LA Punk Report
from Glenn E. Friedman
LOS ANGELESE is happening - no lame hype here. LA has never
been respected anywhere for anything for years (except maybe its
movies and year round nice weather) until now, where in the US
and other parts of the globe it is regarded as the core of true
hardcore punk (if you must label it).
All of Southern California is responsible for what is known as 'LA Punk.' The area is unlike most others where punk has
developed to any extreme extent.
Basically, because of how spread out the area is (Los Angeles and Orange, the two major counties where punk flourishes in
Southern California, cover an area of almost 5,000 square miles), much of the scene is very suburban - a very sharp contrast
with those in NY, UK and other major cities. The people are just like most others, they have the obvious will to survive and at the
same time be able to live their lives the way they want to, as much as, if not more than, people anywhere else.
The last two years alone have seen the largest amount of growth in a music scene than perhaps ever witnessed throughout the prior decade.
There are literally dozens upon dozens of punk bands all over the place, and dozens more getting together all the time.
LA has been constantly ridiculed by members of the rock press everywhere because of its attempts at fabricating rock legends out of nothing bands
to stay in control of the music industry and to cash in. Well not this time - the LA hardcore are their own, not created or made by anyone but
themselves, their frustrations and anguish.
THIS WHOLE big negative thing towards the new music and scene is taken on by a very large portion of the media, from newspapers
It is being assassinated by the same hype that build up all of the fake LA bullshit in the past, and outside of LA it's still not being given the notice
it deserves now that there is finally something new and original to offer. The people who are trying to push it off are scared, they're losing control
over what they used to own. The Police Department in LA and surrounding counties also seem to be afraid and are very aware of the power of
the Southern California punk.
The 'Police Force' (this is what they call themselves) does not support the type of free-thinking freedom at all and therefore they attempt to
break up big shows very often. Many times they beat kids up, scaring them away so they will not return to future shows, afraid they may get
clobbered by some cop who wants to force his conformed life style down the kids' throats. This, along with the negative and gross over
exaggeration of violence shown through the media, has stirred up some attention within the communities problems.
Most of it has a very negative effect on the overall scene which is basically young, healthy, creative and intelligent.
The Southern California punks thrive and have an enormous power in their numbers, but the power is not at all a violent one.
The overall cry is not that of complete anarchy and chaos but one of a type of philosophical anarchy (I hate to use the word, so cliched, but
it fits), where the kids can be able to make their own choices, think for themselves - not be told or feel any obligation towards what they must
So the fight for survival of the movement is left to the kids, indie record companies, clubs and the bands that bring all of the people together
for shows to help it stay alive. It's proven now that the independent labels such as SST, Frontier, Posh Boy, Slash and others, along with the
bands, can live without radio airplay as well as sell records and attract large followings.
The indies are getting out new music all the time, selling tens of thousands of records, getting the people what they want. There are probably
between five and ten thousand hardcore fans in this area now and it's still growing.
Most of the early hardcore people were really upset by the enormous growth of the scene, partly because of it's becoming so impersonal at
times, unlike the early days when everyone knew each other.
Actually, most of the bands today think the growth is great, not necessarily for the sake of making
a couple of extra bucks, but for the fact that now that there are so many people involved, it just
makes it that much harder for authority to control it and keeps it very exciting.
In LA, the bands and the people are very much parts of each other, meaning that most of what the
bands are into, so are the fans. The anti-rockstar, anti-pose thing among the hardcore is still very
serious here on all levels, from the kids who are going to shows for their first time to the bands that
have played shows for five years.
The only club that consistently has punk shows three to four days a week three to six bands a
night, is a relatively new club called Godzilla's. It was originally run by an LA based group of punks.
The Better Youth Organisation (BYO), who want to keep the scene run by people within it so it
The BYO is presently in its strongest form to date, since its initial emergence 18 months ago. The
support from bands, fans and clubs has helped them get organised into promoting the good
aspects of the scene to all those who may be interested. They are presently putting on shows in
various halls around the area, bringing together many bands from all over, including UK acts.
They will also be releasing records on a BYO label and hopefully be setting up a touring network
across the country.
