Seated in the heart of the Antelope Valley about 50 miles north of Los Angeles, is the sleepy, high desert town of Lancaster, California. It’s not known for much these days although there used to be a nice little scene up there years ago. That’s why I was surprised when I heard that Denver skacore act, The Rotten Blue Menace had booked a show up there at The Britisher as part of their Summer Tour. With the draw of the big city only an hour away, it’s good to see smaller, satellite areas getting some attention. Perhaps it’s a sign of a rejuvenation of the SoCal scene or maybe it is just an attempt. Regardless of the reasoning, there was no way I was missing this show which also featured some damn fine local talent in the form of skate punk threesome Slurred Speech (who have recently returned from over a decade long hiatus) and fledgling garage punk trio, Beer Run. So I laced up my shit kickers and headed north on the 14 to smash some skulls. Check out the full review and photo gallery below.
There are a ton of benefits that come with this gig. In addition to getting to meet artists that I highly respect and admire, I meet a lot of other cool people in various different roles within the industry. I also get into shows for free and I get advance copies of albums before they release. Don’t be jealous though, because one of the largest drawbacks is that I hardly ever get to enjoy live shows anymore. Prime example, I completely missed the opening act, Beer Run because I was outside doing an interview with the boys from RBM. By the time I got inside and got set up for pictures, this local garage punk trio was just wrapping up their set. While they’re a bit rough around the edges, they showed a higher level of proficiency than other young bands. This was most noticeable in the the prowess displayed by front man Victor Leyva on guitar, the riffs were expertly composed, sounding like they were pulled straight from a classic rock album and remastered with a lo-fi sound. The ‘anti-tribute’ to their home region “A.V.” was probably the best illustration of that skill set. Hopefully, I get to catch a full set from these guys soon.
Next up, the Mile High miscreants, The Rotten Blue Menace or as it was inexplicably listed on the set times “Big Blue Mean Menace”. While the guys were setting up, my eyes scanned the paltry performance area as I wondered how this was going to work. If it’s one thing this act is known for, it’s the vigor they display during their live shows. I was hoping that the limited size of the space wasn’t going to yield a sub-par, toned down production. Two notes into their opening salvo, I realized that my concerns were unfounded as lead vocalist, Earl Skow came bounding across the room at full speed, almost taking out the row of people watching from the bar. Throughout the thirty minute set, the frenetic Mr. Skow maintained this implacable energy, roaming around the bar, hiding under drum bags, spinning around on bar stools and stealing people’s shoes as the band roared through songs from their two most recent albums Great Split and Going Deaf. If there was a lull in the action, bassist Chance Arnold took it upon himself to remind the focal front man to stay ‘in character’ by roughing him up while they played. One of those times, Earl was laying on the floor writhing around while he belted out his unique, gritty vocals, Chance walked right over and stepped on his chest with all of his weight. Another time, the brilliant bassist just straight up kicked his lively lead man in the ribs a few times. At the end of the alacritous set, Drummer Gordy Demeter joined in on the chaos, leaping over his drum kit, being sure to cause the most destruction possible, overturning the bass drum and most of the cymbals. I tried to get a gander at the set list after the carnage, but in it’s place was a police composite sketch of a wanted serial killer (odd). I stand by all previous statements that these guys are one of the few young punk acts that are doing things right.
Slurred Speech, another act from The Antelope Valley, didn’t take long to set up after the wreckage from the spectacle that was RBM was cleared. They are a simple three piece skate punk act, but their fusion of skate and melodic hardcore is anything but mundane. Throughout their no frills performance, front man Miguel Flores kept the energy up, engaging the crowd as they played through original songs. The high point of the set for me was their incredible ‘fuck you’ ode, “Better Than You”. It’s poppier than most of the other songs but the vocals and guitars are exceptional. All of their songs are well written, with mature, evocative lyrics, steering clear of pap. The vocals a suitably snotty with tight, albeit imperfect backing melodies, all laid over top of straightforward, repetitive hardcore riffs. It wasn’t until about halfway through the set that I realized why the act’s dynamic drummer, Duke looked so familiar when I suddenly remembered that he used to play for one of my favorite, now defunct LA based punk act French Exit. I’m assuming that these boys have been practicing pretty hard since returning from their lengthy hiatus because the talent level here was high. As I wasn’t familiar with them prior to the show, I couldn’t identify all of the songs they played, but I did grab a copy of their three song Demo (available on Bandcamp too) that they were handing out for free. After listening to it about five times on my drive home that night, I was even more enamored by them and can’t wait to hear more.