Friday was night Punk-o-rama night in Santa Ana, as hundreds swarmed to see hometown heroes TSOL and UK political punk party animals Anti-Nowhere League.
The headliners, fronted by punk legend and Weekly columnist Jack Grisham, emerged on stage around 11 p.m. to the packed walls of the Observatory. Many of the gushing fans who came with their families had obviously been coming to TSOL shows since back in the '80s.
Throughout the set, the moshing crowd was only made more intense by the sheer athleticism and stealthiness of stage divers, which ensured the Observatory security had their work cut out for them. From middle aged inebriated women (one of whom who made it onstage to bear hug Grisham), to longhaired stoners, thrashers and skate punks, dozens of people made it on stage, while many more attempted but were thrown back in the pit by security.
See also: [Photos]: TSOL and Anti-Nowhere League
“I don't even drink anymore and I'm disgusted by the amount of beer that's being wasted by you punks!” Grisham yelled in the middle of the band's set as half empty tall cans of $9 dollar Pabst Blue Ribbon went hurled across the room.
TSOL's apparent lack of a set list made way for a very impulsive punk rock show but included most of the band's classic tunes, including 'Dance With Me,' Superficial Love,' 'Sounds of Laughter,' 'World War III,” 'Fuck You Tough Guy,' 'Code Blue,' and tons more.
Guitarist Ron Emory, bassist Mike Roche have playing music in punk bands for three decades, and the sounds of their instruments seem physically in sync. “We've been friends for 41 years,” Emory told the crowd in between songs. Along with drummer Tiny Biasco and keyboardist Greg Kuehn, the band all provided the perfect musical backdrop of classic OC late '80s hardcore punk and death rock that TSOL helped to create. But, along with this darkness came a sense of excitement that radiated from Grisham, who skanked around the stage with a constant smile, wearing a formal dress shirt and tie, and black and white striped dress.
“Ah yes, the concept of getting rid of government never gets old does it?” Grisham said to the crowd with a grin before diving into the song 'Abolish Government/Silent Majority.'
More than halfway through the set, a skinny punk jumped on stage, skanked up to Grisham and tore of his dress before swiftly stage diving back into the mayhem of the slam pit. 'You're lucky that I have good enough legs to make this into a mini skirt!' Grisham told the crowd as he ripped his dress by hand and continued with the concluding of the band's outstanding 90-minute set.
Anti-Nowhere League appeared brought a definite crust punk/biker metal vibe to the show. Fans ate up the faster, mildly thrashier brand of UK hardcore, in the vein of The Exploited, Discharge and UK Subs with hints of Motorhead.
Lead singer, 'Animal' was at times hard to understand due to his heavy British accent, but not too much talking was needed, the songs spoke for themselves, and produced enough kinetic energy to Power all of Santa Ana, from the constant slam dancing on the floor.
At just after 9:00 p.m., special guests The Zero Boys took the stage to a room full of younger rabid punks in the pit, and older fans on the side of the stage, all rocking out and singing the lyrics with the band, who began in 1979 in Indianapolis, Indiana. With a classic mix of hardcore punk riffs, drums and beats, the band molded together a sound that fused Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys, Dead Kennedys, and Minor Threat. Lead singer Paul Mahern wailed during the entire set as the band performed songs off the now classic album Vicious Circle, backed by guitarist Dave Lawson, drummer Mark Cutsinger and bassist Scott Kellogg. “The last time we played punk wasn't in,” Mahern told the crowd. “Last time we played in Southern California, most of you weren't born yet,” he said, looking at the hordes of young Mohawks and bald heads in the front row.
The Crowd: Bald headed tough guys dominating the pit, longhaired old school rockers in leather jackets and to the their middle aged drunk dates, gray-haired punks with their families and plenty of hot girls with dyed hair, piercings patches and tats.
Random Notebook Dump: The Anti-Nowhere League song, 'So What,' was made famous when Metallica covered it on their album of covers from the late '90s, Garage Inc. Anti-Nowhere League's singer, 'Animal' even performed the song live, with Metallica as part of their special 30th anniversary shows in San Francisco in 2011.
Overheard at the show: “I have all my five kids here tonight,” TSOL front man Jack Grisham said in between songs. “I tried to get them to stage dive tonight but they're scared, they all ran away.” Pointing to a teenage daughter working at the merch booth, Grisham than said he got her to stage dive at an early age. 'I got one of them to stage dive at 12 years old. See I told her I'd give her 50 bucks if she dove off stage at one of our shows. She did it, came up to me looking for the money when I told her 'I don't have 50 bucks!' That's called good parenting, she learned her first lesson, NEVER TRUST ADULTS!” Fans cheered in approval.
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.