Warfest has been an annual winter event for a number of years and for the first time ever, they’ve added a spring edition of the festival celebrating Southern California punk rock. This was my first time attending Warfest, and also my first time visiting The Gaslamp in Long Beach, and I was very impressed.
The Gaslamp offers dinner reservations – which secures you a table – with a very nice selection of food, followed by a night of awesome music. The layout is particularly great for rock shows because they have a large dance floor that’s able to facilitate a pretty good-sized circle pit.
Tonight’s show was a celebration of local punk rock in all its forms. In addition to the nine bands playing, in between acts we were treated to short previews of the punk rock documentary, “Where the County Line Ends: The Evolution of Orange County Punk.” The Punk Rock Chronicles Podcast is producing this great documentary and they had a booth selling t-shirts and skateboard decks to help raise the funds to complete this worthy project and get the word out. Check them out; they are good guys.
If you’re into punk rock, there was definitely a band to suit your taste – from hardcore to surf punk, young bands to old-school legends. First out of the gate was hardcore punk from Jack Trippers. Manny Espinosa and his crew really brought the energy for the early bird attendees and had them out on the dance floor to get the night started.
Up next was surf punk from The Pegs, with songs like “Beach Charmer” and “Rickey Don’t Surf.” Next, Long Beach’s own Carpit introduced their song “Sex Junkie” by throwing a t-shirt out to the crowd with the song’s title emblazed on the front, much to the delight of the audience.
The big surprise for many was a young band called Speed of Light. They are a power trio fronted by Riley on vocals and bass, and her brothers Cameron on guitar and Tyler on drums. Riley definitely surprised me with her vocal range, from sultry and bluesy Amy Winehouse style, to a screaming that could rival Arch Enemy. They have a dark sound like their opener “Teeth,” and a song called “Tightrope.”
One band that I had the pleasure of seeing previously was Shock Therapy, and I was pleased to check out their new wave, synth punk sound again. They opened for The Aquabats at House of Blues in February and fit right in. Their style made them stand out from the other bands, but the crowd loved them. Their style is reminiscent of Devo/B-52’s with reverb-drenched vocals.
Amerikan Made brought the show back in a hardcore direction with songs like “Mastermind,” “Quit Being a Pussy,” and their cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” Totally old school, The Stitches were a lot of fun, taking punk back to a ‘70’s style – a little dangerous and totally unpredictable. They started with “Nowhere” and a group of young kids were in the front singing and dancing along to every song. Front-man Mike Lohrman invited them all to join him onstage to go crazy with the band. They finished their set with “Throw it Away” and “Woman’s Got Me Drinking.”
Another surprise for me was Julian James and The Lovebombs. I went in knowing that this was Mike Ness’ son Julian’s band, but I was unprepared for how much he resembled his father in both looks and mannerisms. Julian may not have his dad’s rough vocals, but his songs definitely have a Social Distortion feel to them, as shown in “Stay with Me” and “Lovesick.” Guitarist Trevor Lucas blew many of us away with his talent as well. He had a super proficient country rock sound and his phrasing and tone were spot on, adding a lot to the band’s sound.
Punk legends T.S.O.L. didn’t take the stage until just about midnight, but they did not disappoint their diehard fans that stuck it out. Front-man Jack Grisham, wearing a sparkly black jacket, paraded back and forth across the stage, smiling and occasionally sticking out his tongue at the crowd. Going all the way back to 1981, they started with “Sounds of Laughter,” followed by 2001’s “Terrible People.”
T.S.O.L. played a career-spanning set, which included “Satellites” and “Give Me More” off the album “The Trigger Complex.” They closed their set with the 1981 classic “Code Blue” and the crowd kept the energy up with a large circle pit.
It was a great end to a fun night that felt like a group of friends gathering together to experience their favorite music. I can’t wait for the next Warfest!