By Chris Graue | Predator in Chief – February 6, 2013

It’s not often that you go to a show where you’d have paid to see any one of them headline, but one of those golden tickets came along this past week with Hot Water Music, La Dispute, and The Menzingers at The Observatory in Santa Ana.

Obviously these are all great bands with their own dedicated followings, but the crossover between the bands was not tremendous. I carried out an extensive survey (okay, I casually spoke to a few people and eavesdropped a little) and made a Venn diagram of my results.


Which band a fan preferred seemed to be largely based on age. The younger ones skewed towards La Dispute, older folks leaned towards Hot Water Music. Menzingers fans took up the middle. The contrast was always best observed by taking a sampling of the pit attendance during each set.

If you couldn’t guess, this was Hot Water Music’s set. 30+ bro pit!

If you couldn’t guess, this was Hot Water Music’s set. 30+ bro pit!

Typically in situations like this, fans will be resentful towards the other acts they did not come to see. Tonight, that was not the case. Perhaps it was the magic of the early February night air or the massive amounts of barbiturates I deposited into the air conditioning system, but everyone seemed to get along and have a genuine curiosity to be introduced to these other new bands. Perhaps it was only because each band on the lineup was particularly great, but it’s an attitude I wish I saw at more shows.

Tom May: Band Tigger

Tom May: Band Tigger

The room was packed right at the get go when The Menzingers kicked the night off. These guys put on a hell of a show. Everyone is great, but it’s guitarist Tom May that’s the bouncy one for those keeping score at home. They closed out their set with “Irish Goodbyes,” which I’d say is a great starting place if you’ve not heard this band before. It’s my current favorite song. The runner up? Also by The Menzingers: “The Obituaries.”

La Dispute really packed the pit out. Being the youngest set of fans, this was probably the wildest set of the night. Lead singer Jordan Dreyer really commands the crowd well. His moves remind me of one of those old fashioned string toys that I don’t know the name of, but have managed to find a gif of to illustrate my point.

This is not the best sample of this type of toy, but you know what I’m talking about.

This is not the best sample of this type of toy, but you know what I’m talking about.

Apparently photographs were not allowed during this set, but I didn’t get the memo. So here’s an illegal picture.

If it’s subversive, does that make it better? Because this picture kind of sucks.

If it’s subversive, does that make it better? Because this picture kind of sucks.

I never do quite know what a band’s motivation is for this type of request. I have to assume it comes from some place of artistic control or purity and not wanting to deal with media. This much, I understand. We do kind of suck and if you’re the self conscious type, being asked to talk about yourself to complete strangers every day while being glorified in photographs can be an odd experience. If you’re in a band and thinking of taking this route, know that it does make you sound a little bit self important and I will hear other photographers complaining about you.

Hot Water Music capped off the night with a fantastic set. They have a great rock and roll sound that they bring to punk styling both in their guitar tone and singers Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard trying to out-gruff each others’ vocals. Probably the most amazing thing about watching these guys play is seeing them transform a bunch of 30+ year old bearded men into teenagers. Their audience is transported back to before the band’s first hiatus in both mind and body.


All the way out the door, I heard people talking about how surprised they were by how much they liked one of the bands that they had never heard before. I would hope that this attitude would stay with them and encourage them all to show up to check out the opening bands at EVERY show; the bands appreciate it and the audience might find a new favorite.

Or you can throw stuff at them if they suck. That’s fun too.

By Chris Graue | Editor in Briefs – December 5, 2012

When it comes to things to do on a Wednesday night, you’d be hard pressed to come up with something cooler than seeing Streetlight Manifesto at The Mayan. There’s probably some joke about going to a concert in December 2012 at a theater called “The Mayan,” but I’m going to skip it for now and come back to it later.

They look SO happy

It’s always a treat to see one of those bands that everyone is freaking out about in the height of the freakout-itude. I’ve been to many Streetlight shows over the years when they’ve supported larger acts, but this is the first time I’ve caught them since any post concerning them in an internet forum will elicit an onslaught of comments, arguments, and insights.

