When punk rock legends like Lagwagon come to your town, you go to the show even if it’s a Sunday night. You could tough it out and suffer a little on Monday even if you were a bit hungover and sore. But, add to the mix veteran LA act Runaway Kids and the rapidly rising neophytes from Naw’lins, PEARS, and what you got yourself there is a recipe for disaster and a pass to play hooky on Monday! Luckily, we’re always looking for any excuse we can to get LA staffer, Anarchopunk out of the office so he was the natural choice to send down to the Troubadour in West Hollywood for an incredible show! Check out the full show review and photo gallery below!
I’ve been listening to punk music for somewhere in the realm of 25 years now and I have somehow managed to never see Lagwagon live. They’ve always been near the top of my list too, just never had the means or opportunity I guess. It was two or three days after getting introduced to them back in high school, when Trashed came out, that I ordered Duh because I just had to hear more. Since then, I’ve gone on to collect all of their albums, although it’s all digital now. I think what drew me to them most was that back then, other bands like Green Day and Blink 182 were signing with major labels and getting paid. Joey and the boys held strong and helped lay the foundations for punk empire, Fat Wreck Chords. They showed a dedication to the scene that was pretty rare at that moment in time. Prior to moving, I lived in a lonely little corner on the East Coast. We didn’t get too many shows there, much less punk rock shows. So, when I moved to LA I vowed to make up for the lost years and go to as many shows as possible. When I heard that Lagwagon was coming to town and were playing their seminal album, Hoss in it’s entirety, I was stoked to say the least. My night got even better when I heard that PEARS were accompanying them. With their meteoric raise, I was curious to see what all the hype was about. So, I called up my trusty photog Lord Graves and hit the road to WeHo!
Maybe it was because it was a Sunday night, but there weren’t as many people at the venue to see PEARS as I thought there would be. They say the scene is dead in LA. I wouldn’t wholly agree but that kind of a turn out for an extremely talented, rising young band doesn’t help dispel the rumor. The Troubadour normally has a pretty cramped floor but there was plenty of room to move about this early. After getting a beer, I used the lack of attendance and comfortably set up shop directly off of stage right about halfway through the first song with ease. The first thing you recognize without a doubt when watching these boys from the Big Easy is lead singer Zach Quinn. He hearkens back to the older, more extreme days of 80’s DC or NYC Underground Hardcore. He flails and contorts all around the stage with feral energy that you can feel. He puts 100% of himself into his performance and it shows. Between songs, he would have to sit in the middle of the stage and catch his breath. He was panting and sweating profusely, his gut pumping in and out violently with every labored breath while guitarist Brian Pretus kept the crowd engaged during the lead man’s respite. After a few seconds though, the music would start, Zach would lift himself back up and continue with his onslaught of the microphone. Jarrett Nathan on drums showed that the frenetic frontman wasn’t the only one with stamina. I’ve read somewhere that an active drummer can lose up to fifteen pounds per performance. Jarrett must have lost twenty during this set. His drum fills are so smooth and purposeful, despite the pace in which he plays and in spite of all of the chaos around him. It was violent and brutal but somehow just as placid. I can see where the hype is warranted and this was definitely the set of the night for me. Punk. As. Fuck.
Next up, veteran LA based act Runaway Kids (formally Betrayal). I wasn’t very familiar with these guys even though they are well established. For those who are also unfamiliar, this quartet formed in 2008 and probably fits into the skate punk category, they remind me a of a grittier version of Rage Against the Machine. While setting up, drummer RJ Shankle played to the crowd and ultimate talked his way into getting half of a grilled cheese sandwich from a hungry audience member who had taken advantage of the Troubadour’s bountiful stoner food menu. I was waiting for one of the peckish percussionist’s drumsticks to come flying out of his butter soaked finger tips during the opening song “No Direction” which was probably the fastest song of the set. He wasn’t the only one in this act with a penchant for crowd interaction. Vocalist Gage Armstrong took his place right on the very tip of the peninsula that jutted out from the rest of the stage (once getting the grilled cheese kid to relocate his dinner) and on more than one occasion would identify a fan in the crowd who knew the lyrics and would point the mic right at their mouth and let them take over for a few lines. When not letting the crowd take over, the vocals were energetic, snide and stunted, almost like a mix between orthodox punk and rap. The bass lines provided by Korey Keeton (hoping his middle name isn’t Kenneth or something) were deep and throbbing which is probably why I made the RATM connection. Not typical punk bass lines but it added a layer of complexity that only served to differentiate them from the standard. cookie cutter punk sound. The set was quick both in pace and in duration, consisting of only seven songs, mostly from their newest EP Better Days. It seemed like they drew a pretty good crowd, because the venue had started filling in and a little mini-pit even started! After the performance, I can see why they have a great following. Top notch act.
Lagwagon took the stage shortly after Runaway Kids vacated and almost instantly, the tiny theatre was packed (fucking LA….). As they took their positions on stage, I noticed an unopened bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey behind one of the flight cases. This should be interesting. The pit started erupting with activity just as suddenly and energetically as the opening notes of “Kids Don’t Like to Share”. I took a look around just to take stock of my surroundings and it hit me at that moment how universally loved these elder statesmen are when seeing the diversity of the concert goers. From older, worn out punks to well dressed young ladies who looked like they had no place there and every imaginable type of person in between. A band like this doesn’t come along very often and it showed in the wide assortment of people who came to see them. Early in the set I found out what the Jameson was for as Joey called out for birthday shots in celebration of his 49th! I really hope that when I’m forty-nine years old I have the energy he has. He was still jumping around the stage and humping fellow bandmates like he was twenty-five. At one point an eager stage diver snuck between me and Guitarist Chris Flippin. The security staff came jogging out to stop him. Stage diving is strictly verboten the Troubadour and this is explicitly told to you as you pass through the door, which begs the question, “Why host shows like this?” but what do I know? Before the fuzz could get to our law breaking leaper, Chris waived them off and he was allowed to hit a pretty good jump right into the arms of the awaiting throng.
By this time in the evening, Hoss was finishing up as was the Jameson but the show (and the drinking) was far from over. In addition to the beloved album, they played about six more fan favorites including “Alien 8”, “Reign” before finally closing out with “Falling Apart”. After a few “good-byes” and “thank yous” they ascended the stairs, stage right, up to the Green Room. The audience however, didn’t budge. Instead, they bellowed, unanimously and incessantly for more and Joey obliged. After a few minutes of the urging, he emerged from the darkened staircase alone, with his acoustic guitar. The mob was at full throat but almost instantaneously hushed as the seasoned songwriter spoke of his good friend, the late Tony Sly. Then, the silence was broken with the opening strums of the acoustic as he played an impassioned cover of No Use For A Name’s “International You Day”. As the encore song wrapped up, the rest of the band crept, stealthily back onto the stage and surprised the birthday boy and the patrons by playing a few more bonus songs, during which the audience fed shots, in gratitude, to the generous geriatrics bucket brigade style as they played on. The one thing I learned from seeing this tenured troupe live for the first time is that they have a lot more staying power than I thought. Not that I was underselling them or anything but they haven’t missed a beat in lo’ these many decades. If anything, they’ve gotten stronger. It may sound cliché, sure. But, I just saw a dude twelve years my elder, down at least half a bottle of whiskey and a countless many random ass shots sent up by the audience, running around stage for an hour and twenty minutes performing at lighting speed, hardly breaking a sweat and never missing a beat. I would’ve been bed ridden for a week after that much action. If that doesn’t prove their resilience and a show of defiance right in the face of Father Time, I don’t know what does.