans out to tour the country with their rock band in earnest and get girls drunk on wine coolers. They will look very rounded in their college applications, and this sort of gritty experience with Vans Shoes is just what makes the Freshman classes at Brown or Cornell vital melting pots and proving grounds for our future leaders.
Contrast that with next up, the Adolescents. Last time I saw them was 1986 after hours of bus rides in San Francisco. At that time, the Adolescents and D.I. (who share various members) were in earnest reunion modes. The main players of these bands were big man bassist Steve Soto, various members of the Agnew (Rick, Alfie, Frank) family, Tony Cadena (or Tony Adolescent or Tony Reflex) and Adolescents drummer/ D.I. vocalist Casey Royer. It was confusing and I was confused for many reasons but those were great shows.
But this is 2009. First, several members should be dead by now, given how they were looking in the 1980’s but I guess cooler heads and needle swap programs have prevailed. I think the guitarist taking Rick Agnew’s spot was the son of Frank Agnew, but I don’t have time to verify this stuff. Because I have to take my daughter to school everyday, I can verify with great certainty that Tony Adolescents’ kid is in my daughter’s kindergarten class east of Pasadena. That’s pretty weird. Don’t know why, it just is.
Tony Adolescent is quite a performer. He is the Ozzy of punk rock. He jumps up and down, shakes his hands and wrists and basically looks like the music is pumping through him at 220v and his nerves are about to blow. The difference with Ozzy is that Tony sher can belt it out like it’s 1982, and Tony doesn’t say “I love you all” even once. They hit all the highlights: “LA Girl,” and of course “Kids of the Black Hole” and “Amoeba.” A couple guys stage dived. One sang. The band was good and tight, but I’m not 18 anymore lost in the big city risking life and mid-terms to see a band that might just change my life. They did their share to change punk and got little credit, which sucks but is par for the course (see also Agent Orange). Sing It Loud will probably make more money this summer than the Adolescents have in 10 years. I took some pictures, got in my Prius and went home. It was the equivalent of first-timers on this page seeing Sunn O))) still at it in 2029. I went home with a peaceful, easy feeling, not for what the music was tonight but for the chance to see this music on this night at this point in my life.