First up was a band called Lionize. They’re one of those rock heavy funk bands that leans on something of a dub influence. In short, a type of music that I couldn’t care less about. It’s not that they were untalented, they certainly nailed the performance, but given what they were going for, it was never going to work for me. Gauging the crowd’s reaction, I’d say most felt similar to me…until Aggrolites front man Jesse Wagner joined them on stage for a jam session. While it changed very little sonically, it charged up the crowd for something of an ironic mosh pit. What makes it ironic, you ask? When it fits the energy not at all and the crowd just plows right through the breaks, you will see the participants giggling while they dance.

I took this time to explore the theater. The Mayan is one of those beautiful cultural relics of Los Angeles’ roaring twenties when opulent theaters adorned every street corner. Far more than grand scaled dry wall and stucco, not a single detail is left unmagnificent. The walls, ceilings, chandeliers, and even moldings were meticulously crafted in a way that simply isn’t done anymore. If you live in Los Angeles and have not seen The Mayan, Warner Grand, Pantages, or any number of other such exquisite structures, you should seek to resolve that immediately.

Don’t forget to show your appreciation

Hostage Calm was on next, and what a breath of fresh air. Fast, fun, energetic pop punk with a bouncy lead singer was just the kind of flair I was looking for. They got the crowd whipped into the right kind of frenzy, and I’d like to give them all the credit on that, but the truth is that the kids were so anxious to see Streetlight that Yeast Infections On Ice may have had them chomping at the bit just as hard. Whatever the motivation, this was when the crowd surfing began.

Now, this is no unfamiliar phenomenon; crowd surfing is a normal, accepted part of shows that are ska, punk, or whatever your opinion of Streetlight’s genre is (I’ve seen the message boards, don’t hurt me, fill in your own). As expected, the bouncers stood in the photo well, catching kids flying forward and ushering them off to the wings to rejoin the crowd. The difference at The Mayan is that the photo well is higher than the level of the crowd. This is uncommon. Because of this, security could not easily lower crowd surfers down to floor level, but rather awkwardly grasped at them around waist height. Without leverage, a staggering number of kids splatted into the floor or against the stage in gruesome displays. From my angle, I had the perfect view of this horror show set to upbeat music for the remainder of the evening. Once Streetlight came out, I was tempted to start googling local chiropractors.

But I didn’t because this is what we were all here for. For all the times I’ve seen them, not much has changed. Sure, there are a couple of new songs since their last release in 2007, and they’re fantastic, but most of the rest is the same: it’s fast, loud, there are throwbacks to the Catch-22 songs, and Tomas wears the same damned clothes every time I see him. Seriously, dude, can we raise funds for a new outfit? I feel bad for the guy.

Well, at least he’s shaved since then.

But this time, something’s different. The crowd is electric. It’s not just the fact that the room is packed, though that certainly helps, but it’s the fact that every single person there was SALIVATING at the prospect of catching Streetlight Manifesto on this Wednesday evening. Yes, they have school and work tomorrow, sure, some enjoyed the opening acts, but there wasn’t a soul in the room silent when hits like “Point Counterpoint” or “A Moment of Silent” get played. “Mephisto’s Café?” Yup! They’re with it.

And that’s where the magic of a show like this lies. As much as we attribute to the building, the lineup, the excellence of musicianship…it’s all for naught if the fans aren’t in it. When they come together the way they did this week, it creates the kind of experience that makes it all right if the world DOES end in a couple of weeks.

I told you I’d be back for that joke.

By Chris Graue | Editor in Thief – October 12, 2012

Going to a show at the House of Blues in Anaheim is always something of an alien experience. Smack in the middle of Downtown Disney, the setting hardly prepares one for what is about to happen. Typically there is a drive through a sketchy neighborhood, a couple homeless guys, and a smattering of the unseemly types that will be joining you for the occasion. At Disney, however, one is simply greeted by hoards of children, tourists, and the ever present wafts of day old sunscreen applications. Unfitting, perhaps, but probably preferable to the typical scent usually comprised of unwashed derelicts, urine, and puke-cohol. Spell check assures me that’s not a word, but I’m fairly certain you all catch my meaning.

