After a nearly three and a half year absence from Orange County, Unwritten Law returned to play the Observatory Saturday night. Fresh off the release of their 2022 album, “The Hum,” this is the first time they’ve really gotten to tour behind the record. The band just announced they would be following this up with a tour across the United States, but they were kicking things off Saturday night with a sold-out show featuring a stacked lineup of punk bands.
Originally the show was announced as having Tony Lovato, lead singer and guitarist for the band Mest, as opening the show with a solo acoustic performance. You could imagine fans’ excitement when they were instead treated to a full Mest show. The band looks and sounds great, thanks in part to lead guitarist and backup vocalist, Adrian Estrella.
In addition to being lead singer for Assuming We Survive, Estrella had to pull double duty for two stops on this tour as he is also co-lead singer and guitarist for Zebrahead, who played with Unwritten Law in San Diego the night before. They opened with “Long Days Long Nights,” as well as a cover of Modern English’s “Melt With You.” They played a new song called “When We Were Young” and closed with the hit “Cadillac” with a nice medley in between of The Outfield’s “Your Love,” Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight,” and Rancid’s “Timebomb.”
A band that emanates energy and enthusiasm at rapid-fire speed: That’s how I’d describe Authority Zero. Each member stands out by how talented they are and what they bring to the band. They opened their set, as they often do, with the sing-along “A Passage in Time,” leading right into “12:34.”
Lead singer Jason DeVore was firing off lyrics at lightning speed, such as during “Taking on the World,” while walking along the lip of the stage and encouraging the crowd to sing. Guitarist Brandon Landelius got to show off his skills in songs like “Ollie Oxen Free” with great ease. The opening basslines that Mike Spero nailed on “Get It Right” and “Revolution” were really fun to watch firsthand. DeVore announced they were taking it back to 21 years ago as the band led into the reggae-ska infused “Over Seasons.”
There’s a reason why Chris Dalley is a highly sought-after drummer. With a history of playing in bands as diverse as Voodoo Glow Skulls, Ten Foot Pole, and Death By Stereo, he brings all of that experience and utilizes elements of the punk, ska, and hardcore blended perfectly into the backbeat that is Authority Zero. It is hypnotic watching him blaze through songs like “Liberateducation,” “Find Your Way,” and blitzkrieg through the aforementioned “Get It Right” with speed and precision. After garnering up the biggest pits of the night, the band closed out with the inspiring “Lift One Up.”
The time had come for those Crazy Poway Kids known as Unwritten Law. This was a night to celebrate their latest album, “The Hum,” and why not? It was their first album in 11 years, and as lead singer Scott Russo announced from the stage, five years in the making. The band kicked into the first two songs from that album, “Discordia” and “Beggars.” Chris Lewis’ guitar was dripping with feedback and distortion effects on these opening songs. Russo then strapped on a guitar and led into the popular “Teenage Suicide,” followed by “Rescue Me,” which got the crowd pogoing along.
Continuing to highlight their latest effort, the band then played “Ghosted,” with drummer Wade Youman wailing along. There’s no denying that the band never sounds as good as when he’s behind the kit. The power, intensity, and passion come through with every swing of the drumstick. It’s really great to see him back with Unwritten Law and there’s a definite brotherhood between he and Russo.
The band is rounded out by Johnny Grill on bass and Scotty Mac on guitar. Grill and Youman carried the weight of “Dark Seas,” probably the closest Unwritten Law will ever come to writing a ska song.
But don’t think Third Wave Ska; instead the backbeat and guitar sound closer to The Specials and it comes off sounding brilliant. Mac provides the full sound that has been missing by providing that second and third guitar, which makes the band as a whole seem more complete.
After a short set of solo acoustic songs by Russo, including “I Like the Way,” “Rest of My Life,” and “Shoulda Known Better,” the rest of the band joined in for “She Says.” As they usually do, they paired this with “Save Me (Wake Up Call),” and then one of their biggest hits, “Up All Night,” which had the sold-out crowd moshing, dancing, and singing along to every word. For the last song of the evening, they played “C.P.K.,” a song Russo announced was the first they ever written.
What a perfect night that encapsulated the career of Unwritten Law. Starting with the most recent songs they had written and culminating with the very first they ever wrote together as young teen punks.
Unwritten Law heads to Australia next month, but will return stateside in March and can be found in SoCal at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown on April 15th.