Adolescents / the Cadillac Tramps - live in Los Angeles (Cover Artwork)

Adolescents / the Cadillac Tramps

live in Los Angeles (2006)

live show

I guess it's just about mandatory for any review of an Adolescents or Sonic Youth or Youth Brigade show to point out the apparent contradiction in a band with that kind of name, now all grown up, and playing songs they wrote a few decades ago. The skeptics will harp on that and more I'm sure. But the point is irrelevant if you just take the band for what they were and currently are: A bunch of guys (ex-D.I., ex-Social Distortion, ex-Agent Orange, ex-Christian Death, ex-_______) who in my humble opinion wrote one of the classic hardcore records in punk rock and recently marked the 26th anniversary of their inception with a more personal and reflective effort in O.C. Confidential. This isn't some `80s hair metal band looking for a final round of cash, glory, and groupies before retreating to the hills. It's the Adolescents, as sincere at they come and still having a blast at what they do while teaching a little Punk Rock 101 for the kids. And not to mention they can still whip a crowd into a frenzy as they demonstrated tonight at the El Rey Theatre.

Being an East Coast transplant and having never seen these guys, to say I was pretty fucking excited for the show would be the understatement of the year. Unfortunately, L.A. traffic is horrendous every hour of every day so, I missed Bad Reaction and Time Again. I got in as a rather large, middle-aged Mexican dude was on stage throwing money, stickers, and T-shirts into the crowd. Now there's a way to get your audiences' attention. It wasn't necessary though, as the Cadillac Tramps seemed to have a strong following here. They were all about throwing a big party with a fun, high energy, punk rock'n'roll set. The singer has got to be one of the more hilarious and animated front-men I've ever seen on stage. Plus, he gets props for stopping in mid-song to call out a guy in the crowd who made the mistake of yawning. With a set as entertaining as theirs, I probably would've done the same. Nicely done, gentlemen.

But now it was time to get serious, because our favorite Orange County hardcore band of all time were next. 10:30 hits, the lights go out, and Mary Poppins' theme song accompanied the 4 punk legends and the teenage son of one as they walked out to a roaring crowd. The opening chords to "No Way" stomped through the speakers as it seemed like a fucking volcano was ready to explode. And it did. Tony screams "No waaaaaaaaay!!!" and complete madness ensues. The circle pit was fast and intense. The rest of us up front were screaming every single word. What a way to start.

"Who Is Who" was next and played like I'd imagined they‘d be played: Fast, aggressive, and rockin'. Tony may be a few years wiser now but he's still yelling his head off like, well, an adolescent would. The rest of the band was tight and professional. Derek is as solid on the skins as they come, although I thought he seemed a bit isolated since his drumset was so far back on the huge El Rey stage. Steve Soto held down the low end while guitarists Frank Agnew and his impressive young son Frank Jr. ripped through the classics.

Talking was held to a minimum, but that was hardly a sticking point for me. I thought the new songs mixed in seamlessly with the old ones. "Monsanto Hayride," "Within These Walls," and "Lockdown America" were all standouts. "California Son" is such a great melodic song (albeit ironic for the dark subject matter) with the backing vocal harmonies from Steve and Frank and the guys pulled it off without a hitch. But as expected, it was the 'Blue Album' that got the crowd going the most. The band blitzed through seemingly one classic after another: "L.A. Girl," "Word Attack," "Democracy," "Self Destruct," "Rip It Up," "Welcome to Reality," and "Peasant Song" all found their way into the set.

Tony spent some time shoving the mic into the crowd for the wildly popular "Amoeba," as well as an absolutely incredible version of "Creatures" that had everyone going crazy, and even "I Hate Children," which I heard hadn't been played for some time. I got a kick out of Tony just watching the crowd, with this passive look on his face as he was soaking in the chaos and fist-pumping kids before him. Fucking beautiful. "Wrecking Crew" was near flawless with that creeping intro before raging into pure hardcore bliss. And of course, the legendary "Kids of the Black Hole" incited the biggest crowd sing-along/pit of the night. It was an indescribable feeling standing there, watching, and screaming the lyrics to the chorus. I guess one of those "you had to be there to get it" kind of deals.

So there it went and there I was, soaked in other people's body fluids, voice shot. Yes, the guys aren't "adolescents" anymore as work, family, life probably, make things a little harder than before. And they did seem to lose a bit of steam in their short encore. But I say you throw all that out the window and simply appreciate and enjoy them while you can. Because bottom line, these are the bands that remind us why we fell in love with punk rock in the first place. It's why I hope those 10-year-olds I saw with their mom will remember this night forever. And it's why timeless classics can still be resurrected 25 years later and you could still be screaming the words to "Kids of the Black Hole" and "Creatures," and mean every single word of it, no matter what your age.