Homo erotic Lego Buzz and Woody helped a little bit

For some reason, the house the mouse built lets us come out and do our thing anyway, and for the we thank them. In the future, however, we would ask that they post the correct start times on their site. The band Mrs. Skannotto probably would have appreciated having more than the 20 or so people who were accidentally early enough to see them in attendance. Shame too, what I did hear sounded good, despite the obnoxiously ska punny name. Skawesome job with what you had to work with though, guys, you really skaed your skas out in the face of skadversity.

Remember when ska kids were like smurfs?

Bands like Less Than Jake have a certain crossover appeal within the genre. Pop ska kids love ’em, and so do the crust punk ska kids. While no one minds standing next to someone dressed a little different at the show, the culture clash rises to a fever pitch in and around the pit. Your typical ska-pop kid wants to skank and be friendly while your standard crust will beat his way backwards against the flow, laying waste to those who dare cross his path. Neither is wrong in their approach, but these conflicting ideals do cause both sides to bitch about the other.

“You hit me!” “…I know”

Flatfoot 56 was an excellent piece of the lineup. Celtic punk belongs at most shows, in my opinion, but here in particular they made a great fit in appealing to both sets of fans. The punk fans dug the punk, the ska kids could get on board with the fact that a bagpiper was wearing a kilt on stage. Done and done. Any animosity arising from mosh pit etiquette was washed away as the entire crowd sang along to Flatfoot’s rendition of the old Christian spiritual “I’ll Fly Away.” It will be left to the readers to weigh the irony and the beauty of this against each other.

How can you tell I’m using one of Gil Perez’s photos and not my own? Simple: his look good.

I don’t think it’s possible to dislike the Mad Caddies. They write some of the most interesting and complex music in ska today performed flawlessly every time. That said, they’re not the most exciting band to watch. Nobody moves much or really puts on much of a show, if you will. With such an overwhelming sound, though, try and let this bother you. If it does, you’re not dancing enough and deserve to have a bad time.

This gave me a total tromboner. Eh, I’ll see myself out…

I’m not sure what the max capacity of the House of Blues is, but during Less Than Jake’s set, I’ll be surprised if it wasn’t damn near reached. Even without the qualifier “for a Tuesday night,” this place went off. Front men Chris and Roger even seemed to notice, lighting up in response to the powerful reaction they were getting out of the audience. Over the past 20 years, these guys have really nailed how to blend new songs and old hits to keep the crowd going. They did seem surprised when “Dopeman” beat  “Al’s War” in their audience request poll. Perhaps they don’t think they play it as well as the Beastie Boys remixed it?

Yup, Gil, still better than me.

Regardless, it was a great show all around. My personal favorite moment was the head banging contest between “Coheed and Cambria Guy” and “Fat Joey Ramone” that LTJ hosted. I think they may have called it a tie, but in the end, everyone in attendance won. Except the guy who got beer on my camera. That guy sucks.

Lo-pie has a great article about the benefit show from this past weekend. After you finish going through all our pictures from it, go read this and find out more about what the benefit was actually for!

KCET has written a pretty awesome article about Parker Jacobs’ life, work with Yo Gabba Gabba, Aquabats, GOGO13, etc. Go give it a look!

One of our absolute favorite ska bands got a nice little write up in the paper, so go give the article lots of hits and maybe they’ll write another one.

By Remy Lovato | Reader Submission – July 23, 2012

He was sprayin water everywhere like a real AQUAbat…Just kiddin’, guys!

I heard that the guys involved with that Gabba Gabba Hey show on the kid channel were playing a show with Billy Blanks’ ska band at some place with t-shirts all over the wall. They wear foam goggles that don’t look like they breathe very well, silver helmets with sideburns, and extraordinarily tight light blue rash guards when they play ska/punk/surf/synth/pop music for children and immature adults. As I understand it, they’re superheroes or something. And the reason they decided to play some small venue no one has heard of (Chain Reaction? Like your favorite Keanu Reeves flick?) is that tragically, long-time friend of various scenes, soundmaster at Chain, and good friend of The Aquabats, Christian Dasilva, passed away last week, this being a benefit show for his family.

I got there early, so as a full-blown adult, I spent a bit of time partaking in some hoodrat behaviour by the train tracks, thus making me miss the sortaforementioned Starpool and also openers, The Make Up Sex (only mostly true–my buddy and I ambled in while Starpool was covering “Shout”, which was originally written for bands to cover at weddings, so at a ska show, this was exciting). By the time I finished my smoke bath in the graffiti’d alley (siq street art, btw), it was around 9. Knowing that half the audience has a curfew or bedtime, this early show was about to have its headliners hit the stage.

