Show reviews: Redd Kross record release party at The Roxy, Down By Law and The Casualties at The Observatory

Holy shit! Redd Kross ruled last night at The Roxy. But first things first. On Sunday night, My brother and I drove past the Orange Curtain to this place called the Observatory in Santa Ana to see Down By Law. Thinking we could just walk in to a mellow crowd, we rolled up 45 minutes before Dave Smalley said their set was going to start only to find a huge line of Mohawks, liberty spikes, and vatos. Punks not dead in OC! We bought tickets just as we heard “The Last Brigade” begin…

Down By Law played a jam-packed 30-minute set, but I don’t know if I ever saw them play longer than that when they headlined the Anti-Club or Spanky’s in the early ’90s. Because it was the last show of a package tour, they played not one but two songs by one of Dave’s old and most beloved bands, Dag Nasty: “Values Here” and “Under Your Influence.” If you know anything about DC punk or Dischord Records, you know this was a big, big deal.

Other last-show shenanigans included a bunch of members of other bands joining in and Dave getting wrapped in a giant Hefty bag. You can see a roadie cleaning it up in the picture above. On a side note, they kind of covered Sham 69′s “If The Kids Are United,” while the Casualties (more on them next) covered Mötörhead’s “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” Just a few weeks ago, I saw one of Dave’s other bands, DYS, cover Mötörhead’s “We Are The Road Crew” with Negative Approach covering Sham 69′s “Borstal Breakout”! Wild, huh?

Totally happy with the Down By Law set, I was prepared to leave after a few songs by The Casualties. But the post-Rancid crusty Oi! band from New York won me over. It’s one thing to play a classic style with a ton of energy and tightness, but another to breathe new life into it. After getting the packed crowd to start a circle pit, citing Southern California as the birthplace of the art form, they encouraged a Wall of Death (Braveheart style) and chicken fighting (which I totally forgot about). Wow. We stuck around to try to say hi to Dave–who was probably busy with goodbyes to tourmates–and left after one Nekromantix song.

Last night’s Redd Kross record release show at The Roxy was sort of a bookend to OFF!’s record release show at The Whisky. Both brought some luster back to once-proud-but-now-mostly-lame Sunset Strip, not only reminding us of its lineage not only as a place where key punk moments took place (re: The Decline of Western Civilization or even Valley Girl) but tying it to the awesome rock scene of the ’60s and ’70s and hopefully the younger bands of today in there, too. Pangea (above) had a modern surf-punk feel akin to FIDLAR and Tijuana Panthers (below) reminded me of a missing link between the Phantom Surfers and Modern Machines. Nice.

But of course, the night was about the triumphant return of Redd Kross to The Roxy. The last time I saw them play there was probably on the Third Eye tour. When the curtain raised that night, the Wonder Woman TV show theme song was blasting and they played a legendary show. Last night, they opened with “Downtown,” which is a key song and rad video off the brand new album but was previewed in a live DVD/CD sampler from Spain a few years ago. The new songs are an amazing blend of the garage punk energy and succinctness of their earlier work and brilliant melodies off their later pieces.

No Hecker songs with Jason from Celebrity Skin playing git, but the band had all the moves and all the cuts that have burned into the brains of us Redd Kross freaks over the years: “Frosted Flake,” “Blow You a Kiss in the Wind,” “Switchblade Sister,” “Annie’s Gone,” “Girl in the Front Row”… They introduced the title track of their latest LP with a Cheap Trick reference: “This song is the first song on our new album, it just came out today and it’s called ‘Researching The Blues.’” What a show! What an album! Go get it and if you start driving now you can see them in San Francisco tonight.

Coming up: The Promise Ring, Red Hot Chili Peppers with OFF!, Three Mile Pilot…