T.S.O.L. With Egrets on Ergot, Tartar Control, Go Betty Go And Youth Brigade At The Regent, Friday January 4th 2019
Last night, the Regent was hosting one of these real punk nights, headlined by the legendary punk band T.S.O.L. I had never seen these heroes of punk rock, but stories of violence associated to their performances like this one (this happened a few years ago) had warned me for the night… I didn’t expect to stay front row during their set, and I was very right. But the night turned to be another long one, with 5 bands playing in quick succession, exposing the diversity of the punk rock world.
A band I was very familiar with, Egrets on Ergot started the mayhem, with their usual dissonant, discordant post-art-punk music, and with a performance as intense as ever. If the rest of the lineup was mostly old school punk, As a band led by frontman Adam Brooks’ furious shriek and lugubrious saxophone, they are part of this new generation experimenting with the goth-punk scene, and it’s an understatement to say that the sonic world of Egrets on Ergot is a weird one. As before, it was a constantly-changing oblique-screaming noisescape, interrupted by several existential crises, often as threatening as the announce of the apocalypse and the quartet played their metal-bar-hitting, eardrum-assaulting, menacing cacophony in front of punk rockers, who, for the large part, were enjoying their brutal noise-making for the first time.
Tartar Control certainly got the prize of the craziest band of the night, a comedy punk duo, with an act difficult to imitate or even figure out… they could have competed with Egrets’ weirdness, except they were two Mormon missionaries from Utah, obsessed with clean-pressed pants and dental hygiene, with a robot on stage playing bass or drums. One thing is certain they were highly entertaining, the singer acted like Pee Wee Herman on crack, constantly throwing himself in the crowd for an acrobatic tour of the mosh pit, while the music was a total in-your-face all-scream happy punk rock, with cartwheels, a series of toy gadgets and plenty of interaction with the crowd. With their true hugcore personality, and song titles such as ‘Jesus is Love’, ‘Brush Your Teeth’, ‘Smocking Crack’, ‘Sodomy Basket’, ‘My God’s Cock’, ‘Cramps Don’t Mean You’re Pregnant’ or ‘Satanists Are Fucking Dicks’, you will rapidly get the picture of the band’s insanity. These hardcore Mormons conquered the place in a cartoonish comedy moment, with an Aquafresh taste for blasphemy.
If Go Betty Go were more traditional in their delivery, they had the hard responsibility to be the only all-girls band of the night, in a very male environment. Their set was a driving force with melodic punk songs executed with a bouncing charisma and vocal harmonies. Lead singer Nicolette Vilar was jumping her way in the middle of their punk-rocket songs, with her cute black skirt and her confident tone, staying very attractive all the way through. One thing is certain, they didn’t try to compete with the men, and they elegantly demonstrated that you don’t necessarily need to be scary and ugly to play the punk card and that a female-fronted band can do the job without the back-rolling finger-pointing cliché. They played a tight set, with a sharp delivery focused on the essential but with a large dose of sex appeal and plenty of femininity. All the men in the crowds were all fists in the air at the sound of ‘Runaway’, ‘The Pirate Song’, ‘I’m From LA’, ‘C’mon’, ‘Saturday’, for an all fired-up set with surging guitars, and intense bass lines… a punk girl-power kind of set, sounding like a revival of the Go Gos.
At the first riff, you could tell that Youth Brigade had been around, they are actually described as a veritable institution in LA, formed by brothers Mark, Adam, and Shawn Stern in 1980. So we were in for one good hardcore party, with vocals shouted at unison, driving punk anthems and a furious mosh pit, which made me step back quite a bit. For 40 minutes or so, they did serve us the perfect old school Californian hardcore with a positively-charged tone and the happy wish to see the first family in orange suits for 2019 (this is what they said between songs)… Their songs (all old, as they said, as their last studio album was released in 1996) had this powerful drive, a testosterone-charged melodic punk with multi-harmonies and a rebellious but positive message, like a direct punch in the guts… What not to understand in a song called ‘Fuck You’, ‘Do You Wanna Die’, ‘Violence’, ‘Fight to Unite’, ‘Believe in Something’, What Are You Fighting For’ or ‘I Hate My Life’? After the necessary discourse on immigration and the US, they launched another series of furious assaults matching the violent mosh pit.
When you review some legend band you have never seen before – and even worse, a legendary band you don’t know much about – you start with a huge disadvantage, but besides the long Orange County history of punk, besides the stories and tales of hardcore and beyond – T.S.O.L. formed in Long Beach 40 years ago – there was the performance unfolding in front of me for a good hour, with massive and tall Jack Grisham in charge. If there is a frontman in charge, it is Grisham! Although his stage antics stayed limited to a nervous walking from right to left and back during the entire set, he effortlessly directed and controlled the crowd like a giant cult leader. To this precise comparison (already done), Grisham has had the right answer ‘I can’t because I am an anarchist’, but you get the idea. The music was surprisingly varied and far from following a one-punk-note with some classic old-school assault. First, there was a keyboard on stage and some songs were strangely tamed compared to the fury unleashed during the following ones. ’Oh a little R& B upsets you this evening?’ told Grisham who may have spotted some impatience during the more tuneful songs of their last album, ‘The Trigger Complex’ released in 2017. But one thing is sure, all the songs were delivered with that same swagger, embodied by Grisham’s larger-than-life persona and aggressive croon. He looked like a strange guy, a towering stature, equally scary and sugar-daddy, wanting to punch you or hug you, I was not sure.
What intrigued me the most was all the stories circulating around the band: the violence, the vandalism, the riots and melees with the police, and especially the legend preceding Grisham: He published his memoir ‘An American Demon’ in 2011 in order to write about his sociopathic past behavior, as the book deals with arson, rape, attempted murder, robbery, beating, homelessness, drug addiction,… and recovery and redemption. The 80s are far behind the T.S.O.L.’s frontman and these days, he is only an asshole on stage, and not even between the songs as he obviously cares about the fans moshing hard.
But it’s impossible to not think about all this while watching him patrolling the stage while haranguing the crowd. ‘Show me your… my cock?’ He shouted, repeating what he had heard from a guy from the crowd… ‘Wait a minute my daughter is here!’ he added. If all these stories are true, the evening went rather smoothly, there was no riot or police intervention, just a collection of punk raging tunes and plenty of fearless stage diving, while the songs were celebrating anarchy, freedom or necrophilia with the same fascinating charisma.
Give Me More
No Way Out
See You Tomorrow
Sounds of Laughter
World War III
In My Head
Fuck You Tough Guy
I Wanted To See You
Die For Me
Abolish Government/Silent Majority
Property is Theft
Beneath the Shadows
Dance With Me
Low Low Low