Better than...drinking beer anywhere warm.
On Saturday night around three hundred heads showed up to a tiny backyard in Elysian Valley, where the 2 and 5 freeways meet. The cold temperatures (for L.A. anyway) didn't keep anyone, it seemed from checking out humble punk rock superstars Total Chaos and an epic lineup at a house party.
Total Chaos has recorded for Epitaph, Punk Core and SOS Records, which they co-founded. Which is why it was impressive that they were willing to still play a backyard show that might get broken up by the police any minute.
"It's cool, it's cheap, not corporate, that's not what it's all about," said Shawn Smash, Total Chaos' guitarist.
The show likely wouldn't of been possible without the efforts of bassist Miguel Conflict, the newest edition to Total Chaos. He is an unsung hero of the Los Angeles punk scene; he's been the drummer for Social Conflict -- an O.G. East L.A. punk band that has been around since 1994 and was also on the bill. He turned his house into a recording studio and co-founded Innocence Lost Records, which is basically the only label documenting the contemporary East L.A. punk rock movement, through a series of compilations.
The very venue-worthy lineup for the evening also included Abactive Ramex, Underground Alliance, The Convicts, and Naked Aggression. There were no overpriced drinks, greedy promoters and ticket companies here, just chilled 40s of malt liquors and a $3 admission -- $4 after 7:30.
The bands were hyped up and at their peak. Hell, you would be too if you were opening for Total Chaos. The Convicts were as loud and as intense as always. Social Conflict handed out free merchandise and demos to fans, and played hits like "Razorblade Mary" and "Promised Land."
Naked Aggression, another O.G. punk band from Madison, Wisconsin that has made it pretty big, also put on a great show. Playing their speedy street punk anthems like "False Hope" and "Plastic World," singer Kirsten Patches wore a pink spiked wristband and guitarist Craig Cano rocked the roof off the place.
Up next was Total Chaos, finally, announcing: "Are you ready for the new world order?" This is their signature greeting, and it set their fans off like a bomb. The mosh pit blew up, kids with "flared" mohawks started to pogo up and down, and everyone sang along.
Total Chaos frequently change their styles; on one album they are hard and aggressive with repetitive harsh power chords a la street punk and D-beat. Elsewhere they sound inspired by the British oi! style and the '77 bouncy, melodic and catchy style. On Saturday they pulled from their full bag of tricks, although the melodic songs like "Complete Control" were played faster than usual.
Some kid busted his head open in the pit and Total Chaos immediately stopped their set to see if he was alright. The guy walked it off and the band kept on playing, I think I saw him in the pit again shortly after.
Punk rock success can be a balancing act. If you change your sound to book more venues and record more albums, you're a sellout. If you play a show with corporate sponsors, you're a sellout. If you don't play enough in your hometown, you're also a sellout.
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But Total Chaos has somehow found the equilibrium. And if they keep giving back to the fans as they did on Saturday, they will continue thriving, as they have for twenty years.
The Crowd: A bunch of the local punk rock kids, with some who came from out of town who came exclusively for Total Chaos. There were also a quartet of girls who looked like their car got a flat on the way to a club, and ended up in the backyard instead.
Overheard in the crowd: "Hey foo, you look like my friend!"
Random notebook dump: Miguel Conflict thanked a neighbor and gave him a beer for not calling the cops. So, they show wasn't shut down by the police. Cheers!