Music is good medicine and this long-awaited reunion was just what the doctor ordered. The most-recent and most popular incarnation of The Skulls came together once again after formally disbanding back in March of 2006. It was awesome. It was liberating. It was loud, raw, outrageous fun. It was also the first time I was able to become completely absorbed and immersed in glorious punk noise after an extended period of personal anguish. It was one of those wonderful nights when everything seemed to come perfectly together. All the bands on the bill were great, there was only one brief fight, the racist skinhead element was nonexistent, and some of my own friends and a significant other had a reunion of our own. The lingering after-gig buzz left a smoldering ember of happiness in my mind and heart for several days afterward. Gigs: Good therapy. Take as needed and repeat.
The future of punk rock is firmly rooted in the past, and the three young members of Fallujah 71 embody this fact. The three youngsters that comprise F-71 play aggressive, fundamental punk rock inspired by the L.A. underground sound of the late ‘70s. When this tight, well-practiced trio does their thing, I am reminded of how it used to sound and feel in the early days of the Southern California punk scene when Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and Adolescents reigned supreme. Songs like “I Wanna Destroy” had that antagonistic, pissed-off, unifying spirit that makes you want to go out and happily break some glass. Another rapid-fire head-nodder played that evening was “Martyrs,” a snotty and sarcastic ditty about the pointlessness of being a war hero. Good. The young ‘uns can still see through the bullshit. “Shopping Mall Shootout” displayed dark humor and righteous disgust in regard to certain elements of our violent society. Ironically, the only thing that may be working against these talented and dedicated adolescents is the fact that they are not self-destructive, fucked-up kids like so many of our tragic musical heroes from the past. It will take a few more years for that youthful shimmer to get scrubbed away by the inevitable ugliness that comes with living. Good job, and a nice start for a fantastic evening. (http://www.myspace.com/fallujah71)
Amerikan Made was a pleasant surprise, because for some reason, I always thought it was some sort of bro-punk band…perhaps because of the way they spell “American” with a “K.” I don’t know, but anyway, after I came back inside the venue after talking to various friends, I thought, “Damn, I should have stayed inside to catch this band’s whole set. This Huntington Beach foursome has big, loud, buzzing guitars, the music is energetic, catchy, double-time punk rock with a strong sense of variation and careful arrangement, harmony, and seething anger that is simultaneously livid and uplifting. The venue started to fill up and the accumulating crowd began to really come alive. The circle pit churned to life, and many in the front row were energetically fist-pumping and singing along. At times, I was reminded of NOFX and Pennywise, but there were so many different elements and influences weaving in and out of each other—like the chunka-chunka breakdowns, anthemic intros, and blues-influenced metallic guitar leads—that the only way to accurately describe Amerikan Made is to say it sounds like Amerikan Made. When the band played the eponymous “Amerikan Made,” I realized I had heard it before and really liked it without knowing who it was. Now we both know. Listen for yourself at: http://www.amerikanmade.com/ and at: www.myspace.com/amerikanmade
Noise Attack is another Orange County-based foursome that emanates strong and heavy punk‘n’roll with an abundance of old-school heft, but with more of a bluesy swagger and intermittent Rikk Agnew-like riffs. The circle pit continued to grow ever larger, the people pressed ever-closer and the grand-glorious nose from this band’s onslaught effectively slayed me. I didn’t take notes, so I don’t really know what was played. All I know and remember is how it made me feel. It made me feel strong and happy…like I could jump on my head and it wouldn’t have hurt a bit. It made me feel like the band members were feeling. I felt like I knew all the words even though I did not know what was being said. It was fast. It was tight. It was wonderfully gritty and alternatingly clean. Noise Attack helped to defeat the enemy of melancholy. The band has a new CD out entitled, A Gun in My Hand, and it is available at: http://www.noiseattack.com/
Finally, after waiting almost four years, we finally got to again enjoy The Skulls live. I really needed this. After months of painful, dramatic bullshit, I was all keyed-up for some exhilarating, liberating, joyful punk rock clamor; The Skulls did not disappoint. This was without a doubt one of the best shows I have ever attended. It’s too bad the venue did not sell-out so that more people could have enjoyed it.
If you don’t already know, allow me to inform you: The Skulls is one of the first punk rock bands from the Los Angeles area, and even though it did not do much recording during its inception in 1977, it was one of the most influential and notable underground bands of that time. Vocalist Billy Bones has been the only consistent member since that period and he has revived those buried and bleached bones from time to time over the years. The best and most reliable line-up came into being in 2000, consisting of the ever-reliable Billy Bones on vocals, James Harding (former Adicts) on bass, punk rock mainstay and band whore Sean Antillon (Gears, Weirdos, Snakecharmers, etc.) on drums and the astounding young gun Kevin Preston on guitar. Preston is, without a doubt, a guitar wizard who was probably born with the instrument in his hand. He joined his old bandmates after returning from a wildly successful European tour with his glam-punk band Prima Donna, opening for some goofy band called Green Day. Ah yes….we knew him when….
“Fuck yeah!” I said aloud at the top of my lungs as the band broke open with “Summer of Hate,” a short, jackhammering ditty about the death of the Hillside Strangler; “Yeah, yeah, the Hillside Strangler’s dead!” Fuck that guy. Everything sounded just like it used to. The motley quartet pounded everything out as if they had never been apart. The classic “On Target” hit us in the head next, and Kevin’s searing, chaotic guitar intro had everyone in the front screaming and reaching out to help him slash and bang on the strings. It’s true; he is such a Prima Donna with his flashy clothes, über-confident stage presence, and his in-your-face method of performance complete with frequent undulating pelvic thrusts and various forms of guitar-playing gymnastics. He is a born performer. After a few more very-familiar tunes, which included, “Can Punk Rock Pay the Bills,” “I Don’t Care,” “Incomplete Suicide,” and “You Can’t Drag Me Down,” the highlight of our evening came when Billy invited my good friend Cathy onstage to sing along to her favorite song in the whole world, “Monet.” So intoxicated by the thrill of the moment, the usually shy and way-too-self-conscious Cathy forgot about all that and belted it out alongside Billy until he casually walked away, leaving her alone with the microphone. Cathy continued to sing with everything she had until she suddenly realized where she was and what she was doing. Then, she sheepishly exited stage right. That totally made my night and she later said it was the best birthday ever.
Immediately following that, Joey Bondage, vocalist for Narcoleptic Youth, jumped onstage jumping around like a madman to sing along to “Building Models.” Obviously unaware of Joey’s immense rock star status in the Inland Empire, the Galaxy staff tried angrily to remove him from the stage until they realized everyone in the band wanted him there. I was laughing my ass off. Fuck those guys. The set ended with another golden oldie entitled, “Kill Me, Kill Me, Kill,” but we all knew the night was not yet over. The well-deserved encore consisted of “Life Ain’t So Pretty,” “Girlfriend, Shower, Sleep,” “Victums,” and a tribute to The Man in Black, Mr. Johnny Cash with “Walk the Line.” It was all so much fun that I wanted it to never end.