Throwrag and Manic Hispanic: Live at the El Rey, October 2003 By Megan Pants

All pictures by Megan Pants

I should’ve known something was going to go wrong when we found out that the show wasn’t Manic Hispanic and Throwrag with Circle One. It was Manic Hispanic and Throwrag playing after the premiere of Quicksilver’s new surf movie, Circle One.

I show up at about a quarter past nine, and none of my friends are outside yet. I go inside; they’re not there either. I grab a beer and a stretch of wall to lean on and look around. I start to notice strange things. There are a lot of kids there, like five year olds, with their parents. Then there’s a pretty hefty crowd of the punk rock elders forming. A group of super charged-out younger punk kids started coming in. There were bleach blonde, shaggy-haired surfer boys, and an unsettling amount of hippies.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I was in a place so visibly divided. It was obvious that there were some less than amorous feelings floating around the club that night. When my friend Noel showed up, one of the first things she said was, “This is not good.” She was right. You could feel the tensions building up, the drinking started to get heavier, and no bands had taken the stage yet.

After the movie premiere (which we skipped because… well honestly, I could give a shit) we heard the opening notes of Throwrag and headed back in. We saw some spots up front and made our way forward. However, you had to be careful where you were standing because there masking tape lines on the floor that the bouncers would give you a hard time if you overstepped even slightly.

Throwrag is a band that needs to be seen to truly appreciate. I finally know this firsthand after getting the conviction that they were an acoustic two-piece out of my head after a year. They are so far from what I’d envisioned. Dirty sea shanty punk rock that I could never confuse for acoustic folk again if I tried.

First of all, they’ve got Jacko, the washboard player. I never thought a man could get so sweaty from strumming the washboard, but he manages. He’s all over the place. He strode to the front of the stage and started shaking hands with the kids that were standing there. What they didn’t see was that he would stick his hand down, and I mean deeply down, the back of his pants before extending his hand. He later did the same with the spoons he used on the washboard before throwing them into the audience. Near the end of their set, he grabbed a seemingly surprised Jaime Stern, gave him the washboard, and had him play while he did his thing. He strummed. He sang. He rolled. He danced. He screamed.

During their set, the first fights were getting started. No one was throwing fists yet, but you could tell from the way certain people were getting singled out that a brawl wasn’t too far behind. That was the atmosphere when Manic Hispanic took the stage.

I think Manic is the largest non-ska band I’ve ever seen. They fill any stage they play. They’re a super-group made up of members past and presently in The Adolescents, Agent Orange, The Grabbers, and The Cadillac Tramps, to name a few. Manic Hispanic is sort of like the Chicano, punk, bastard child of Weird Al. (For the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” They’ve got “The I.N.S. Took My Novia Away.” – you get the idea.)

They draw you in so quickly. You already know the melody, they’ve got the songs down, the singers are all awesome, and there’s so much energy. Which could be why things got a bit out of hand.

During Throwrag’s set there was a surfer kid with dreads bopping around in the pit. He was singled out repeatedly and was on the receiving end of a slight trampling. While Throwrag played, he seemed to get even more excited, singing along to every song from the center of the circle pit, trying to stay out of everyone’s way. About four songs in, he was cracked in the head. He staggered off to the side, right next to me, and was visibly shaken. After waiting it out for another song, he headed back in. He was jumped by about four guys which then turned into about five separate fights around the floor, all were Chicano and white fights. The bouncers were dragging the kid out, mostly for his own safety. El Jefe, the lead singer for Manic Hispanic, stopped them and had the kid brought to the back of the stage so that he could watch the end of the set.

I’m not above waking up the next morning with some tender spots and some bruises, or giving out a few of my own, but this was just ugly. Even with all of the fights, they served merely as a distraction to the show itself and a few beers took that distraction away. My friends, Ayn and Noel, and I left on a good note: stumbling past the La Brea Tar Pits and on to the next bar to compare stories from the show.