We live in strange times. With influencers, news broadcasts and a host of other things, it’s hard to know when you’re seeing something genuine. Luckily, live music has returned, so you can experience something genuine and unfiltered. The Lagwagon show at The Observatory in Santa Ana on Sunday, April 3rd provided a lot of genuine punk rock and a lot of genuine emotions from the from the fans.
One thing that was immediately noticeable was that a fair number of school-age children were there. Yes, it was a school night (albeit some schools are on spring break this week), but what is more punk rock than taking your kids to see a punk show? More on that later.
Your narrator missed most of the first band Taken Days, but was there for the wonder of Greenland’s finest punk band The Maxies. Before the band began its set, singer Maximum Maxie said, “You might hate us, but you’re gonna have fun, motherfuckers.” He wasn’t wrong about the fun part. The band bounced through a set of ska-punk that included “Let’s Go Clubbing” and “My Girl Is a Lesbian”. For the latter song, the band was joined onstage by Bipolar Bear Tom. After the song, Maximum asked Bipolar Bear Tom to show off a gift he had received. The polar bear responded by dropping his shorts and revealing a strap-on of fairly intimidating size. Aside from the catchy tunes and the witty banter from Maximum, one other thing really grabbed the attention during The Maxies’ set. A woman was holding a little girl (probably five years old) who was wearing a Misfits t-shirt. The woman held the girl in her arms as she joined in the minimal circle pit. That, as those of us near the pit would discover, was only the beginning.
Urethane took the stage next and played a very punk-rock set of 35 minutes. The band blazed through songs like “Wyoming” off of their latest release Chasing Horizons. They moved from one song to the next with practically no banter. At one point, Steve Caballero mentioned that Lagwagon’s gear had been stolen the previous day. Despite that, Caballero said that Lagwagon was the first band to arrive and they would be the last to leave. It was during Urethane’s set that the little girl in the Misfits t-shirt started navigating the pit on her own. Not only that, the little girl actually led the charge to get the woman going in the pit again. Not to say that Urethane was upstaged by the little girl, but it’s not every day you see someone that young with the confidence to navigate a pit on their own.
As Lagwagon set up with borrowed gear, one detail might have escaped the attention of a lot of the audience. Each set list contained two pages. Just before they launched their set, Joey Cape said that they would perform Blaze and Double Plaidinum and that they had 35 songs to get through. It seems ambitious, but the band and the audience were clearly ready for it. “E Dagger” was the second song of their set and it was enough to have the whole venue singing along, as they would for the entirety of the set. The band played the old favorites with very little banter between songs. At some point, Cape mentioned the theft of their gear, but commented that they were lucky to have made it 30 years without their gear being stolen.
At some point during Blaze, Chris Flippin said, “Who’s going to be hungover tomorrow?’
Cape then said, “Who’s skipping work tomorrow?” He followed that by encouraging everyone to go to work because you don’t want to lose your job. It’s tough to find work these days.
Before launching into Double Plaidinum, Cape asked, “Santa Ana, you still got something left?” They certainly did. They sang along to every one of the 35 songs on the set list and enjoyed every minute of it. It’s pretty safe to assume that a lot of people went to work hoarse the following day.
In the end, it was a refreshing show for a lot of reasons. Lagwagon showed that they wouldn’t let theft of their gear keep them from playing a high-energy set. Young people were shown how to navigate the pit at a punk show, and in the process, likely became pit lifers. Did it end all the problems of the world? No, but it provided a welcome escape for the audience for a few hours, and that is as punk-rock as anything.