It's been 30 years since Frontier Records first began to expose an indelible roster of local punk rock bands to hardcore fans, forever leaving its mark on the music scene in LA and beyond. After last night's sweltering 8-hour-plus gathering at the Echoplex to celebrate the milestone with some of the best known and influential acts from the era and the label itself, it's clear that its legacy continues to inspire a new generation of disaffected youth.
Teens, young adults and adolescents will always have something to be pissed off about, and seeking out music that expresses and lets them release this rage is a rite of passage that endures no matter what the current music trends may be. Judging by the blitz of baby-faced fans in sweaty new-old punk tees, many are still identifying with noisy nuggets of yore.
But what happens when these founding fathers of punk grow up? In the case of The Adolescents' Tony Cadena, definitely not a mellower stage disposition. Cadena, who mentioned that he “had a heart attack last month” (he was serious) that put him “officially in the old guy club,” sure seemed spry during the band's blistering headlining set, ranting and panting and even doing a little crowd surfing in between such hits as “Self Destruct,” “Creatures,” “Amoeba” and the always fitting “Kids.” He figured the announcement might “bring a little excitement to the show.” It wasn't necessary.
Former Adolescent Rik Agnew punched out a potent set earlier in the eve, even treating the crowd to a little goth grinding from his other outfit Christian Death (also a Frontier band), while San Fran's The Avengers turned in a rhythmic yet raucous performance that fed off the still-intense chemistry of singer Penelope Houston and guitarist Greg Ingraham.
We missed the Flyboys, who played late afternoon at the all-ages event, but we did catch The Deadbeats, whose salacious jazz-core spectacle featured nipple chains, a back-up singer in a Hello Kitty corset and dog-collared blow up doll. Even without the visual, the music was attention-grabbing.
“Im gonna sue every one of these fuckers,” said TSOL's Jack Grisham about the lineup that came before him. “I was a good Christian boy before I started listening to this stuff.”
TSOL were equally tight and brutal, though the uncomfortably hot room seemed to be getting to them a bit. The too-short but definitely sweet set almost seemed to wipe out Grisham, who complained about it a few times. It got the crowd too. The club opened up the Echo upstairs for those who, as Michael Stock (of Part Time Punks, who co-hosted the event with Frontier's founder Lisa Fancher) announced, “need some fresh air.”
The most impressive performance came from a group of seasoned old gents, but no punker up on his/her history seemed shocked, though. Middle Class may have looked like soccer dads, but they're considered by many to be founders of punk thanks to their early slamming sound, epitomized by the anthem, “Out of Vogue.”
We couldn't help but recall a Saturday Night Live skit featuring Dave Grohl from earlier this year, featuring a wedding scene in which the bride's graying dad does a party thrashing reunion with his old band. Watch it here. As this brilliant piece illustrates, looking like a grown up — a normal grown up — doesn't mean you cant rock hard, fast, loud and even cause a li'l damage. The bass player in particular whipped some middle-class middle-aged ass last night.
Throughout the event stage diving, crowd surfing and fist pumping was continuous and the battle to score each band's set list was passionate but good-natured. The Echo's security were busy for most of the night (especially when one guy climbed the rafters and jumped) but for the most part, all ran smoothly. No blood was shed, which was not the case at punk shows back in the day — that's for sure!
The crowds do seem kinder and maybe even a little gentler than they were back when Fancher launched her iconic label three decades ago. Last night was like a family reunion in many ways (gathering bands that grew up together and now have offspring of their own, many of whom were there as well). Second-generation punks may not have as many reasons to rebel against home life, but as the continuing success of Frontier's back catalog proves, angst is eternal.
Check out Frontier's offerings (which also includes Suicidal Tendencies, Weirdos, Redd Kross, Circle Jerks, Three O'Clock and more) here.