Last fall, Lagwagon announced they would be headlining a tour to celebrate their landmark albums, “Blaze” and “Double Plaidinum,” by playing each album in two nights across both the U.S. and Canada. However, just a day before they were to play two nights at the Observatory in Santa Ana last November, the band announced that due to a positive COVID test from someone on the tour’s lineup, the entire shows for the following week would need to be rescheduled. Fans rejoiced earlier this year when Lagwagon announced they would be rescheduling both shows into one night at the Observatory and they would be playing both “Blaze” and “Double Plaidinum” in their entirety.
However, the excitement would be short-lived as more unfortunate news would befall the band. On the morning of the show, Lagwagon posted that their touring van was broken into, and “most” of their gear was stolen. Prior to COVID when touring was the norm, I would see a story every few months about another band having their equipment stolen, most often from their tour bus, but sometimes even as brazenly as from onstage. Just a few weeks ago, someone stole one of Fletcher Dragge’s custom guitars from the sixth and final Pennywise show at the Garden Amp. It’s always saddening and angering to see these kinds of posts, but when it’s one of your favorite bands playing one of your favorite venues, practically in your backyard? Yeah, this one stung pretty bad. Not to be discouraged by thieves, the band posted rather triumphantly on their Instagram that the show would still be going on as they rushed to scrounge and borrow equipment to play.
Opening the night’s show was local natives Taken Days. The three-piece band features two lead vocalists, Cory Glockmore on bass/vocals, and Brent Waterworth on guitar/vocals. Combining both pop punk and even melodic, dare I say, emo music, the band brings to mind artists like Alkaline Trio. Their debut album, “Every Second,” was released just last year and has been getting interest around the local OC music scene. They announced they were going to play a cover to test out everyone’s punk knowledge as drummer Landon Asbury and Waterworth began playing the familiar opening to Rancid’s “Junkie Man.” Playing catchy, yet heartfelt songs, such as “Giving Up” and “How’d It Come To This?” was enough to win over the early crowd.
I was familiar with the next band, The Maxies, but had never seen them live in action. I think the best way to describe them is in the same vein as the Aquabats, but for a more mature audience. There’s a lot of comedy both in their songs and in the banter in between, but just a few songs in and you realize this is a band of seriously talented musicians. I found myself watching drummer Climaxie through most of their set, admiring his quick, yet technical skills.
They perform dressed in masks, all wearing red and white of various degrees, and going by pseudonyms. Featuring six members in total, this band is a lot of fun to watch live. Lead vocalist Maximum Maxie took the reins as the ringmaster of this group, joking with the crowd and even serenading a girl in the front with a cover of “I Swear” before going into “Nobody to Love.” The Maxies finished their set with “Clubbin’” and finally, “My Band” boldly declaring their band was better than yours. Definitely see them if they come to your town.
Urethane is a band that has been getting a lot of attention in the past year, and it seems like every other weekend they are playing a new show. Having just played Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise and landing back on shore Friday, the Southern California band was already back on stage. The band’s lineup consists of lead singer/guitarist Tim Frog and bassist Chad Ruiz, both of San Diego’s War Fever, and most notably, legendary pro skater Steve Caballero on guitar. Urethane released, “Gravity” last year as the lead single from their debut LP, “Chasing Horizons.”
I think part of what makes Urethane so good is that although the band itself is new, its members are already established musicians in their own right, including Caballero who helped launch The Faction in the early ‘80s. Somewhat akin to skate punk with a heart, the band played songs off their debut album including “Wyoming,” “Deadline,” and the aforementioned, “Gravity.” At one point, Frog encouraged everyone to sing along as the band launched into an electrifying cover of the Misfits’ “Where Eagles Dare.” After a roar of applause and cheering, the mood was perfectly set for the evening’s headliners.
Lagwagon graced the stage and I noticed a few technical issues during “Burn” (the first song off of “Blaze” and the first song to kick of their set), which is to be expected as the band were playing on instruments borrowed mere hours earlier in the day. That being said, by the time they kicked into the next song, all issues or negativity that transpired earlier that day seemed to disappear for the next 90+ minutes. Erin Burkett, co-owner of Fat Wreck Chords (the label Lagwagon belongs to), even stepped on stage to sing her part in “E Dagger,” the song written about her. Drummer Dave Raun shined on fan favorite “Falling Apart” as he rocked out to a thunderous beat, leading into guitarist Christ Rest’s electrifying solo.
For a band that’s primarily recognized as being a skate punk band, these albums are not known for their brevity. By the time the band finished with “Baggage,” the last song of “Blaze,” they were already 45 minutes into their set and 14 songs in. Lead singer Joey Cape jokingly said that perhaps playing both albums in their entirety was not such a great idea.
Cape donned an acoustic guitar and began playing the intro to “Alien 8” before the rest of the band joined in, leading into guitarist Chris Flippin’s shredding solo. The great thing about playing an album in its entirety is you hear songs that the band usually does not include in their setlist, and in some cases, ones they haven’t played in years, such as “Twenty-Seven,” “Unfurnished,” and “Failure.” There was an audience full of people now in their 30s and 40s who were getting to relive their adolescence tonight.
Every member of the band was playing at the top of their game, and maybe none more so than bassist Joe Raposo, who excelled on “Choke,” featuring a particularly intricate bassline. Before finishing their set, Flippin pointed out that he was using Steve Caballero’s guitar, as well as the pedals and amps from some of the earlier bands (Raposo’s bass was generously contributed by Fourth in Line’s own Eric Bootow). Flippin then dedicated the last song from “Double Plaidinum,” the aptly titled, “To All My Friends” to the wonderful bands who had helped lend a hand to Lagwagon to make sure this show happened.
In spite of everything that happened, or maybe because of that, this was a special show that will be memorable albeit for partially infamous reasons. But rather than focus on the unfortunate events that transpired I will always remember this as a testament to Lagwagon’s tenacity, resilience and dedication to their fans.