What better night to throw a hardcore punk/metal show than on Super Bowl Sunday, a night when many people are already drunk by 6 p.m. The Constellation Room inside the Observatory was crowded to full capacity last night for a raging concert featuring the Cro Mags. The concert was presented by the Poor Kids Radio show, a heavy-metal -punk rock oriented cyber cast, live Saturday night from 10 p.m. PST to 12 midnight, on (www.breal.tv), the web radio station owned by B-Real of rap superstars Cypress Hill.
Perhaps, with this many heads in the crowd, it might have been better to hold this show in the main, bigger room. But don't tell that to the hundred or so rabid hardcore tough guys, punkers, longhairs, thrashers and even skinheads in the pit. To them, and the bands that played, this was a perfect venue, and for a majority of the night the security guards and bouncers had their work cut out for them.
G.F.P (an acronym for General Fucking Principle) was the first of three main bands, and people immediately were paying attention to this super group, featuring legendary punk guitarist Greg Hetson from the Circle Jerks and Bad Religion, bass player/pro skaterboarderTony 'Mad Dog' Alva, singer Crazy Tom (also in hardcore punk band Dead Fucking Last), and drummer Amery 'Awol' Smith of Suicidal Tendencies.
The floor was into the show, but not too involved in moshing for half of G.F.P.'s set. With a rocket-propelled sound full of skate punk energy and nostalgia, formed in 2012, allows Hetson's guitar to stand out on it's own, as he created a groovy hybrid of hardcore punk rock and heavy metal. Look for new music to be released from this band later this year. Songs are short-but-sweet, and singer Crazy Tom attempted to incite several circle pits, skanking onstage and jumping from amps in an attempt to create some chaos, motion. By the end of 45 minutes, and a solid set of hardcore/metal infused skate punk, G.F.P. exited the stage and dub reggae song began playing over the club's speakers.
Up next were LA hardcore heroes Strife, a band that was formed in the early 1990s, initially as a straight edge hardcore punk band, to evolve into a non straight edge hardcore punk/metal band that might be seen as a predecessor to the subgenres of metal core/death core and were using the groovy, heavy breakdowns in their songs, before they became trendy.
Through various break ups, and reformations over the years, Strife is back in full force, and reeked of intensity from the moment they hit the stage. The tension hit an all-time high during the third song, when a fist fight broke out in the pit, between a racist skinhead (with visible Nazi tattoos) and several Mexican/African American punkers in the pit. One mean, prison looking dude was 86ed by security, as the brawl was quickly squashed.
"Fuck all that shit, we're here to have fun, and we are a band about Unity!" yelled singer Rick Rodney. "If you want to fight, get the Fuck out!" he screamed to cheers. The music went on, and songs about strength, bravery, conviction and struggles filled the room, as slam dancers and hardcore dancers morphed into a slam pit full of kicking, punching, jumping thrashing and people running around in circular motion full speed beating the shit out of each other. All in hardcore spirit, and fun.
Strife's nearly hour-long set included constant stage divers, skankers in the pit, a floor full of as many Mexican and non-white punkers and tough guys as skinheads and longhairs. The chaos finally came to an end after nearly an hour of kids slamming away to Strife, cheering of Cro Mags, who were up next.
After a half hour wait, the legendary Cro Mags walked on stage and pummeled threw their pioneering songs, which was some of the most intense crossover/punk/hardcore songs witnessed at this venue for quite some time. Mohawks and bald heads, some in wife beaters other shirtless covered in tattoos and beards dominated the slam dance floor. Strife was like a nap compared to the raging insanity of the Cro Mags. Fists, beer, sweat and bodies went flying, and stage diving for many of the youngsters up front was mandatory.
Lead singer and original member John Joseph took time between each few rabid songs to spout his mind and remind fans in attendance of the importance of PMA (an acronym from the Bad Brains, standing for Positive Mental Attitude). Along with an anti-government rant or two.
"I'm 50 years old, and I'm still in shape I keep healthy, and I want to tell all of you, that we need to know that the government is poisoning our food and water supplies," he yelled to the crowd. "You see the chem trails and pay attention to what's happening in the world, and you'll see shit's going crazy!"
With classic hits a as "Don't Tread on Me," "Sign of the Times," and "Street Justice," all from the band's epic debut 1986 album The Age of Quarrel, the Constellation room erupted into a near riot, and crowd surfing, stage diving and all out chaos was at an all time high, with even photographers up front ducking for cover from out of control moshers.
By the end, it appeared the Poor Kids Radio show's first concert in OC was a success. Fans went ape shit for Strife and Cro Mags, but G.F.P. put on a great show as well. This was a show that showed the real relationship and unity between punk, hardcore and metal. Despite the Skins and knuckleheads in the pit, the night was full of that high energy and sprit of a successful punk show. In what began as an evening of drunken left over Super bowl partiers, concluded with a unique juxtaposition of politically active punk bands and insane slam dancing, akin to the old days.
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Critical Bias/Interesting Fact: In the summer 2012, in New York, during the CBGB music Festival, former Cro Mags bass player Harley Flanagan was involved in a scuffle backstage at the band's show and was injured in a fight/stabbing, where two guards subdued him, but reports about the incident vary and are in dispute. Flanagan was a founding member of the Cro Mags but has not been in the band in over 10 years.
The Crowd: A diverse blend; all people into punk and metal. Some long hairs, many with short hair. Lots of beards, and tattoos covering the arms neck and even face and head. Unfortunately some skin heads were present, and there were also some mohawks and punkers in flannels and beanies. A good portion of attractive women and punk rock girls were also prevalent. Some old school drunk punks and even parents with their kids, old troopers in the pit rounded out the fans.
Overheard: During Cro Mags, as things got hectic, an older man in a Social Distortion shirt spilled his beer when a young crowd surfer hit into him. "HAHA DAMN! This shit reminds me of old TSOL shows, but except back then people got stabbed!"