Adolescents and friends at the Observatory, Steve Soto and friends at the Slidebar

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Can there really be too much of a good thing? That’s what I pondered while driving down to the Adolescents show behind the Orange Curtain on Saturday night. Love the Adolescents, Weirdos, and Channel Three. Have been wanting to see The Stitches and The Widows. So how could I not go or not see them all?

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I didn’t know much about The Widows except that they are opening for the Adolescents at The Casbah after Christmas. Invited by the headliners to drive up from San Diego to join them in O.C., too? Good enough for me. Dug their garage punk melodies with a surf vibe mixed in, Beach Boulevard style, and they get bonus points because one of the members had his family including a bunch of kids right in front.

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I’m still not totally used to seeing Channel Three play bigger stages like this. More channeling of The Clash, less fucking around. They have a seriously great set list with “I Wanna Know Why,” “I Got a Gun,” and “Indian Summer,” mixing fun and riffs like no other band–and tighter from a lot of touring this year. They not only brought along Maria Montoya for “You Make Me Feel Cheap” but Santa Claus for “Blue Christmas.” Some of my favorite dudes ever and one of my favorite bands ever, too. And that was before they played a benefit for my daughter’s school last year…

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Can’t believe it took me this long to see The Stitches. The Spirit of ’77 punk band from Orange Country really brings it live, just like they do on 7″ singles, comps, EPs, and albums. Mike Lohrman and Johnny Witmer have a cool wild frontman/stoic axe player dialog that’s up there with Mick and Keef, Johansen and Thunders, and Iggy and anyone…

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It says a lot that the first-generation L.A. punks are still weird in comparison to any other band on the planet. The Weirdos’ extra bass-heavy set started off like Wilson Pickett but derailed into darkness right away. “Destroy All Music,” “Life of Crime,” “We Got The Neutron Bomb,” and all the hits never get old because their cool mix of art, noise, and fun will always be always be ahead of everyone else.

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Before the headliners went on, the punk’s greatest hits played over the house sound system shifted into songs about the law: Black Flag, NWA, The Clash, Junior Murvin, KRS-One. The playlist put the music of the Adolescents in a completely current political context instead of a hardcore oldies one. Perfect since the band’s most recent album was largely a reaction to the unpunished killing of homeless man Kelly Thomas by the Fullerton police. Singer Tony Adolescent dedicated “Kids of the Black Hole” to Utah cosplayer Darrien Hunt who was shot by cops for carrying a toy sword as a Samurai Champloo character. Awesome.

I found out a couple of days later that the band’s message of solidarity amongst underdogs was totally lost on a meathead between the barricade and stage who socked a fellow photographer that was shooting as a favor for the band. WTF? Now there are predatory jocks in the photo pit as well as the slam pit? What a sad statement about any sort of scene or humans in general.ssbw1-o

So it was a welcome change of atmosphere to catch an evening of acoustic and roots music by punks at the Slidebar arranged by Adolescents co-founder Steve Soto. First up was Otisserie, a.k.a. O., a.k.a. the beloved sound guy, principal member of Olive Lawn and fluf, legendary skateboard and music designer photographer, and namesake of an off-the-menu juice and soda drink at the World Famous Casbah. The San Diego institution played songs from his old bands as well as ultra sad, ultra heavy acoustic numbers that will be released one of these days.

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Johnny and Jay from Old Man Markley, played a fired-up set of bluegrass originals and covers that included loving takes on Descendents, Ronnie Spector, and even Sublime. These guys have chops that go on forever and their possibly drunken banter is next-level, too.

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Steve Soto and Allison June make a sick combination with his heartbreaking songs about the devil (an ex) and personal ones about his mom (who was present) and her killer pipes. Mitch Townsend provided otherworldly atmosphere with his slide guitar and gang of effects pedals. Lovely and bold, and a nice counterpoint to seeing Steve with the Adolescents just nights before. So different to be hanging on every word instead of singing along…

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I’ve seen Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss with their bands (Sean is from Throw Rag, Zander is associated with Joe Strummer, Circle Jerks, Thelonious Monster, and, yes, The Weirdos) but never as a duo. They complement shamelessly raw emotion with ungodly talent and sound sort of like gospel arrived at through hard living and AA meetings. It’s at once heartfelt and sad and beautiful: a slow-motion train wreck gorgeously framed from a perfect angle.

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Afterward, I thanked Steve for arranging such a great evening of music and told him how much I look forward to seeing him play our next Save Music in Chinatown benefit. He’s as generous as he is talented as he is ripping, the show happens exactly one month from today, and I hope to see you there as well….

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