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Frontier Records 30th Anniversary at the Echoplex in Echo Park

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November 17, 2010, by Jimmy Alvarado



As a general rule, I eschew these big “let’s get together to show the youngsters how it’s done” nostalgia-type shows.  My reasons are simple. First, I’ve seen a lot of the bands doing the one-off bit in their prime and don’t want to taint some very nice memories. Second, so many amazing newer bands are around and much more deserving of attention than a non-band out to earn some quick cash playing tunes they no longer care about. This show, however, showed promise of being different. More than half on the bill are still active in the underground/punk scene and some are even releasing new material, and those that aren’t active are uncommon to the “nostalgia night” circuit. The odds of it being a good gig seemed favorable and, as is usual with these Part-Time Punks-affiliated shows, the risk paid off in spades.

Just a stone’s throw from Echo Park’s Angelus Temple, where controversial evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and her Foursquare Church set up shop in 1923, and situated below its sister club The Echo, The Echoplex is a large, dark hole that could easily double as a Hollywood set for a speakeasy or, yes, a punk club. Unlike most punk clubs of yore, though, the Echoplex is blessed with a decent PA, bouncers that aren’t actively trying to kill the clientele, and remarkably clean restrooms. Lots of older luminaries and scensters made it out, as did a large contingency of younger punks and folks looking to see catch their favorite band(s). Numerous tables stood off to the side with people hawking shirts, CDs, DVDs, records, posters and other stuff not immediately related to the evening’s proceedings, adding heft to an already heavy DIY punk vibe. Good PA or not, this was thankfully not gonna be an icky-slicky L.A. Live experience.



Arriving an hour after the doors opened, my buddy Jake and I missed openers the Pontiac Brothers, but managed to make it in just as East L.A. legends The Stains took the stage to a room already starting to crowd up. The band reformed a few years back and at this point, vocalist Rudy Navarro is the only member left in the band that dates back to the recording of their SST record, but he brought a more than capable lineup with him, including the mohawk-coiffed dude most recently handling bass duties for the band, Circle One’s Michael Vallejo on guitar and L.A. punk’s current go-to drummer extraordinaire Sean Antillon. The band started off with their classic “Sick and Crazy” and kept the careening slam dancers happy with a tight, zippy set comprised of more originals (“Violent Children,”  “Gang Related Death,” “Get Revenge”) and covers (Agent Orange’s “Bloodstains” and The Klan’s arrangement of The Seeds’ “Pushin’ Too Hard,” among others) before Rudy ended the set by diving head-first into the crowd. Good to have ’em still out there repping the eastside punk scene in fine fashion.

The Flyboys opened up with “Crayon World” from their first seven-inch single and made their way through a solid set of proto-surf punk pop. At times verging on a feel that was more Buzzcocks than Beach Blvd., the crowd gave them some much deserved love and sang along with many of the tunes before the band ended with their staple instrumental, “Flyboys Theme.” Word is this was their last show ever, which is a shame if true because it was clear they still could dish out some choice tunes.

Opening with “No Way,” a tune made famous by his former band the Adolescents, it was unclear whether Rikk Agnew and his band were merely running through an old classic from one of his legendary groups, taking the piss out of his former band mates (who were also on the night’s bill), or both. The rough spots were few, and he turned in a fun set long on hits from both his solo work and the various groups he’s been in, including “Creatures,” “Kids of the Black Hole,” “OC Life,” “Falling Out,” Romeo’s Distress,” and others. His Poop band mates provided solid support and added to the humor and sense of fun that permeated the set.

The Deadbeats are unique in a scene with no shortage of oddball groups. From their beginnings as one of L.A.’s “first wave” punk bands, they’ve been known for delivering sets that watusi on the line between rock performance and performance art and for countering more standard punk fare like “Kill the Hippies” and “Let’s Shoot Maria” with spastic musical exercises that veer more towards some nefarious collaboration between Ornette Coleman and Captain Beefheart than the Clash. While tonight was nowhere near as slimy as past sets, they still managed to turn in the evening’s most memorable performance. Vocalist Scott Guerin started off the first few songs stalking the stage sporting Levi’s and chained nipples. After a brief instrumental interlude featuring the theme from The Munsters, he returned in a medical gown, leather mask and lace thong and proceeded to croon to the blow up doll he’d brought along with him before rolling around the stage with said doll. The other members of the band – keyboardist Paul Roessler, guitarist Sarah Tonin, bassist, Dave Jones, drummer Joe Berardi, saxophonist Aaron Minton and a female vocalist dressed like she’d stepped out of a manga – provided the perfect backdrop to Guerin’s shenanigans, running through a crazed repertoire featuring the bulk of the songs the band recorded for seminal L.A. punk label Dangerhouse, as well as more chaotic, jazzy skronk like “Dull,” “Deadbeats on Parade” and “Hooked on Jailbait” before closing their set with the aforementioned “Kill the Hippies.”


Middel Class

If The Deadbeats provided the most theatrical set, The Middle Class turned in the one most anticipated. Arguably the first to tap hardcore punk’s vein and put its jackhammer template on vinyl, they didn’t disappoint despite a 27-year lapse in performances. It took a few songs, but they soon found their groove and ratcheted things up. The post-punk direction that had once alienated so many of their fans was now the strongest part of their setlist and meshed quite well with their earlier tunes – the rager “Insurgence” and the moodier “Above Suspicion” both evinced the same level of tension through different expressive outlets. After a great rendition of the Modern Lovers’ “She Cracked,” the band brought some buddies onstage and closed out with a smoking cover of one of L.A. punk’s staple tunes, Eddie & the Subtitles’ “American Society.”

Stuck in the unenviable position of following the two preceding bands, The Avengers handily held their own. Opening with “We Are the One,” they roared through a set of originals (as well as their excellent interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black”) that was more anthem after anthem than mere hit after hit – “Car Crash,” “Teenage Rebel,” “Cheap Tragedies,” “Corpus Christi,” “Thin White Line,” “Second to None,” “Uh-Oh,” and of course “The American in Me” all featured prominently – and their songs, though more than three decades old at this point, still remain as topical, vital and chill-inducing as ever. Original vocalist Penelope Houston and original guitarist Greg Ingraham, along with newer members Joel Reader on bass and Luis Illades on drums, turned in an enthusiastic set and those in the crowd not trying to look cool showed their appreciation by singing and pogoing along.

The looming spectre of work the next day and some increasingly achy feet meant that quite reluctantly we had to leave before TSOL and the Adolescents took the stage. Both have been quite active and consistently amazing in recent years, though, so it was no surprise that the consensus opinion I later heard from those that stuck around is that both delivered the goods.

Many of punk rock’s finest moments have occurred in sweaty subterranean basements and Part-Time Punks’ celebration of Lisa Fancher’s vaunted Frontier Records label was no exception. This night could’ve easily been one of those slick, wallet reaming affairs and/or up to its eyeballs in bullshit “this is how punk used to be, kids, and you must feel like a loser for missing out” kind of dickheadedness, but it wasn’t. It was a great punk gig, one surprisingly light on nostalgia despite the lineup and proof that good, non-corporate sponsored punk shows can still be found in the darker corners of the underground.



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