OC punk just lost more than another music legend, it’s lost one of the coolest, greatest people to walk the Earth. Last night Steve Soto, founding member of The Adolescents, Agent Orange, Manic Hispanic, Joyride and many other bands passed away in his sleep. He was 54. The cause of death was not immediately known at press time, but news of Soto’s passing was confirmed by the family, close friends and bandmates of the Fullerton native who had recently just completed a tour with The Adolescents in Boston last Sunday and was in the process of finalizing and releasing the band’s latest album, Cropduster. Sources tell the Weekly that Soto went over to his parent’s house in Placentia yesterday, laid down to take a nap and somehow died in his sleep.
Longtime friend and collaborator Greg Antista, who recently started the Big Easy Sunday acoustic residency with Soto and Jessica Kaczmarek at Bourbon Street in Fullerton confirmed the news delivered from Soto’s family via Facebook around 11 p.m. last night:
“I’m sorry to break such bad news in such an impersonal way but the family of Steve Soto would like everyone to know that he passed peacefully in his sleep today,” Antista wrote. “I’m sure this is a terrible blow to all of you. He will be missed. We will be posting details on a memorial as plans are finalized.”
It’s widely known that Soto battled weight and health issues for most of his life, though he’d taken steps to get healthier and live a sober lifestyle in recent years. At press time, there’s no news as to what specific issues may have contributed his death. Back in March, Soto performed with The Adolescents at Travis Barker’s tattoo and music festival Musink in Costa Mesa. Last year, OC received another huge loss with the passing of Soto’s longtime friend and Manic Hispanic bandmate Gabby Gaborno.
Soto’s reputation for living and breathing punk rock always preceded him. Usually because you can’t talk about the genre’s history in Southern California without mentioning his name and several of his bands who are instant Mosh Pit Hall of Famers. In addition to the classic bands listed above, Soto spent decades performing bass, guitar and vocal duties for all star groups like 22 Jacks, Black Diamond Riders, Flock of Goo Goo, Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts and Punk Rock Karaoke, many of which we’ve written about and enjoyed over the years.
And, lest we forget, there was his time spent in the ’90s booking bands at the world-famous Linda’s Doll Hut in Anaheim, back when the place was a hub for literally every band he could book, whether it was the Offspring and Bad Religion or a no-name band from out of town.
Several years ago, Soto took the Weekly on a filmed ride along through his native Fullerton pointing out all of the original punk rock venues and hangouts that time forgot, including the infamous “Black Hole,” the apartment/crash pad where Mike Ness and many other legendary punks lived, partied and wreaked havoc. Not only was it a privilege to see it all through the eyes of a man who lived it, the tour was also a reminder of Soto’s importance to the scene as the glue that held so much history of the punk scene together as both a local legend and international ambassador who took the sound of OC punk all over the world.
“It’s amazing standing in a festival in Croatia and thinking, ‘God, we started out playing punk rock in a garage. And we’re still playing it,’” he said in a profile in our 2013 People Issue.
Though there’s no words to fully describe how sorely he’ll be missed, we’ll do our best to bring them to you as the story of his passing develops.
Rest In Punk forever.
Nate Jackson is the gatekeeper to your dreams of local dive bar stardom. If he writes about you, expect your band to be offered at least one more drink ticket than the rest of the bands on the bill. Get his attention with some groovy tunes and he might just do it. Then, boy will you feel special.