There’s nothing more synonymous with Southern California than punk rock. From its infancy, we were drawn to bands like Social Distortion and X; bands who led the way. Other acts like Descendents and the Vandals also brought the spotlight to the genre and the SoCal punk rock community. The thing is, punk rock is more than a style of music, tats, cool hair, docs, and mosh pits. Punk rock is a way of life that evolved from mindset freedom.
As a result of the efforts of late 70’s punk forefathers, SoCal rose to prominence in the early ‘80s due to a few more punkers that broke barriers. Some of those bands were Bad Religion, The Dickies, Fear, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, D.I., T.S.O.L. and CH3 just to name a few. These bands all had something in common, they played the music that spoke to a new generation. The music was simple and straight to the point. It questioned anything and everything that mattered. It was the lack of superfluous glitz and glamour that spoke to these fans. As life goes on of course, people change. We may change our look and opinions of what matters to us now versus when we were 15, but the attitude we developed over our lifetime remains a vibrant part of who we are, that is what punk rock is all about. Being who you are, and speaking your mind is as punk rock as it gets. Yeah, cool music is a big part of that, but make no mistake, it’s the attitude that the lifestyle brings that’s the backbone of this community.
That being said, there’s another band that’s always been the voice of the OC punk community, that band is The Adolescents. This band is a staple in the OC punk community. They’re from Fullerton, and have been doing it since 1980. Founding bassist, Steve Soto, was the sole constant member of the band since its inception, with lead vocalist, Tony Reflex, being in the group for all but one album. The band has had a few incarnations over the years, and have gone on sabbatical from time to time. In the end, one thing you could always count on was that sometime, somewhere, you could catch an Adolescents show with Tony and Steve.
The front-man always gets the headlines, and in this case, it’s deservedly a well-earned moniker. For the locals, when you think about the force behind this tight-knit community, Soto was the heart that kept a movement moving. On June 27, 2018, we received news that left us in disbelief and heartbroken. Tony announced, “With heavy heart I share the passing of Steve Soto, my friend and bandmate since 1979. I don’t know what to do. or to say. Goodbye my brother.” Besides The Adolescents, Steve was also in Agent Orange, Manic Hispanic, 22 Jacks (which I’ve seen him perform in), Punk Rock Karaoke and many other bands. Steve was recently just on tour with The Adolescents as well. Not sure what the cause was but the punk rock world lost an excellent musician & person today.”
Sadly, this news reminded us that part of growing up is experiencing our heroes turning human right in front of us. Loss of a friend, no matter how distant, is as human an experience any of us can go through.
The announcement was a blow to Orange County, and the punk rock community. Yes, Soto was an icon, he was a supporter of so many bands that literally changed the landscape of the music world. There was something more than music that made Steve special, he was the embodiment of punk rock. Not only was he a bad-ass, but he made you feel as if you mattered, you were important and he would always make time to say hello, or sit down with you when it was possible. I can’t tell you how many times I would be at a show and I’d run into him, and he would always say hello and ask me how I was and how my wife and kid were. That’s what I’ll remember most about him. Soto was so personable, and he really cared about people.
In a recent interview with Mike Magrann of CH3, I asked him what his fondest memory of Soto was, and his response was very direct, and simple. It was a very punk rock answer, he said “Steve was just a good guy and he always made you feel special.” That’s about the highest compliment you can make about any person, regardless if you’re a punk rock icon or not. It’s been a few months since we received this devastating news, and now, in a very punk rock way… it’s time to honor this icon. This Saturday, the Adolescents will play the Observatory with CH3, DOA and The Croissants.
The band’s lineup is simply electrifying, and you’ll hear some great stories about Soto as well. Not sure if there’ll be a dry eye in the house, but one thing is certain, the music will be what punk rock is all about. The Adolescents will take the stage with Dan Root (guitar), Ian Taylor (rhythm guitar), Brad Logan (bass), Mike Cambra (drums) and Reflex behind the mic. The sound and vision that Soto and Reflex brought to the band remains the cornerstone behind their performances, and this show will showcase just how special this band, and this community is to the vitality of music in general.
This show will remind us all that music never leaves us alone, and punk rock will always be there when nothing else will. More importantly, music is not about forcing happiness, but instead, it’s about not letting sadness win. This Saturday, this show will celebrate the life of an Orange County hero, and an icon to the world of music.
The Adolescents perform with D.O.A., CH3, and the Crossaints at The Observatory, Sat. Dec. 8, 8 p.m. For full info and tickets, click here.