Last Night: Fear, Agent Orange and Dr. Know at the Grove of Anaheim, Oct. 19, 2008.
There's much to be said for old school punk rockers that manage to make it to middle age a) alive and b) with a bloodstream full of fury running through their veins .
In the case of Fear frontman Lee Ving, his veins probably hold more beer than fury, but both garner the same effect on stage. Ving's trademark voice, a gravelly cross between Cookie Monster and a rusty garbage disposal, got a proper workout during a set of classic tunes.
While drifting in a sea of punk purists, brimming beer cups and cigarette smoke, the legend of one of L.A.'s most reckless and lovable punk bands lived on in the buzzing conversations of their fans.
Joining Fear in the old-school anarchy session were Orange County's own Agent Orange as well as the "Nardcore" pioneers of Dr. Know. Given these three acts, most fans spent little time lagging in the parking lot tailgating during the opening acts. In fact, a 30-minute bout of full-throated testosterone by Dr. Know front man, Brandon Cruz, pumped up enough fist-wielding rebels to start a healthy mosh pit just minutes into the show. Lucky for those in the mood to keep all their teeth, the standing room just above the pit was the perfect spot to watch all the action.
The Oxnard-based four-piece, credited with putting the city of Oxnard on the map (hence the name "Nardcore") kept things metal courtesy of relentless blast beats and shredding guitar work courtesy of brothers Rick and Steve Contreras, respectively.
By the time the sonic blitz was over and the audience cheered the band of stage, Agent Orange was already creeping from the stage wings to set up their gear. And unlike the average prima donna pop punker with a record contract, this means they actually set up their gear and sound checked themselves. What a concept!
As the Placentia-based rockers launched into songs like "Tearing Me Apart" and "Too Young To Die", It's worth noting that for guys old enough be the dads of their younger fans, Agent Orange managed to really go for the gusto on every song. Somewhere in between the sneering vocals of guitarist Mike Palm, Dusty Watson's pummeling drum fills and chugging bass of Perry Giordano, this band proceeded to squeeze the grandiose skills of a prog rock supergroup into a powder keg performance of one two-minute track after another. As the band rocked out on stage you could see generations of fans young and thrashing their heads to the beat like woodpeckers on crack.
By that time, the energy in the mosh pit was palpable enough for Ving and company to hold on to as Fear opened their set with their banner 1978 classic "I Love Livin' In The City." From then on, a flurry of guitar distortion and snare drum slaps was the soundtrack to a whirlwind of sweaty bodies on the floor of the venue. It was pretty crazy to see the testosterone level kicked into over drive as wild eyed moshers went on attack mode. And somehow, I'm not sure Ving's songs about getting drunk, and having a beer with Fear did much to calm things down, but then again what's the point of a punk show if shit doesn't get a little crazy, right?
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Personal Bias: As much as I love to watch punk shows in the element for which they were intended (i.e. cramped sweaty dive bars with cheap beer ungodly bathrooms) I kind liked the fact that I could jump in the mosh pit, mix it up and then jump out and hang out in the back for a little while with the guys in the mid-life crisis section.
Random Detail:: I saw at least three shoes fly on stage during the show.
By the Way: Those of you in the pit who forgot to wipe the blood off your shirts after the show - congratulations, your clothes are officially stained. Nice work.