EYES closed, facing
the crowd, Alex Flynn of 1208 rips into a fierce anthem called "Next
Big Thing." In front of him, a wiry mix of Redondo Beach surfers,
punks and skaters sing about the sinister music industry right along
with him, even though 1208's album, "Turn of the Screw,"
won't be released for four more days.
The group is one
of a new generation of South Bay punk bands, a generation weaned
on a musical history that started in the '70s with punk legends
like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. Nearly three decades later,
the beachside scene is as alive and tight as ever. Almost everyone
at the 1208 show is wearing T-shirts representing local bands: Instigator,
98 Mute, Pennywise, Prop 13, the Deviates, Toys That Kill. Chances
are, the guy moshing next to you is in a local band, or friends
with the band or on his way on stage. The clubLatitudes, a
beer-soaked nightspot on the pierfeels like a family affair.
And it is. Flynn is punk rock royalty: He's the nephew of Greg Ginn,
the founder of Black Flag.
"In the beginning
I was afraid of it," Flynn says. "Black Flag is such a
big band to live up to."
In the South Bay,
punk bands actually stress over living up to the legacy. So much
of the scene is about what came before it, and lately, there has
been a rush of young groups supported by the veterans. So much so
that more clubs are opening their doors to punk rock.
Some of the revered
old bands, including the Descendents, the Humble Gods and the Last,
are back in action. And thanks to a Redondo Beach studio run by
members of Pennywise, a lot of young groups have begun to record.
In recent months, West Hollywood nightclubs started taking notice
of the beach town bands. The Cat Club, the Roxy, the Troubadour
and the Key Club are all booking "South Bay Surf Punks"
bands are raw, unpretentious and full of sound and enthusiasm,"
says Sean Healy, whose company SHP books shows at the Roxy, the
Viper Room and the El Rey Theatre. "They are just so fresh
and energetic and aren't coming at it from the typical showcase
Still, apart from 1208 and the Deviates, the new South Bay sound
is mostly local. Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge believes it's
too early to say if the new bands constitute a third wave of South
Bay significance on par with the '80s scene and the '90s resurgence
led by his own group. But he says that on the local level, it's
as strong now as it's ever been, with a wealth of activity, including
at his Stall No. 2 studio, meant as a place for young acts to record
in a professional but affordable setting.
"A lot of bands
are unknowns, don't have records out and are just playing parties,"
Dragge says. "But it's a strong little scene down here. That's
the cool thing about the South Bay scene: The bands aren't that
interested in being bigger and selling hundreds of thousands of
is whipping the locals into a frenzy. Wearing a flipped up cap and
white suspenders, the singer for the Hermosa Beach hard-core band
STD's, is shouting the battle hymn of the new punk republic:
"I don't care
what you say. South Bay! South Bay! We just wanna surf and playSouth
Bay! South Bay! South Bay's where I'm gonna stay."
It's a punk rock
free-for-all, as shirtless knuckleheads in the pit push and shove
each other to the point of exhilarating exhaustion. The STD's are
headlining an afternoon party at Naja's Place, a dockside bar in
Redondo Beach. The STD'swhich, some say, stands for Surf Til'
Deathlaunch into a gutterpunk version of "Light My Fire."
The STD's proudly
wear their old school influences on their sleevesnearly every
band member has the four-bar Black Flag icon tattooed on his arm.
"What I see in old school is raw attitude," says Joe Hobi,
the drummer. "It's about putting your cards on the table and
saying, 'This is who I am.' We like to bring back the savage, raw,
in-your-face kind of music."
Ginn is a fan. "I think STD's is really fun," says Ginn,
who also owns SST records. "They seem to have a really good
time and real good sense of community."
The STD's "destroy" style is just one South Bay flavor.
There is also "emo," the emotional, passion-punk style
of 1208, and more recently, "screamo," a wailing version
of emo, represented by Saint Angeles and Shotblue. Add reggae-punk,
led by Too Rude and Second Nature, and the straight-ahead sound
of the Goods, fronted by a rare female, Katrina Hoffman.
Bay's always been a vital hotbed for punk rock," says Bad Religion
guitarist Brett Gurewitz, who owns Epitaph Records, the label for
Pennywise, the Deviates and 1208. "It just seems the stuff
that comes out of the South Bay is a little bit more intense, just
one notch more. It's just part of the culture."
