The 10 Best South Bay Punk Bands of All Time

Pennywise
Pennywise
Courtesy Epitaph Records

As a nu-metal head in the late ’90s at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, I was probably the only one displaying a love for bands like Korn, Slipknot and Fear Factory in a sea of Black Flag, Pennywise and Circle Jerks shirts and patches.

I was well aware that the South Bay was a mecca for punk rock, and contained within its limits a cacophony of sounds that would forever be part of hardcore punk’s lineage dating back to the late ’70s and early ’80s. That spirit survived through the ’90s and 2000s, and on to today, with some seminal bands that not only put the South Bay music scene on the map but also are responsible for some of the most iconic and influential music in all of punk.

The South Bay was not quite south enough to be part of the OC punk scene, but it was never quite part of the scenes in Venice and Hollywood, either. But that didn't stop some of the bands we're about to list from taking over clubs and venues all over Southern California in their heyday — and many are still going strong today. These are the all-time best punk bands from the South Bay.

10. False Alliance
False Alliance formed in 1998 while guitarist-songwriter-and-vocalist Danny McElwain was still a student at Mira Costa High School. Taking cues from old-school favorites like Dead Kennedys, Adolescents and The Germs, False Alliance paid homage to their elder punk-rock heroes with volatile, personal and political lyrics and music, and an accessible yet nostalgic '80s hardcore punk sound that gained the band a fan base across the South Bay and Southern California. Since forming, the band has been off again and on again, and undergone various lineup changes. Over their hundreds upon hundreds of shows, the constant has been McElwain. The band’s early days were filled with backyard and teen-center gigs with up-and-coming bands like Guttermouth, AFI and Avenged Sevenfold. Since then, they've played shows opening for bands like The Dickies, The Dwarves, The Weirdos, Fear and TSOL.

9. The STDs
Hermosa Beach–based punks The STDs are keeping alive the legacy of Pennywise and Black Flag. Though they never became millionaires or mega-rockstars, they march on for the love of the musicand for the community of Hermosa Beach. They perform hardcore punk at its best, full of fury, rage and distorted melodies in every song. Formed in 1996, the band is made up mostly of locals and continues to play all over the South Bay, as well as Long Beach, San Bernardino, East L.A. and beyond. One has to wonder: Does the name represent anything besides the obvious? After much searching online, there is no clear answer. Does it mean Surf Town Dudes? Or Surf Till Death? Could it mean something more nefarious? The only way to find out will be to meet a member and ask him yourself.

8. Smut Peddlers
This band formed in 1993 in Redondo Beach and took the sounds of rock & roll, hardcore and punk and coagulated them all to win fans among skaters, surfers and street punks. For nearly a quarter of a century, the band has been known on the local punk and hardcore scene to throw wild shows. For years, they remained relatively unknown outside Southern California, and it might have stayed that way, until their music was used by the Jackass franchise, both in TV episodes and movies. Their fast-paced, aggressive sound provided the perfect soundtrack for Johnny Knoxville and his gang to do their stunts and beat the shit out of one another. Thanks to the Jackass publicity, the band has toured the United States as well as Europe and South America over the years, but still calls the South Bay home.

7. 98 Mute
Another punk band from Hermosa Beach, 98 Mute formed in 1993, part of a second wave of South Bay punk bands who continued the traditions of their ’80s precursors. Alongside peers in bands such as Pennywise, the band’s agility and melodic skills were mixed in with fierce speed and heavy guitar, producing a slightly metal-influenced, skate-punk sound that fans loved. 98 Mute features drummer Justin Thirsk, brother of later Pennywise bassist Jason Thirsk, as well as guitarist Jason Paige, bassist Doug Weems and singer Pat Ivie. Since the late ’90s, 98 Mute has toured with bands like The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise and Blink-182. The band released four full-length albums before disbanding in 2002, but they are back by popular demand, recently reunited at the Hollywood Palladium for a string of shows with Pennywise.

6. Redd Kross
Perhaps one of the most underrated and overlooked of South Bay punk bands is Redd Kross, which over the years evolved from hardcore punk to a more avant-garde, indie-rock form of alternative music. Hailing from the same city as The Beach Boys, Hawthorne, only a couple decades later (late ’70s), Redd Kross had a huge impact on L.A.'s early punk and later alternative and garage-rock scenes. Featuring brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, the band has otherwise sported a revolving lineup of musicians; an early incarnation included guitarist Greg Hetson, who left to form Circle Jerks, and drummer Ron Reyes, who left to become the singer for Black Flag. The band’s first gig in 1980 was opening for Black Flag while they were teenagers. Redd Kross might not be the same band as when they started, but their influence looms large and they continue to perform and record to this day.


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