Agent Orange, The American Heist
February 21, 2012
In retrospect, Mardi Gras might not have been the best night for venerable surf-punk outfit Agent Orange to kick of their 2012 tour. The crowd in the Warehouse Live studio was sparse, and Rocks Off would like to tell ourselves other, fleshier distractions within relatively close proximity to downtown were primarily responsible for the low turnout.
Cynics might pose the question: If a city of four million can't scrape together a meager 100 people to come out and see the original surf-punk band, does it mean punk truly is dead?
Fuck the cynics. The blistering set AO performed Tuesday proves punk is still kicking, even if it might need a few songs to shake off the cobwebs.
Rocks Off only managed to catch the tail end of the last support act, local hardcore outfit The American Heist. From what we could tell, it was an agreeably concussive set, though we found ourselves musing at how much things have changed when they ripped into their last cut, a self-described pro-military song called "22." Probably wouldn't have heard that at a show back in '84.
AO's tour is the very definition of bare-bones. Whether you view the fact that Palm, drummer Dave Klein, and bassist Perry Giordano all trucked in and set up their own gear after a three-day drive from San Diego as old-school authenticity or a bit sad, the band's banter with the crowd and back-and-forth during the show itself prove they still enjoy doing what they do.
For newcomers, it's hard to reconcile Palm's cheery SoCal personality with aggro tunes like "Bloodstains" and "Tearing Me Apart," but he's a genuinely affable guy, telling the diminshed audience at the end of their set that "this was a perfect way to start the tour." He also spent a good chunk of time after the show meeting and greeting.
The first few songs were plagued by low vocals and a few monitor issues, but these were straightened out readily enough. Operating "without a set list" and taking the occasional audience request, Agent Orange ripped through 22 songs in about an hour.
Mixing in a couple rare cuts ("America" - "We forgot about this song for 20 years"), a few covers ("Police Truck," "Somebody to Love" dedicated to "all the hippies in the back"), and the old favorites. There were a handful of half-assed attempts to get a pit going, but it's a little difficult when the median age of the crowd is around 38, most of whom were just happy to be able to camp right in front of the stage.
The current lineup of Palm-Giordano-Klein plays like a band that hasn't been on an almost two-year hiatus, and we'd dare say they grind just as capably as the original Living in Darkness crew consisting of Palm, James Levesque and Scott Miller.
But goddammit, Houston: how can you not scare up more than 75 people to come out and see not just one of the seminal West Coast punk outfits, but one that can actually play?
Rocks Off has been a punk fan for 30 years, and we've seen plenty of groups that can barely get through five songs live. Palm told us Agent Orange would be swinging back through Texas on the second leg of the tour. Get your asses out there next time.
Personal Bias: Agent Orange is merely one of the many reasons a young Rocks Off dreamed of splitting Central Texas for sunny Southern California.
The Crowd: Flannel, gray hair, and Mr. Zog's Sex Wax T-shirts.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I came all the way from Scotland to see them."
Random Notebook Dump: "Fucking Mardi Gras."
Everything Turns Grey
It's All a Blur
Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers cover)
Tearing Me Apart
Voices (In the Night)
Whistling Past the Graveyard (B-side of new single, available on iTunes)
Say It Isn't True
Mr. Moto (Bel-Airs cover)
This House is Haunted (new single)
No Such Thing
A Cry For Help in a World Gone Mad
I Kill Spies
Police Truck (Dead Kennedys cover)
Somebody to Love (Jefferson Airplane cover)
This is All I Need
Living in Darkness
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The Last Goodbye