That culture is
about as far away from the bright lights of the Sunset Strip as
you can gowhich has been an advantage. Instead of trying to
impress A&R execs, South Bay bands are trying to impress the
"There's a lot of great bands on the scene and with the support
of the local bars, they're able to hone their skills," says
Pennywise singer Jim Lindberg, who has worked with Western Waste
and Too Rude.
The Lighthouse Cafe
has become a mecca for South Bay punk. Six months ago, promoter
Lance Ku started booking shows at the legendary Hermosa Beach bara
jazz club from the '40s famous for shows featuring Charlie Parker,
Chet Baker and Miles Davis, who recorded a live album from the Lighthouse.
Every Tuesday, fans
can hear four bands for free, and Ku selects the best of the new
school as well as veteran South Bay acts. Lately, the punk scene
has spread to other Hermosa barsPatrick Malloys, the Pitcher
House and the Hermosa Saloon. And the Lighthouse is holding punk
shows on weekends. It's a lot happening in a small area.
On a recent Tuesday,
PKG (Punk Kids on Glue) opens the night with a blistering set of
oldies: "Gettin' Away," "Neighbors" and "Take
a Chance." The band, which formed in 1984, is followed by Second
Nature, a 7-month-old group from Harbor City. With a neck tattoo
reading "Mom" and a graffiti-laden baseball hat worn low,
singer Josh Northrop loses himself in the music. His soulful voice
drops wicked lyrics to a rub-a-dub beat.
Up next is Saint
Angeles, a supercharged band with a singer sporting a classic Mohawk.
Ian Sutherland's ear-shattering wails cut through the sonic setit's
like an arena show in an intimate beach bar.
Capping off the
night is the Goods; in true local tradition, the band rehearses
in a Redondo Beach shipping container. Hoffman boasts a big New
Wave voice in a petite surfer-chick body and is one of the few women
on the scene. "I do what I do and do my best at it," she
says. "I've always been one of the boys."
If there's one thing
the South Bay has, it's team spirit.
Ginn, who formed
Black Flag in 1977, says it's important to understand there was
a time when a punk band from Hermosa Beach couldn't get a gig.
"When we tried
to book shows, they'd ask us what kind of band we were and we'd
have to soft-pedal it," Ginn says. "We'd tell them we
were a soft rock band with some jazz. There were so few places to
While bands such
as Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac were permeating the airwaves, Black
Flag was deconstructing the wheel. Fast, snarling songs such as
"Nervous Breakdown" gave the boot to musical elitism.
out as a pretty intellectual movement," Ginn says. "There
were only two rules in punk rock: You can't have long hair unless
you're the Ramones, and no guitar solos. But basically, it was all
over the map."
In many ways, it's not surprising Black Flag was born in Hermosa
Beach. The hilly seaside town has a long history of social movements.
From the jazz era of the '40s to the beatnik era of the mid-'50s
and the hippie movement of the '60s, Hermosa Beach was a counterculture
town. By the '70s, the middle class, drawn by jobs at the oil refineries,
was booming. High schools were crowded, juvenile delinquency soared
and a sleepy artist community faced class warfare.
"By the '70s
we felt betrayed," says Joe Nolte, the singer for the Last,
Hermosa Beach's first punk band. "My generation was too young
to go to Woodstock, but we had all these dreams that the '70s were
going to be so great. The older kids were telling us it was gonna
be one big love-in. And it wasn't."
According to Black
Flag's original singer, Keith Morris, it was do or die.
"In the South Bay, we were hated because we weren't a top 40
band," says Morris, now an A&R executive at V2 Records,
home to the White Stripes and Moby. "We were always the guys
who got picked on in school."
By 1979, Morris
was living illegally in the janitor's quarters of Hermosa Beach's
famed "church," a seedy, broken-down Baptist church from
the '30s that was rented out to hippies, artists and poets. Morris
says the police tried to run the band out of town for years, after
the shows became particularly volatile.
"That was the
beginning of the end of that era of the South Bay punk scene,"
says Kevin Samera, who in July is releasing a documentary of South
Bay punk, "Common Thread." "Black Flag was on its
last run. A lot of poseurs were coming in. Clubs were getting shut
Today, it's still
punk rock. There's still the occasional brawl. But it's the surf-punk-skater
set that prevails.
"To be a part
of this scene is amazing," says Chris Navarette, the singer
of Profusion. "I'm at every local punk show, I'm always looking
for more influences. And you know what? I feel like everything I
need is right here."
