Show reviews: The Muffs at The Satellite; Bill Bartell Tribute with Redd Kross, Adolescents, Germs; Weirdos and Middle Class at The Echoplex

We get to see some pretty rad shows here in Los Angeles. Of course, the thing is that you have to leave your house on cold (about 50 degrees, for us) winter nights and sometimes it even drizzles. Yeah, it’s rough. But how can I not see a rare show by The Muffs when they’re playing about two miles away just on the other end of the Silver Lake Reservoir?

Opening their show at The Satellite was Peach Kelli Pop, a Burger Records band that I’ve been wanting to check out. More fuzzy than riffy, they were a lot of fun and perfect openers for The Muffs. Bass player Jessica (above, right) was outed as the number-one Muffs fan, and she could be seen pogoing vigorously in the crowd when the headliners took the stage. I love that. I also love getting to see Roy McDonald, one of the world’s raddest and most fun drummers, behind the kid three times in two weeks–twice with Redd Kross and then with The Muffs.

The Muffs have been together for 22 years and although they’ve never stopped playing, it seems like they’ve been threatening to release a new LP forever. Last night they confirmed that it’s actually coming out next year on Burger Records. Awesome! They cranked through an hour of premium hard-rocking, hook-filled punk (“Sad Tomorrow,” “Prettier Than Me,” “Oh Nina,” “I’m a Dick”) and during the encore, original member Melanie came out to pour on an extra layer of guitar on favorites like “New Love” and “Lucky Guy.” It was her first time to jam with the group in 19 years, and they sounded amazing together!

Turns out Melanie was supposed to reunite with her old band on a Thursday night benefit gig at the The Echoplex, where friends of Bill Bartell (a.k.a. Pat Fear) were paying tribute to the recently departed leader of White Flag. The Muffs couldn’t play couldn’t because of illness… But it was still a loaded show with other reunions, surprises, and memories of the punk rock provocateur, Gasatanka record label owner, and lover of KISS, The Beatles, and Cheap Trick.

The first band was an all-star affair featuring guest appearances from the likes of Anna from That Dog, Rebecca from Frightwig, and Ronnie from The Muffs playing some of Pat Fear’s favorite songs. My friend Duke (below, right) from The Get-Backs got some, too! Hardcore Giant Robot readers will recall his stories about being a telephone psychic way back in issue 9… The combo closed out with an intense and awesome Tater Totz’ cover of Yoko Ono.

Next up were Jello, Trace, and Mike of White Flag with guest vocalists contributing to songs by the band as well as some more of Pat Fear’s favorite songs (“He’s a Whore” was extra rad). Toward the end, Tony Cadena from Adolescents came out for a couple of songs including “Demolition Girl.” I dig how he wore a different White Flag shirt every time I saw him onstage.

The Germs were next, featuring actor Shane West on vocals and Charlotte from The Go-Go’s (below, right) on bass. In addition to ripping through classic songs like “Lexicon Devil” and “Forming” with authority, they busted out an old Go-Go’s number, “London Boys,” which I think Charlotte said she co-wrote with Don Bolles. How awesome is that? This set really got the pit going.

The Adolescents were next and they’re better than ever, which is saying a lot since they’re pretty much the best punk band ever to emerge from behind the Orange Curtain. “Kids from The Black Hole,” “No Way,” and “Democracy” were raging, and bassist Mike Patton from The Middle Class added singalong vocals to “Amoeba” (you know, from the first ROTR comp). The band plays gigs more than ever so you don’t have to wait for the next tribute show to catch them.

Perhaps on purpose, the next set was acoustic so the crowd could chill out a little and the venue would survive. Sergio from Os Mutantes played a short, gorgeous, and emotional selection of songs in honor of his dear friend who pretty much introduced his band’s music to the world. It ended with a psychedelic version of “Bat Macumba” featuring Redd Kross on backup!

Midnight headliners Redd Kross played a very different set than the one a couple of weeks ago at The El Rey. It featured mostly songs off of their first three albums, including Teen Babes on Bartell’s Gasatanka label. “Blow You a Kiss in the Wind,” “Deuce,” and “Linda Blair” were totally inspired, and the second-to-last song, “Don’t Talk To Me,” was from Charlotte’s pre-Go-Go’s band The Eyes, and featured Astrid McDonald on vocals. What a cool ending to a stellar show that not only paid fitting tribute to a key figure in early L.A. punk but also showcased our city’s musical badassery (and sense of family) in general.

As The Muffs show carried momentum from the Bill Bartell tribute, the previous week’s Weirdos show served as a prelude. It started out with yet another young band on Burger Records, Audacity, who ripped it up in a frothing, surf-punk manner.

Fellow Fullerton punkers The Middle Class came next. They are known to punk historians for releasing the first hardcore single (“Out of Vogue”) but most of their music has a darker, more complex sound that is more accurately post punk. I don’t know how they do it, but since I finally got to see them at Frontier Records’ thirtieth anniversary show and then the Track 16 closing they actually keep getting tighter and more intense. And that’s in spite of a cancer benefit cassette from Burger coming out for guitarist Mike Atta in between!

Finally, the Weirdos. I hadn’t witnessed them since they were supporting Condor and opening for the Chili Peppers (I’m pretty sure). I appreciate the band much more now and they not only lived up to but exceeded their legend status. The dark-but-fun, art-damaged, first-generation punks rolled through their hits (“Life of Crime,” “Helium Bar,” “Happy People”) with equal parts affection and anarchy, and never less than masterful. They are lifers.

After such a great show, my friend Nate and I couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. Eventually, Zander Schloss came out from backstage and I blabbered something like, “I love every band and movie you’ve been in.” It’s true. Not only does he play in The Weirdos, but also Thelonious Monster, The Circle Jerks, and Joe Strummer’s solo projects. And he was in Repo Man, my favorite movie of all time. It was so hard not to quote him to himsef: “Just a singing type of guy…”

Going to rad shows in L.A. is a privilege. Hope to see you at some in 2014…