Saturday Night: The Adolescents At Walter's On Washington
In a revealing scene during the seminal punk documentary Another State of Mind, Minor Threat plays a show to a swelling and heaving early 1980s crowd in Baltimore. The P.A. system was yanked away by worried sound engineers, but the band carries on with firm gusto. Starting with the refrains to their theme song "Minor Threat," the crowd and band become one, like impromptu voices joining in one tribal chant.
Similarly, the feral Adolescents crowd emblazoned the band's songs with their own off-kilter yelps Saturday night, even as a broken mike dangled from unfazed singer Tony Cadena's hand. That remarkable ethos of crowd participation, vented vitriol, and overall unity raged and rollicked until the midnight hour, when the blistered and bruised concertgoers dumped themselves onto the cluttered sidewalks.
Walter's on Washington, now an unruly wart on the cosmetic sheen of newfangled Washington Avenue, barely held back the ruckus. The thronging capacity crowd stirred up so much body heat that cameras fogged, sweat poured in buckets, boots and Converse slipped, and one could cut the air with a rusty butter knife.
After the set, the Adolescents retreated to a backroom easily mistaken for a tacky motel, where they huddled like soggy rags, as if half-traumatized by the relentless Texas melee.
Though the band has featured numerous musicians over the last thirty years, two stalwarts remain posted, giving the band an etched permanence. Smiling Steve Soto (also of Manic Hispanic and Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts) is the amiable bass player whose fingers finesse every melodic chord culled from endless Beatles and Buzzcocks records.
Across from him always stands the forever Defiant One: Singer Tony Cadena. The public school teacher, respected writer, and bard of lost lads may offer up a voice as gruff as sandpaper instead of teenage howls these days, but he still imbues the music with keen intelligence and worldly perspectives.
The violence that Cadena evokes in their featured songs such as the trenchant "Wrecking Crew" is primarily twofold. The first symbolizes youth trying to mitigate the innate boredom and suffocating social order of the suburbs. As such, the tunes are anthems to primitive smash-it-up fun and survival, not an ode to punk-on-punk violence.