Logging on to the South Bay
Samera offers a history lesson in South Bay punk, as well as dozens
of links to local music sites and archived articles.
The place to find
show dates by South Bay punk bands in venues throughout California.
Where A.M.I. Productions,
the South Bay's largest punk rock promoter, posts coming shows.
The Hermosa Beach
record label is home to Pennywise's first record, as well as albums
by such local favorites as the Goods, the Deviates, 98 Mute and
Prop 13. The site also includes an entertaining historic punk photo
archive (see a young Henry Rollins singing in a Speedo).
for Black Flag music and merchandise, as well as other early punk
Scoping out the South Bay
Friday: A good introduction
to the South Bay scene: Second Nature, RAD, the Goods and El Centro
at the Lighthouse Cafe, 30 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach; (310) 376-9833.
21 and older, $5 cover.
Tuesday: The Low
Class, Shotblue, Saint Angeles, Toys That Kill and Between Lines
at the Lighthouse Cafe, 30 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach; (310) 376-9833.
21 and older, no cover.
Feb. 27: Too Rude,
a reggae surf-punk band, and the hard-core STD's join Minutemen
veteran Mike Watt and the Smut Peddlers at Sacred Grounds, 399 W.
6th St., San Pedro; (310) 514-0800. All ages, $5 cover.
March 5: The Humble
Gods (who went on to become the Kottonmouth Kings), plus Too Rude,
STD's and Vinyl Jesus at Latitudes, 239 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo
Beach; (310) 798-3170. 21 and older, $5 cover.
March 17: Profusion
and the Goods at Keegan's Pub, 1434 Marcelina Ave., Torrance; (310)
533-9225. 21 and older, $5 cover.
March 27: The Last
performs an acoustic set, before singer Joe Nolte teams up to perform
with his new band, Misfortune Cookie, at Sacred Grounds, 399 W.
6th St., San Pedro. (310) 514-0800. All ages, $5 cover.
10 classic albums in a long-playing history
Lineage is a serious
matter among South Bay musicians, and Jim Lindberg, the singer in
Pennywise, is no exception.
Here are 10 of his
favorite South Bay albums, ranked in order:
1. "Jealous Again," Black Flag (SST Records, 1980): "It's
raw, explosive, belligerent suburban angst, and rivals anything
New York or London ever produced."
2. "Milo Goes
to College," The Descendents (SST Records, 1982): "They
wrote the book on melodic, powerful South Bay punk and influenced
thousands of bands. Blink-182, Sum 41 and Good Charlotte couldn't
exist without them."
3. "Group Sex,"
Circle Jerks (Frontier Records, 1980): "A blistering indictment
of class tension and police persecution in L.A. in the early '80s.
Keith Morris could have faded away after leaving Black Flag but
instead produced a punk-rock milestone."
Breakdown," Black Flag (SST Records, 1978): "This E.P.
is the sound of Greg Ginn and Keith Morris creating their own interpretation
of what they heard coming out of New York and London."
5. "L.A. Explosion!"
The Last (Bomp Records, 1979): "Stripped-down, neo-psychedelic
garage rock that was revolutionary when you consider the radio only
played the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac at the time. [Lead singer] Joe
Nolte is the patriarch of the South Bay punk scene."
6. "Redd Kross,"
(the first E.P.) Redd Kross (Posh Boy, 1980): "Songs like 'Annette's
Got the Hits,' 'I Hate My School' and 'Standing in Front of Poseur'
were 2 1/2 minutes of flawless, prepubescent psycho beach music."
7. "98 Mute,"
98 Mute (Theologian Records, 1996): "Great hard-core band."
8. "My Life,"
The Deviates (Theologian Records, 1998): "The beach crowd favorite."
Getto," War Called Peace (Theologian Records, 1995): "A
paean to the yuppification of a former hippie surf town."
Smut Peddlers (Ransom Records, 2001): "A perfect State of the
South Bay address."
For hard-core shoppers
A few independent
record stores are tapped into the punk scene, stocking hard-to-find
recordings by new bands as well as a good selection of music from
the '70s. They're also where to pick up the most up-to-the minute
news about shows and clubs.
Scooters, 200 Pier
Ave., Suite 1, Hermosa Beach; (310) 372-1666
Go Boy, 1310 S.
Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach; (310) 316-1957
1012 Aviation Blvd., Hermosa Beach; (310) 937-6885
Steve Hochman contributed
to this report.