What can I say? I wait all year for my favorite holiday tradition, The Vandals’ Christmas Formal. It’s a special time of year when these Orange County punks put on one of the best holiday themed events you will ever see. This year’s show, featuring support from a reunited Assorted Jellybeans (original lineup) and Skapeche Mode, was no exception. This is one tradition that gets better with age.
This year marked the 19th annual Christmas Formal, held as usual at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California. Concertgoers adorned in festive sweaters, dresses, and hats gathered to kick off their holiday celebrations (I personally pull out a fire-engine red wig for the occasion every year). In addition to the option to buy speciality Christmas Formal tshirts, ornaments, and socks, The Vandals also set up a makeshift photo booth with props like wigs, puppets, and cutouts of their faces. As I noted with their 4th of July show, The Vandals always commit to a theme!
This was my 6th Christmas Formal in a row and it has become one of my favorite days of the year ever since I moved to Southern California. The stage is always decorated with giant inflatable lawn ornaments suspended from the ceiling (typically a snowman and a revolving carousel), lights, presents, balloon sculptures (this year was a tree and a candy cane), and a fireplace backdrop. This year, they also added a snowman piñata, which a lucky audience member got to smash while on stage.
Brooks Wackerman from Bad Religion filled in on the drums for the absent Josh Freese. I think I’m about 50/50 between seeing Josh and Brooks for the Christmas Formal, but both help put on a great show. As always, the set included the entire Oi To The World Christmas album as well as fan favorites.
The Vandals, dressed in matching red and green suspenders, opened with “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” followed by “My First Christmas (As A Woman).” They played most of Oi To The World at the top of the show, minus “Hang Myself From The Tree” and “Oi To The World,” which are both saved for the encore. This is also a chance to see Joe Escalante sing lead on “Here I Am, Lord.” The Christmas portion of the show closed with “Christmastime For My Penis,” complete with the tradition of the tuba being played to interrupt Dave Quackenbush as he sings. For the rest of the regular set, the band played fan favorites like “People That Are Going To Hell,” “Live Fast, Diarrhea,” “The New You,” and “Happy Birthday To Me” before closing with “My Girlfriend’s Dead.” The encore allowed Warren Fitzgerald, as usual, to command the audience’s attention with his renditions of “Hang Myself From The Tree” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” while also destroying the balloon sculptures and humping the balloon Christmas tree. The night ended with the entire crowd singing along to “Oi To The World” while pumping their fists in the air.
There are few things in life that make me happier than The Vandals’ Christmas Formal. It was a dream come true to shoot the show and you can check out the full gallery below. Nothing is gonna ruin my Christmas and I’ll see you next year!