Last Night: The Adolescents & Youth Brigade at Fitzgerald's
To end 2012 on a note of anti-apocalypse, in which the forces of vitality outmaneuver destruction and oblivion, Willow Villarreal of Hatetank Productions -- who has survived through the thick and thin of a fickle Houston music scene for more than a decade -- presented two iconic bearers of seminal Southern California punk, Youth Brigade and the Adolescents, bolstered by local heroes The American Heist and Molotov Compromise.
Undoubtedly, the foment of the Adolescents remains alive and well, as proven by the crowd's raucous and riotous reception. Still-buzzing songs like "Amoeba" and "No Way" literally unleashed a sweat-swishing, knee-crunching whirlwind at Fitzgerald's. Even the band seemed surprised by the mustered mayhem, exclaiming the gig as the best and last (tomorrow they play post-midnight in Austin) set of their taut Texas jaunt, exceeding brethren in Dallas and San Antonio.
The Adolescents' early tunes remain endemic to punk's timeless musical fabric of disaffected, disenchanted America, but their 2005 comeback album OC Confidential and 2011 follow-up The Fastest Kid Alive, whose songs they offered with bite and bile, proved their politics are still fiercely focused in their middle-age years too. Sure, young turks try to steal the limelight, but few come close to the trenchant, brash staying power and melodic prowess of this unrepentant unit who can uncover pain in both dirty basements and geopolitical maneuvers.
Singer Tony Cadena (Tony Reflex) is a barbed poet, lethal and witty, while the Adolescents' music is a surging, unbottled force. Taking no prisoners, they unleashed their vehemence at America's darker tendencies, such as backfiring foreign policy ("Operation FTW"), floundering ideals ("Democracy"), rampant angst and alienation ("Wrecking Crew," "Who Is Who"), fakery and fashion ("L.A. Girl") and senseless violence ("Rip It Up"). Each felt pregnant with pummeling power.
With tuneful tenacity, the Adolescents combine surf-punk prowess with vetted, tried and true, bona fide punk nerves that transcend Ronald Reagan's era because they don't dwell on any one blundering administration or espouse simple-minded diatribes. Instead, they observed the human condition and faulty systems with an unyielding eye, capturing the tenor and spirit with metaphors and allegories that speak to recalcitrant renegades. Their barrage never weakens, their flag never tatters.
Sure, they cautioned stage-divers weighing more than 115 pounds to be mindful of those underneath their flaying, awkwardly stretched-out, catapulting bodies, but the Adolescents never berated the audience, never demeaned the frenzy.
During one of their last refrains, the tumultuous "Kids of the Black Hole," they poignantly called out to their friend Larry, a newcomer to Houston actually affiliated with the famed Black Hole residence in Orange County that helped give birth to Social Distortion and Agent Orange.
The song's refrain, "House of destruction where lurkers roamed/ House that belonged to all the homeless kids," rang out in cross-generation clarity, bridging the worlds of kids separated by decades and thousands of nervous miles. It was the news that stays news, an avatar of angst for tens of thousands, and a brutal memoir that keeps speaking.
For a second, they seem to veer on the verge of ending with "I Got a Right," their Iggy and the Stooges staple, but instead jolted the crowd with a fiery rendition of "Sonic Reducer," which proved even more bruising and behemoth than the one unlocked by Jerry Anomie of Legionaire's Disease and Doomsday Massacre at last month's Island Reunion. It amounted to a deft and deeply burrowed nod to a common musical ancestry, like desperado days made anew.