SANTA ANA, CA- What comes to my mind when I think of quintessential Punk Rock bands? I remember when I was a young lad trying to find music apart from my parents’ upbringing on Motown, Tower of Power and Disco. TSOL was one of the first punk bands to really catch my attention. I remember seeing them featured in Penelope Spheeris’, “Suburbia” movie and the first time I heard their bizarre anthem, “Code Blue” and being completely enamored with the lyrical content of it. I had never heard anyone sing of something absurd in my sheltered, dance music life up to then. I was hooked. I had the “Dance with Me” album on vinyl, which has so many great songs on it.
On January 4, 2020, the band made its third stop on the SoCal 40th anniversary tour at the Observatory in Santa Ana, California. Many friends and fans gathered there to celebrate with surviving original members, Vocalist and Storyteller Jack Grisham, Guitarist Ron Emory and Bassist Mike Roche. Along with long-time keyboardist, Greg Kuehn, and drummer, Antonio Val Hernandez. They were joined by amazing support bands, Toxic Energy, The Vulturas, Piñata Protest and punk royalty, The Dickies.
Toxic Energy opened the show with a high energy set of hardcore punk. The 5 piece Orange County band is comprised of Greg Dickson on vocals, Brian Jones on Bass, Guitarists Brent Waterworth, and Chris McBride and Drummer Ryan Hadley. They have been gaining momentum playing many shows all around Southern California and supporting their recent E.P., “California Sun. They will be on tour supporting Death by Stereo and Tsunami Bomb at the end of January.
When it comes to the Vulturas, nothing says a good time like a broken and bloodied nose. That’s exactly what happened to astounding frontman, Louie Perez III during their electrifying set. The guy is a madhouse all by himself and backed by a powerhouse trio of musicians, Rob Milucky on Guitar, Eric Fuller on Drums and Bassist Shane Strange. Trust me when I say the “broken nose” was not the highlight of the set but shows the level that the band puts out every show. They are super fun punk rock music and entertaining to watch. I’ve been following them since their first show and had the honor of shooting the band photo for their debut album on Hostage Records.
I had heard the name Piñata Protest a lot recently but hadn’t had an opportunity to see them. What I can say is my first experience with them live was a good one. I didn’t know what exactly to expect when I saw singer, Alvaro Del Norte’s accordion. What I heard was a very cool new sound the band from San Antonio, TX calls “Tex Mex Punk.” They put on an incredibly fun set, even an adrenalized version of “La Cucaracha.” The band rounded out by, guitarist Regino Lopez, Richie Brown on bass, Chris-Ruptive on drums and percussionist Diego Reyes, have upcoming shows in Texas mid-February and a date supporting The Reverend Horton Heat in March. I look forward to when they can come back to do shows here in California.
What one can expect when punk rock icons, The Dickies, take the stage? A set filled with hits, fun, and props. As we have seen over their 43-year history as a band, they always bring this level of the stage show to each gig. Fronted by founding members, Leonard Graves Phillips and Stan Lee, and accompanied by long-time members, bass god Eddie Tater, drummer Adam Gomez and guitarist Ben Seeling, the band shows little sign of slowing down. Songs included in their set were Dickies staples “I’m ok, You’re ok,” “Triscia Toyota,” “I Hate Punk Rock” and “Gigantor” which saw Greg Hetson joining them for the song. They also played their infamous covers of BOC’s “Nights in White Satin,” Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and the Banana Splits theme song. The Dickies are currently recording new material and will be playing The Canyon in Santa Clarita in March and then off to Europe for some dates in April.
The stage was flooded in Blue light as TSOL minus Jack, took the stage and broke into the nice instrumental piece, “Glass Streets.” Uncle Jack came on stage as the band tore into “The Sounds of Laughter,” and what was to be a career-spanning set of approximately 32 songs. They played flawlessly, commanding the audience with their brand of punk mixed with the usual banter and playfulness that is signature to Jack Grisham.
Some of the highlights for me were “In My Head,” “I Wanted to See You,” “Fuck You, Tough Guy” and “Die for Me” which features Ron Emory on lead vocals. One of the bizarre moments happened during “Man and Machine,” which was restarted 5 times to help a potential stage diver the courage to actually jump. She didn’t and ended up getting walked off stage, but it shows the connection the band has with their fans.
TSOL always puts on a great show. They are forever one of my favorite bands. Here’s to more years and more new music. They will continue with more 40th anniversary shows in February and March in Southen California, Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Long live the True Sounds of Liberty.