As tens of thousands flocked to see Metallica at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday night, a slightly smaller crowd of rabid fans invaded the Observatory in Santa Ana for the 2017 Punk Invasion festival, a multi stage all day event, that featured bands like Peter DFL, Lower Class Brats, Corrupted Youth, Toxic Holocaust, Cheap Sex, Ill Repute, Monster Squad, and many more, among in a smorgasbord of punk from America and the UK, including hardcore, street and anarchist punk, Oi, Nardcore, crossover, and thrash. The Punk Invasion festival succeeded in bringing fans a diverse sample of various forms of music representing sentiments of fury, DIY ethics, and an anti establishment and non-conformist way of life.
The Observatory set up an outdoor stage that was connected to the inside of the venue with numerous bars and stools slinging booze, as well as a fenced in area in the parking lot for merch, vinyl, and shirts from each band.
However, things at times got a bit too rowdy, and in at least several instances, the violence became too real and spilled outside the pit. As can be expected there were slam dancers, pretty much from the first band, LA based skate punks DFL, to the last band, UK old school classic punk band Special Duties, people were moshing, the entire night. Literally, from one stage to the next, it was a nonstop circle pit, slam dance heaven. But, amidst the aggression, several fist fights due to various reasons unknown reason, most likely too much alcohol, but there were several busted heads and bloody faces, as well at least two fans who were a bit too rowdy and agree who had to be ejected from the premises, some in handcuffs and in the back of a Santa Ana police car, unfortunately. Luckily security handled it swiftly but still always sucks when the rough housing in the pit turns serious, not fun.
On a more positive note, rabid fans gave their all from the start of the fest, and sang along and raged with bands like LA punks Corrupted Youth, Narcoleptic Youth and Blanks 77, early in the afternoon underneath a partly cloudy sky at the outdoor stage.
By the early evening, old school heads and younger punks were slam dancing and yelling along to UK classic UK punk band Peter and the Test Tube Babies, in the MainStage indoors.
Stealing the show, East Coast American street punk band The Virus led fans through a volatile and abrasive punk set with slam dancing at an all time level as fans smashed one another while running around in a circle and singing the lyrics to such Virus songs as “Full Circle,” and “Rats in the City,” among many more. Their Anarchist street punk sound was driven by their snarling singer Paul Sorrels and crushing two guitar driven punk rhythm that had fans moving, and cheering at the music’s anti establishment anti racist songs about the working middle class. Fans were left bruised and drenched with sweat and beer after this pit.
Performing just before the evening turned dark, Hardcore legends Ill Repute took the outdoor stage and had fans crammed into the area all pitting and rocking out to one of the founding bands of the Oxnard(hence the term Nardcore) scene from the ’80s and later ’90s. Bands like JFA, Aggression and more put Oxnard and Southern California punk on the map, and Ill Repute is one of the bands from the era still revered today. With angst and passion, the band pummeled through a set full of technical problems. “This is the poor stage,” Singer John P. yelled at the crowd who cheered in approval. The band brought the music forth to fans with all guts and emotions and sounded like an angrier version of the Descendents. Ill Repute put on one of the most powerful, passionate performances of the night, ending with the classic title song which the genre was named after, “Oxnard.”
Led by vocalist and bassist Joel Grind, the Portland based trio Toxic Holocaust seemed a bit too stripped down, and bare almost seemed like it was lacking something at first. But half way through the band’s sound of thrash metal punk with hints of black and death for the crowd spinning. “This one goes out to all the metal heads and all the punks, united we are one!” screamed Joel Grind.
Though it took time to warm up, after several songs, fans were slam dancing faster than the riffs and drum beats, as the headbangers and punks truly came together. The speed was clear, in such songs as “Nuke the Cross,” “Wild Dogs,” “Hell on Earth,” and more. Fans with long hair and mohawks rejoiced for Toxic Holocaust’s set.
One of the only two metal sounding bands on the bill, Los Angeles based crossover band Excel brought it hard, and for a time had the pit slamming like it was 1986. For fans of bands like Cryptic Slaughter, SOD, Municipal Waste and Crumbsuckers, Excel is a meat and potatoes kind of crossover thrash band. Speed metal played in tune and with a precision that gets rabid fans practically beating the shit out of each other as they run around in concentric circles. If not the biggest, then most certainly the roughest pit of the evening belonged to this band. The punks were grateful to break up all the punk with a few doses of crossover thrash metal, courtesy of Excel.
One of the best performances of the festival was the afternoon outdoor set by The Voids, easily one of the most under rated punk bands from Southern California. On the scene for over 15 years, The Voids are led by singer Adri, featuring guitarists Yoci and Chris, drummer Nick, and bassist Joey. Musically, The Voids ripped and blazed through a hardcore charged set of old school punk sound with urgency and speed that had fans smashing into one another from the first song to last. This was one hell of a circle pit, slam dancing and crowd surfing galore; the riffs, drums and melodic in your face vocals had everyone from fat metal heads in Pantera shirts, crust punks in leather spiked jackets, and small skinny tattooed chics wearing Vice Squad tank tops all slam dancing in unity. Bodies were flying, as The Voids took the chaos to another level with one of the most energetic sets of the fest
By the time the last two bands, Lower Class Brats Special Duties took the stage, you would think that 10 hours would have fans tired and worn out, but to the contrary, punks and diehards packed into the Observatory’s MainStage for the Lower Class Brats, a sleezy street punk rock band from Texas who had fans screaming along and dancing as the band smashed through song after song. Practically the same level of energy was present if not more for Special Duties, the UK classic punk band who began in the late ’70s. All in all, this was 10 hours of slamming, diverse and charged punk that gave fans their monies worth at Punk Invasion, 2017.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.