THE PRESENT LA scene's intense popularity came about due to the fearsome aggression and
rawness that emerged from early Hollywood area bands like the Germs and the notorious beach
bands such as Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and countless others.
Black Flag are probably the most popular hardcore band in the country, and for good reasons.
They worked hard for it. They are a completely self-managed, self-motivated unit.
In LA, the band have been promoting themselves and their whole idea by putting out their own
records on the SST label, spray painting their name almost everywhere and pasting thousands
of flyers wherever they could be seen.
They do all of this themselves, literally. They have made four successful creepy crawls (tours) of the entire
country, playing almost anywhere and everywhere possible, from five thousand seat auditoriums to house
parties (at one a couple of months ago I remember, they played in the kitchen of a friend's house.
Henry, the lead singer, remembers, "Yeah! I put my head through the wall there"). Black Flag is real pure,
frenzied, emotional, high energy drive. As if you don't already know this band does not compromise!
The Circle Jerks are another one of the old reliables. Their refined, multi-speed mayhem must be seen
live to be believed. The singer Keith Morris, was the original singer for Black Flag in 1979.
Soon after, he split and formed the Circle Jerks with Greg Hetson on guitar (formerly of another one of
the notorious beach bands. Red Cross) along with drummer Lucky and bassist Roger, to bring about a
sound and statement that is as serious at times as Jello Biafra's intense satire and as fast and
thrashable as anyone else's around anywhere.
Really clean sound compared to many of the new totally thrashable bands in the US.
Smouldering under LA's towering infernos lie numerous hardcore divisions of defiant punk
attack. Hammering forth staggering doses of unrestrained speed and hardcore rawness.
Fear attacks with gruesome jokes and explosive excitement as maniac thrashers gob back in
return and enjoy the last laugh.
The youngsters Wasted Youth, deliver split second boisterous thrusts of abrasive havoc
without any real intense messages, just plain old thrash. Nothing too serious with these guys.
Channel 3 frantically rip and tear wild power packed punches of clamorous fury.
The threshold of what's to come in high speed flailing with power.
Uncontrolled noise detonates the brain as Aggression and Circle One's hard-hitting, charging
rhino attack leaves you bulldozed under.
The Descendants mile a minute seizures dash from incredibly loud brain blistering speed to
serious but seemingly comical attempts of life; their sound and anti-rock pose has you hurting
Not far from Disneyland come the Adolescents, suburban youth destined to get your adrenalin
pumping with their hyperactive approach to life in the fast lane punk, gnarlier than a ride on the
Matterhorn. They represent a transition from thrash to the political punk pop sound of some
Some of these bands include the outrageous Social Distortion and the militaristic Youth
Brigade, whose interesting songs assault the unknown barriers of punk with tremendous
bursts of spontaneous hardcore combustion induced with charges of absolute exhilaration.
Bad Religion and the Blades are not hesitant about incinerating docile authority, pushing away
social pillars intensified with their raw, unrelenting sound.
Shattered Faith roar into splendid glass shattering storm poised with determination and
undenying manifestation. Strong lyrical content that is overtly political and loaded with quick
insistent rhythms all in less than a minute, typify the Minute Men, determined to deliver their piece.
From punk to death, TSOL (True Sounds Of Liberty), haunting, diversified, aggressive punk sound slices into fear inducing, delirious evil mania leaving you dreaming of gross
necrophilia. Street punk delivered with hard metal thrang from Overkill, can at times be compared to early raw Aerosmith but 10 times more powerful, other times like a more
punk version of Motorhead. Full doses of China White will send staggering chills through your veins as you experience this nitro-punk injection. From East LA, the Stains
metal punk jolts your body with intense hardcore warfare that would make a frantic Doberman foam at the mouth. This is only a sampling of the assault that is taking place. There
are numerous other bands ready to attack. Southern California will not give up. The time is NOW!
ALL PHOTOS By GLENN E. FRIEDMAN
(This article was first printed in Sounds weekly UK music magazine published in England on April 10th 1982 reprinted from the PUNK ROCKER archives).
You can also check out GLENN E. FRIEDMANS highly recommended site which has some great LA punk pics amongst other interesting features).