Reliving Classic OC Punk Folklore With The Vandals
Getting funky with flamingos
If you delve into the history of Orange County, you'll notice that a sizable chunk of our musical antiquity (particularly during the '80s and '90s) is made up of punk rock legends romping through the cookie-cutter streets of the Orange Curtain. They were notorious for terrorizing the conservatives, taunting those who wore letterman jackets and rocking the stages of local venues with antics that rival the behavior of Ozzy Osbourne. As the stories of rebellion and downright mayhem have been passed along through the decades, they've evolved into mythical tales that make Orange County seem as if it was once one of the wildest places to be. And, The Vandals, the subjects of this week's cover story, are one of the groups responsible for creating the punk rock folk lore that lies within our coastal bubble. Even through all the barbaric early days, friends and band members are fond of the wild times that shaped The Vandals and the Orange County punk scene. Here are some of the memories recounted by the punkers who were there.
The Tale of Pat Brown: The guy who ran over the undercover cop
“I forget who was playing at the time (It wasn’t a Vandals show), but a group of undercover cops really confused him while he was sitting in his car in the Cuckoo’s Nest parking lot. They were trying to grab at him to get him out of the car, and they were dressed like total buffoons, so he just took off. The cops ( in their trench coats) attempted to stop Pat—and his moving car—with their bodies, and that didn’t work out well for them, as I’m sure one can imagine. He went tearing up Placentia Ave. to get away but was pulled over a mile down the road for driving with no headlights on.“ – Joe Escalante, The Vandals
“Of course everyone and their mom will tell you they were there the night Pat Brown ran the cop down in his car. I was there, but I don’t remember it happening. I was at the Cuckoos Nest and I just remember Stevo running up to me like a mad man and screaming in my ear, ‘Oh my god Pat Brown just went to jail!’ I was so drunk at the time, but that didn’t stop my eyes from almost popping out of my head. I couldn’t believe it.”—Mike Martt, Tex & The Horeseheads
The Friendly Gun Fight on 7th and Cherry
“You know, Stevo and I were really into guns, drugs and playing music. There was a night we were at Smitty’s house and we all took LSD. This house was a party house—it was on 7th and Cherry in Long Beach. Actually Tex & The Horseheads filmed a video there. Smitty from Hard As Nails Cheap As Dirt, who’s now Pearl Jams manager, lived there at the time while he was making a living as a trash man. Stevo and I always hung out there, and we had this incredibly weird night where we were all frying on mushrooms, or wait—it was LSD? I actually don’t remember but we were hallucinating on something—and tripping hard. Stevo and I got into a gun fight and, like, we weren’t trying to kill each other by any means, but we were, like, seriously pointing our guns at each other and hiding behind a couch, shooting at each other and missing on purpose. [Laughs]
I had this smaller caliber 38 pistol and Stevo has this 45 caliber giant thing. The day after this gun fight, which ended in a stalemate with both of us actually pointing the guns to each other’s heads and saying ‘you drop it. No, you drop it’, and everyone else in the house had completely bailed. We knew we were scaring everyone, but we were just, like, out of our minds and didn’t care.
So the next day we woke up, saw all the damage and thought ‘wow what did we do?’ Stevo had actually blown a hole right through the brick fireplace—there was a hole straight through the back of it. There was another hole that went through the front door where I laid in fear for two days worrying and panicking that I shot the older man next door. I waited by the window for two days straight thinking, ‘Please come out old man. Please come out and sweep your porch like you normally do.’ I thought for sure one of my bullets flew through the wall and hit the neighbor. But the neighbor was ok. He finally came out. Now I can look bck and laugh but it was like nuts. That was kind of a crazy time.” – Mike Martt
The Choke Out
“There was a show at the Pomona Valley auditorium around ’83 or ’84, and everyone in the crowed kept jumping on stage with The Vandals, and their old singer, Stevo, grabbed a kid by his neck as soon as he jumped on stage. The kid was so excited because he thought Stevo was putting his arm around his neck as if they were buddies, but in reality that was not what was happening. Stevo was not putting his arm around this kid’s neck. I will never forget it, he ran the kid around in circles until the kid passed out. It was one of those moments where you're like, ‘Wait a second, he is choking that kid death right now on stage. Holy shit…’ And the kid just crumbled into a ball and was unconscious. He had to be carried out!” – Kevin Lyman, founder of the Vans Warped Tour
Dave Quackenbush: The Lady’s Man.
"The Vandals' shows in the early days weren’t super fun—they were pretty gnarly [Laughs]. When Dave joined the band, though, it brought a whole sense of sarcastic humor to their shows, which made it awesome. The band evolved. Switching from Stevo to Dave was a great transition because it offered growth. I just remember as soon Dave joined the band, girls started going to Vandals shows. Before Dave joined the band it was all dudes who went to the shows. Once the girls started showing up, everyone wanted to go.” [Laughs]—Kevin Lyman
When in Belgium, Take Ambien.
"I don't drink very often, but when I do it's at the Roxy. I don't take pills very often, but when I do it's in Belgium. We were playing in Europe and our schedule was flipped— I was going to bed at four in the morning and waking up at four in the afternoon. We had to do a radio show at eight in the morning, the day after a show, and I had no idea how I was going to do it. So Carlos [the band's tour manager] was like, 'take an ambien after your done playing and you'll sleep through the night— actually, you should probably take two ambien.' And at this point, I had never even heard of ambien. I was just like 'Oh, cool– a sleeping pill.' Little did I know that two ambien is a lot. So the show ended and we were walking off stage, and Carlos was standing there. But instead of a towel and water, he was standing there with two ambien and a water. So I took the pills, and I was sitting back stage and someone— I don't even remember who— told me that we ordered food, which I thought sounded great. The last thing I remember was the food showing up. I had to be wheeled out in a wheel chair because I literally couldn't walk. I woke up the next day for the radio show as chipper as ever though. After being like completely dead, I was like, 'Hey guys! How's it going?'— Dave Quackenbush, The Vandals
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.