The annual tradition of Warfest at Gaslamp in Long Beach has become a highly-anticipated weekend event that went uninterrupted until COVID struck. The Orange County punk festival went off without a hitch in January 2020 before the world shut down, and now it’s back. The festival is a highlight of local punk rock bands, often giving a spotlight and stage to lesser-known bands with loyal followings. Saturday night lived up to high expectations as over seven hours of music blasted through the venue well into the midnight hour.
Opening the day’s events was Quazimofo, a five-piece band that seemed more rock ‘n roll than punk; their slogan lists them as being a “punk ‘n roll band.” I definitely caught blues-inspired guitar rock, as opposed to just the usual three-chord punk play. The band is a supergroup of sorts, as it features former members of D.I., 45 Grave, and Smut Peddlers. Quazimofo played a 30-minute set that included their new single, “Pour One More,” off their upcoming album, “King of the Trash.”
Next up was Spider, an energetic band from Long Beach that has clearly built up a following since their early days, several decades ago. Lead singer Hector Martinez was seen, as he often is, swinging his mic across the stage in between singing lyrics. The band closed with a song chanting the lyrics, “I hate you, you hate me,” but you could see from their perspective, as well as the crowd, that this was far from the truth.
Keeping with the Long Beach theme, next was Dissension, a four-piece band that inspired the first legit mosh pit of the night. The band has been playing music since 1984 and is currently touring behind their 2020 LP, “Amazing Disgrace.” Words like “angry” and “aggressive” come to mind when I watched their performance, something akin to Suicidal Tendencies’ harder catalogue. The crowd responded in tone, with rowdy slam dancing that drew some of the wildest pits of the night.
I’ve seen Amerikan Made play prior Warfests and each time I’m more impressed. They opened with “405” and then transitioned into “Overdose.” The Huntington Beach band seemed more than warmed up for the night. At one point, they took requests from the crowd literally stating, “Any song!” which I took to mean not necessarily even one of their own. That turned out to be exactly the case as they erupted into a particularly keyed-up rendition of Motörhead signature “Ace of Spades.” They closed their set with “The Defendant.”
It seemed like a good size of the crowd had been patiently waiting all day for the wildly popular Authority Zero. The band recently posted that they would be playing 2004’s “Andiamo” in its entirety. You could almost sense a shift in the mood as soon as they took the stage. Although the only band of the night not hailing from Orange County, the Arizona natives have adopted Southern California as their home and the local fans as their family.
The band started with the album’s opening track, “Painted Windows,” and then led into the popular “Revolution,” leading the crowd into a chant of “yeahs.” The set really showcased drummer Chris Dalley’s abilities and range. Dalley can play at a breakneck speed through songs like “Find Your Way” or “A Thousand Years of War,” but just as easily slow it down for the laid-back reggae vibe of “Retreat,” before leading back into the chorus’ rapid beat.
Lead singer Jason DeVore treated the crowd to the band’s rendition of “Mexican Radio,” whose lyrics were altered at the time to show an opposition to the 2003 Iraqi War. In fact, the album as a whole has several anti-war sentiments which felt just as relevant to today’s current events nearly two decades later. Both bassist Michael Spero, and guitarist Eric Walsh shined throughout the night, none more so than on “Solitude,” a musically complex surf rock, beach number. The set ended, as the album does, with DeVore singing, “Rattlin’ Bog,” an Irish folk song whose lyrics get increasingly sped up until an almost impossibly, undecipherable sing song that DeVore somehow makes look easy.
T.S.O.L. took the stage and opened, as they often do, with “Sounds of Laughter.” Lead singer Jack Grisham, dressed in his usual black sports coat and slacks, really seems to be enjoying himself these days. There have been points throughout the band’s four decade history where Jack seems to lose interest in performing, which is not altogether surprising as he is also a successful author, amongst other talents. However, since the band started playing live again following quarantine, this really seems to have revitalized the whole band’s passion for music.
In January they performed two nights to celebrate 40 years of the punk movie “Suburbia” by playing select songs off of their “Beneath the Shadows.” Grisham also announced that he would be at Fingerprints Records in Long Beach on May 1st reading a few passages of literature, doing a Q&A, and even showing clips of the upcoming movie, “Ignore Heroes.” The soon-to-be-released documentary tells the untold story of T.S.O.L. and the performance is free with RSVP.
T.S.O.L.’s set treated the crowd to a nice sampling of their discography, playing fan favorites “Beneath the Shadows,” “Satellites,” and “Die for Me.” The band is able to incorporate elements of both hardcore punk and dark gothic themes. Not too many legitimate punk bands have a dedicated pianist, but this is a credit to the band itself as well as the immense talent of co-founding member, Greg Kuehn. The band marched through hits “World War III,” “I Wanted to See You,” and “Dance With Me,” before closing with the signature, “Code Blue.”
Concluding Saturday night’s festivities was Orange County punk legend, Agent Orange. The surf punk band formed in 1979 in Placentia and helped establish the Orange County punk scene along with co-headliners, T.S.O.L., Adolescents, and Social Distortion. They began with “No Such Thing,” and followed with the cover of surf classic, “Pipeline.” The band is highlighted by the playing of singer and guitarist Mike Palm, and bassist Perry Giordano on songs like “Voices (In the Night)” and “A Cry for Help in a World Gone Mad.” The 60+ minute set included 21 songs, including several covers. Agent Orange played “El Dorado,” “Living in Darkness,” “Wouldn’t Last a Day,” and of course, the crowd favorite, “Bloodstains.”
The band has always shown an influence of, and paid respect to, the surf guitar rock of the ‘60s that obviously helped inspire their sound. Saturday was no different as they covered songs from the Bel-Airs and Dick Dale & His Del-Tones. Agent Orange capped the night with the aptly titled “The Last Goodbye” and their rendition of Dead Kennedys’ “Police Truck.”
Another epic evening of punk courtesy of Warfest 2022.