I see five guys. I think they ate the other four. JK–age flab, it’s cool. Ok, OBVIOUSLY, The Aquabats aren’t the eight-or-nine-piece ska band of the late nineties anymore. It’s been well over 10 years since people started complaining about that. Doesn’t matter, when they hit the stage, young ass people were dancing in a circular formation, putting their hands in the air making all kinds of gang signs, jumping atop one another. Fam, these kids are crazy. Anyway, The Adultsinmasks played somewhere around 5-7 songs that mostly old farts in the crowd wanted to hear…cuts off when they Returned, when they had Fury, when they were Mythic/Legendary, but oddly no cuts from when they fought that Floating Eye. Nostalgia consumed the emotionally stunted twenty/thirty somethings who entered the steaming pit to “skank it up” and “pick it up” and “sit down, exhausted”.

Energy didn’t cease with newer jams as les jeunes enfants went wild for “new songs” released between 2005 (seven years ago, you farts!) and now. I won’t talk about those songs though, cause I’m mature now–if it’s new and I don’t know it, it must be out of my wheelhouse and thus irrelevant. Some more cool shit: something like 8 little boys and girls were given free candy provided they crowdsurfed from the stage to the “bar” (I condescend to the idea of their bar, because as a grown-up, I can only have fun with booze in my system). But talk about adorable. Some of the kids were too scared, understandably, but those who weren’t (or whose parents chided them into doing it) looked to have created a great memory that their grade school teachers will shake their heads at. During that whole bit, Them Aquabats played Minor Threat, Bad Religion, and Black Sabbath covers. Pretty super rad, no?

Oh, they closed with that song about midget pirates and some aggro wiener in a tank top wouldn’t stop screaming for MC Bat Commander to take off his shirt. Shut up, aite?

I love those DNF boys. Good guys all around. Go check out Dying Scene’s interview with guitarist Chad Kawashima. Here’s a highlight I particularly enjoyed:


Which one of you gets the most girls/boys on tour?

Sam and Elliot are both spoken for, I smell horrible, and Kyle is always wearing a wig. So DNF isn’t really proficient in that area.

By Scoli O’Sis | Reader Submission – April 28, 2012

The Aquabats are seriously the best superhero band from Orange County in the world.

When the synthesizer-based rock band with a new wave influence* went to Henderson to play Viva Ska Vegas, the crowd was stoked in spite of all things obvious. Cadets and kidettes peppered the audience as Tazy Phillips took to the stage to do what he does best: introduce Ska talent from the 1990’s with an impish sense of harmless entitlement.

The ‘bats burst out of the gates with a balls-out  rendition of Super Rad usually reserved for the last e. This left me with only one thought, that Jimmy the Robot is the nip’s tip. Ricky Fitness may be the sexiest bat in Aquabania, but he just doesn’t blow as hard as Jimmy.

The MC Bat Commander greased the audience like a seasoned politician as he quickly addressed the issue that was on everyone’s mind by saying something to the effect of: You are wondering why we are here since we don’t really write new Ska songs anymore. Also, that the Aquabats are not the greatest band in the world after all, let alone the greatest Ska band. You guys are right. But what I do know is that you all…Are the greatest kids in the world.

At this point MCBC declared a rowdy dow of only olde ‘bats tunes, pulled out the first guitar he ever bought and played a nonpareil rendition of Ska Robot Army. Oh yes he di-id.

Dude, also! Back flip! Off the drums!

Blah blah blah, close with Pool Party. There was some runt with a sly charm called Iggy who was knee high to a sand flea and ripe with good manners dancing all over the stage for the closing number. This made me want for the days of yore when the bats cared about ‘the kids’ more than they care about the kids (probably because I never was one myself).

Most the crowd bailed after the Aquabats set, myself included. The Skatalites are SO OLD, plus there’s only like two original members left in the band. What jerks, kill the elderly.


Scoli is an Irish-American journalist who wrote this review exclusively for The Scene Report.

* Source,

This is funny and you need to read it. Go!