There wasn't as many crowd surfing or stage divers as one would expect with a truly underground hardcore punk line up of this magnitude at the Observatory on Saturday, when Santa Ana was home to a night of pure old school, and at times politically charged fury induced circle pits. Poor Kids Radio presented the show, featuring Dr. Know, Final Conflict, and two original members of Crucifix under the moniker '1984.' By midnight when '1984' performed, the venue was packed, and the live music was all killer no filler, as the band performed the legendary album Dehumanization from its entirety. Known among the underground extreme punk and even metal circle since the band's heyday in the early '80s, Crucifix was a Berkley, CA based hardcore anti-war punk band that merged hints of primitive thrash and hardcore, to spawn a generation of crust, d-beat, power violence and other extreme punk and metal scenes.
Crucifix formed in 1980, and featured numerous lines up changes throughout its career, but still consists of founding members, singer Sothira Pheng, and guitarist Jimmy Crucifix. '1984' also featured Nate on drums, Chris on guitars and Henry on bass.
Although it's been three decades, the youngsters and older fans still felt the songs of Crucifix as they were meant to be felt–live, dirty and in your face. The spirit of the band's anarchy punk infused musical philosophy and rage against the status quo felt was alive and well as the band was on fire. Sothira still leaped around stage and took control of the mic and did his best to stay in front of the crowd and in their faces. Thirty years may have passed, but the power and messages against greed, war and exploitation that this album represents still remains nostalgic yet powerful musical force to be reckoned with. Many of the younger fans in the audience were quite eager and aware to experience what their elder punk friends, parents and siblings had experienced decades earlier.
Another underground and revered punk band that helped to bridge create crust punk, d-beat and bridge the gap between the punk and metal undergrounds was Final Conflict, a band that formed in the early '80s out of Long Beach, and the OC. Final Conflict is currently made up of singer Ron Martinez, guitarist Jeff Harp, bassist Warren Renfrow and drummer Nick Manning. Everyone except Manning was the line up that recorded the seminal Ashes to Ashes album from 1988, which the band performed for the Observatory, from first song to last. Things got a bit fuzzy in the pit as more and more bodies shoved their way into the raging circle and slammed hard to the very abrasive, sped up and distorted songs. "I remember a lot of you from the Fender's Ballroom days, and its good to see a lot of faces!" said Ron Martinez to the moshers.
Dark, anti-authoritarian and violent Final Conflict's message was and still is against the government corruption, greed and wars. This is one of the few bands who can play both Punk Rock Bowling, then immediately hit the stage the Maryland Death fest, which Final Conflict did this year. "Fuck all the Tea Party, Republicans, Democrats, they are all the same!" yelled Martinez in a short spastic rant before tearing up the stage flailing all over as Harp, Renfrow and Manning held it down to crank out one of the most intense sets of the night.
Martinez even had to take a quick break to catch his break twice. Despite the decades it has been since Final Conflict formed, the songs are still full of passion rage and urgency. When the band first started and the slamming was barely commencing, Martinez tried to get the crowd to exert more energy and move, "You guys don't start moving an moving things up, I'm going to play the next five songs laying down then wer'e done;" he said trying to incite a circle pit. Final Conflict's set was around half an hour, which was short but intense.
Dr. Know, the one time hardcore turned crossover thrash punk band from Oxnard took the stage prior to Final Conflict, and things got off to a speedy start. Led by longtime singer, songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Kyle Toucher, Dr. Know also features guitarist Tim Harkins,Bill Bensen on bass Steve Morrison on drums. The band's fierce blend of old school punk and crossover thrash was just the perfect act to warm up the crowd for the next two bands. Similar to the next two bands, Dr. Know's lyrics are apocalyptic full of rage and confrontational. No stranger to the world of circle pits, stage divers, long hair and thrashing guitars, Dr. Know's energy was at an all time high as fans slammed to the entire set, forming mild circle pits throughout the floor to the mix of metal and punk.
Opening bands Resist and Exist and Dissension, both local to the LA/OC /Long Beach areas, also shared similar spirit of angst, disenfranchised and politically influenced music that seeks to shed light on corporate malfeasance, greed, wars and injustice. Dissension's crossover thrash punk evoked the greats like DRI and Attitude Adjustment, but the band has been thrashing away since the mid '80s in the underground. Resist and Exist was an anarchy-fueled punk band, with heavy emphasis on anti-war rhetoric.
The Crowd: This was a good show for fans of punk, d-beat, and crossover thrash meet. Lots of Mohawks, spikes, leather patches, dreadlocks, tattoos, studded belts, old school chucks, beards, piercings pretty ladies, longhaired thrashers and crusty punks along with the veteran slam dancers on the floor.
Random Notebook Dump: Dehumanization (1983) is a highly influential landmark album, among the hardcore, anarcho punk tinged metal scene. Bands ranging from Anthrax and Sepultura to Slipknot and Stone Sour, among many others have all cited the seminal album as a direct influence. A Perfect Circle even offered a variation of one of the songs, by covering "Annihilation," and the electronic act Orbital also used samples form the album.
Overheard At the Show: Ron Martinez, singer of Final Conflict interjected into the crowd, to ask 'who in the crowd is under 28 years-old?" Many in the venue roared as a response. "Well most of these songs were written before you were a bad idea in your dad's balls!"