27th Annual Christmas Formal

January 4, 2023 Review by Jimmy Alvarez

Twas two nights before Christmas and all through the house (of Blues) all the creatures were stirring, except for that Mouse. When out from behind the curtain arose such a clatter, we were all waiting for a sign of what was the matter. Turns out, it was just the opening act for The Vandals 27th Annual Christmas Formal!

December 25, 2022

I have been to many of these formals, and honestly, The Vandals never disappoint. The House of Blues was buzzing from the moment doors opened. Fans rolled in sportin’ a combination of Christmas apparel and maybe the Night Before Christmas outfits. In other words, it was an anything goes type of night with Santas, Sexy Mrs. Claus, creepy skeletons, reindeer, penguins and snowmen. It was quite the eclectic group of costumes throughout the house.
Opening the show was another favorite, Swingin’ Utters. Despite being originally from Santa Cruz, the locals feel a kinship with them. The band was clearly pumped to be playing and sounded great! Lead singer Johnny “Peebucks” Bonnel was bouncing from side-to-side of the stage while dancing his ass off.

Fans loved the set, and as animated as Bonnel was with the crowd, it was the music that caused the ruckus. Swingin’ Utters played an array of their catalog, but as always, certain songs stood out… “The Librarians Are Hiding Something,” “Kick It Over,” “Kills and Smoke,” “Deranged, “Fistful of Hollow,” before closing out with “Dubstep!”
This year in addition to the typical Christmas mayhem, they will be celebrating Josh Freese’s 50th birthday, so this one was going to be just that much more special.
Since it was a Christmas-themed show, the stage was full of Punk Rock Vandals-style Christmas ornaments, and other decorations including the Vandals penguin piloted Christmas helicopter thingy hanging above the stage.

As the clock struck 9:15, the lights dimmed and the bands walkout music took hold. The silhouette of the band was the first sight of The Vandals, then as they got closer to the front of the stage we saw each one as they took their places. Joe Escalante on bass, Warren Fitzsgerald on lead guitar, the aforementioned Josh Freese on drums and Dave Quackenbush behind the mic.

Escalante was dressed in a black formal James Bond-like suit, Fitzgerald was in his trademark red vest, Freeze was dressed like you would expect a drummer would dress, while Quackenbush also had a quasi-formal outfit with his trademark Docs, which perfectly fit the mood for the night’s festivities.

Immediately The Vandals sounded electric with their signature in your face pulsating guitar shreds by Fitzgerald, Escalante was animated on bass, Freese was pounding the skins hard, and Quakenbush was engaged with the crowd. He was clearly happy to be performing in front of the home crowd.   

Aside celebrating Freese’ birthday, the setlist was true to the event with “Dance of Sugar Plum,” “A Gun for Christmas,” “Grandpas Last Christmas,” “Here I Am Lord,” “My First Christmas as a Woman,” “Happy Birthday To Me,” and “Flowers Are Pretty,” and “My Girlfriend’s Dead.”
The set also included songs from their catalog, “Urban Struggle,” which sent the crowd over the top. Needless to say it was definitely night to celebrate with The Vandals, and of course the House of Blues was like an insane asylum when Escalante’s bassline to “Oi to the World” went over the PA. Then, The Vandals sent everyone home with a smile as they bid everyone a hearty “So Long, Farewell!”

Despite the weirdness that was the previous two years due to COVID, it was definitely a homecoming and a family reunion at the House of Blues this Christmas.


by Green-Eyed Blonde Photography