LIVE at The Observatory, North Park
February 3, 2023 Review by Chris Hazel
It was a typical winter afternoon in North Park San Diego, which means pleasant compared to the rest of the world; sunny and 60 degrees. The locals were getting off work early to start their traditional Friday evening pub crawl down the main strip. The long line outside The Observatory North Park suggested the show would be a sellout, starring San Diego’s very own Unwritten Law and featuring OC’s Zebrahead and Mest.

Tyler Posey was originally scheduled to be on this four-date tour, however he had to cancel. His loss became our gain as we were treated to watching the charismatic Tony Lovato from Mest play; not his solo acoustic set as originally planned, but we were now graced by the presence of the whole band for a full on rock and roll show.

The spectators waited with anticipation for the show to begin. With a big cheer, Mest started the evening by playing “Long Days Long Nights.” For the third song of the night, the band played their crowd pleasing Modern English cover, “I Melt With You,” and that really got the energy in the room flowing.

Halfway through their 35-minute setlist, Lovato took a moment to address the fans and reminisced about the early days. He segued into a brand new song called “When We Were Young” that has not yet been recorded. Mest concluded by playing the hits “Rooftop,” followed by “Cadillac.” During the bridge of “Cadillac,” there was an interlude of covers: The Outfield’s “Your Love,” Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight,” and Rancid’s “Time Bomb.”

Up next was the rap-punk band from Orange County, Zebrahead, who led things off with “Rescue Me,” from their critically acclaimed “MFZB” album. Halfway through “No Tomorrow,” rapper/vocalist Ali Tabatabaee asked the whole audience to sit down on the ground. Then, on the count of three, everyone inside The Observatory was jumping blissfully up and down during the last chorus. Before going back into a classic from band’s catalogue, Tabatabaee split the crowd into two to do the “wall of death” at the beginning of “Falling Apart.”

Before Zebrahead started “The Perfect Crime,” the mates invited three little boys to stage dive from the barricade with the help from the security guards. Then lead guitarist Dan Palmer started shredding on his custom EVH Eddie Van Halen striped series shark guitar while rocking his signature handle bar mustache.
In the middle of the ensemble’s 45-minute set, a few lucky guests from the audience were invited up onto the stage to joyfully sing a beer drinking chant alongside two bartenders dressed as skeletons. It was like Oktoberfest in January as the crowd had their arms around one another, signing out loud along to vocalist/guitarist Adrian Estrella, “drink, drink, San Diego, drink, drink with me, drink, drink, San Diego, and then go smoke some weed.”

Ending with the song “Anthem,” the whole place went off the hook. A crazy circle pit broke out with tons of crowd surfing and crew members from the stage threw beach balls and various inflatables into the audience to end one hell of a party as their grand finale.

It was now the moment we’ve all been waiting for – our local saviors from Poway… Unwritten Law. Chris Lewis started riffing to the intro of “Discordia” from their new album “Hum,” as lead vocalist Scott Russo shouted, “Are you ready San Diego?!” The Observatory erupted with the loudest cheer of the night from their adoring fans.

Before Unwritten Law went back into some new songs off of “Hum,” the super group played a couple of classic hits like “Teenage Suicide” and “Rescue Me” that got the mosh pit grooving for the new school punk kids and parents. I have to say it was really cool to see so many family members bring the next generation of concertgoers to the show.

Halfway through Unwritten Law’s one hour, 30 minute set, the band played the ballad “Cailin,” which had all ladies, mothers and their daughters gleefully signing. Now it was time for dads and their sons to join in on all the family fun as they broke out into the ever-so-popular punk rock hymn “Seein’ Red.” Everyone in the audience was screaming and dancing to this generational changing anthem.
Changing the tempo and slowing things down a bit, Unwritten Law did an acoustic segment, which was a little break for Wade Youman, who was crushing it on drums all night.

While Scott Russo and lead guitarist Chris Lewis strummed acoustically, our hearts melted as we saw bass player Jonny Grill and his adorable daughter watch from backstage. Then a violinist joined for a lovely performance of “Take Me,” which had never been done live before and was a real special treat.

In the middle of “She Says,” Russo’s guitar strap broke. Without blinking an eye, he continued to sing perfectly while the rest of the ensemble played. Their guitar tech courageously took Russo’s guitar behind the scenes for repair. Only moments later, our knight in shining armor returned, placed the fixed strap around Russo’s noble neck, and Russo smiled and raised his arms in celebration as the crowd roared with excitement. At last he was able to finish the song, thanks to his conquering guitar tech.
Unwritten Law’s last song of the night was the first song they ever wrote, “C.P.K.” It was then all over, or so we thought. The local fans keep chanting for one more song, louder and louder. Breaking out of character, because the band is not known for this, they came out for an “unplanned encore.” Russo explained. The local punk rock legends ended the magical night playing “Harmonic.”

Unwritten Law is off to Australia next month, but will be back in our area to play Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown on April 15th.


by Chris Hazel Photography



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